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Wednesday, July 30, 1997

[Brian] After a late night entering Patti's side of the family to my new genealogy database, we slept in, hit the Louvre for a few hours,

and got on the train to Marseilles.

Genealogy is an interesting field. With the recent advent of easy-to-use genealogical software and large, readily-accessible family tree databases, it seems due for a fundamental transformation. A critical mass of hobbyists could change the return curve on family research from one of diminishing returns to one of exponentially increasing ones, as the bounds of one's research starts to increasingly overlap with that of others. In fact, it seems possible to me that especially with the increasing electronic bread crumbs that modern lives leave behind, a Global Family database could form itself, and the process of genealogical research could be reduced to just doing enough investigation to connect to a node on this net.

But it's not there yet. Despite entering 193 relatives and having access to a genealogical database of 15,000 family trees and 30,000,000 individuals, I could not find a scrap of prior genealogical research done on my section of the tree. So I am reduced to assembling my data the old-fashioned way, one individual at a time.

Some final thoughts on Paris as our train leaves it:

  1. It is physically a beautiful city. There seemed to be an extraordinarily high density of trees, parks, courtyards, historic buildings, statues, and fountains. Sterile skyscrapers are a minority here; instead, the old, low, stone buildings set the tone of the city.
  2. It really has a sense of itself and its culture. It seems remarkably resilient to creeping Americanism - sure, the McDonalds are there, but they are hidden behind French facades. Levi's are sold, but are not popular - in fact I think I saw less than ten of the locals wearing them. Even Coke takes a second seat to Perrier.
  3. I'm not sure if it was because the internet is viewed as an American phenomenon or whether Paris is just behind the times, but I did not see my first URL until today.

  4. Parisians are a beautiful people; fit, well-dressed, and friendly, even with non-french-speaking tourists like us. They seem at once proud and carefree.

As it turns out, the beauty of Paris pales in comparison to that of the French countryside. It seems all I've seen so far through the train window has been kilometer after kilometer of green fields, sand roads, and castle-like tan stone buildings with red roofs. Conspicuously absent are the industrial areas, strip malls, overabundant billboards and general pollution that characterize countries with a lower immunity to change.

I am really looking forward to seeing more of France over the next few days.