I can't help it. I'm addicted to finding answers in my new hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. It's not that others never have asked, but I can tell something's different here than in other cities. Not worse, but different. Much of what I see is difficult to explain, and others do not seem to have spent the time researching what I'm looking at, so I don't always get an explanation. I suppose I could just ask a local, but with so much information available online, I figure I can get some kind of explanation there. Then maybe confirm it with the locals. Or, maybe I'll discover something most of the locals don't even know, and that's a cool concept.
My most recent addiction when it comes to research in Jacksonville is also one of the great mysteries of archaeology: the whereabouts of Fort Caroline, which was one of the first settlements ever in the New World. Jacksonville, along with St. Augustine and other communities in the area, have embraced the idea of it being the First Coast. At the same time, certain aspects of the story are mysterious. With the help of Google Books, I've been able to read some of the first accounts of the First Coast as I see if I can add my own take on the location of the fort.
It's just so crazy to me that we've come to a point where anyone on a computer with the internet has access to most of what dedicated researchers use to come up with their conclusions. That means we all have the ability to add something, even it ends up being wrong. What I found most interesting while reading the original accounts is the names. The locals had names for places, then the French, Spanish, and eventually English (or Americans) changed those names. The most important name for identifying the location of Fort Caroline is not just the River May (usually thought to the St. Johns), but there are so many other people and places mentioned, too. I can look those places and people up, and it's amazing how many are no longer documented. All the Europeans were sailing around and naming places that already had names and had already been named by other European powers. They were also meeting Indians that told them about other places that sometimes made it into maps, complete with names for places never seen. The maps and the stories are a bit like a Tolkien adventure.
I would have never looked for Tommaso Porcacchi's DELL’ISOLA ET TERRA DI SANTA-CROCE, overo Mondo Nuovo or Ensayo cronológico para la historia general de la Florida by D. Gabriel de Cardenas Z Cano. I found Jean Ribault's story by Jared Sparks, but I also found Jean's own The whole & true discouerye of Terra Florida. I found the same rivers with all French names, like Seine and Loire, but in Florida, as well as Italian names like delphinarium fluvius. Or Spanish: Rio de las Corrientes. I looked for isle de tagesta, Port Royal, Cap Francois, and Le Lac des Apalachites. I converted leagues to miles and looked for the 30th Parallel. I read de Rochelle's description of America in French. Mostly, I saw that there are still answers to our questions to be found.
Today, we embrace certain parts of the stories. We romanticize some characters and vilify others. But we really don't know what we think we know about most of them, since many of the histories have been rewritten to make a better story. And then re-rewritten in order to supposedly tell the truth. Like Ponce de Leon and his non-existent search for the Fountain of Youth. If it becomes accepted he never really looked for it, then what? We've seen it happen with Columbus. I'm not saying it's wrong, but my own research addiction has allowed me to see that there are many ways to look at this history of ours, mostly depending on how we want to look at it.