Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where to start?!

James Masterman, Jr. 2nd

Well, at the beginning, I guess.

I love history (thanks Dad!). I love a mystery. I have an inquiring mind. I love a good story. I see dead people (not really, I was on a roll....)

Researching family history encompasses all of these traits. It really is a natural for me.

I started in 1988 when Cassie was a baby. I don't know what sparked it, but I am REALLY, REALLY grateful! My four grandparents were in great health, sharp as tacks and a priceless source of information. My then husband, Rob, wasn't so lucky. His grandparents were gone, except for one, James Culotta (Nano), for whom we named our son.

I bugged the crap out of all of them, gleaning what I could from their memories. Asking a kazillion questions, sending them questionnaires to fill out, never knowing if they were flattered or horrified. (Probably a bit of both!)

The time came when I had to start looking for things they didn't know. Armed with a notebook, ballpoint pen, manual typewriter and carbon paper, I began my low-tech quest. (No long distance calls, no internet or email, no computer - how, you may ask, did we manage back then?!?)

It was sloooow going. Writing letters to town clerks, church ladies, cemeteries and waiting for responses. Not easy for an impatient soul!

I haunted the Pratt Library, scouring census records and newspapers on microfilm. I went to the Peabody Library, the MD Historical Society, the MD State Archives, the Balto City Archives and the LDS (Mormon) family history center in Towson. I found a research friend and we'd go to PA to the Archives too. Even took a jaunt to the National Archives in DC once. Very cool.

(Cassie was still nursing so she went with me countless times to Annapolis. She was quite popular with the staff there! She was so well-behaved, never disturbed anyone.)

I volunteered at the LDS Library so I could have keys and research anytime while the kids played in a Sunday school room across the hall. (I'm still in awe at the records they have preserved from every corner of the globe!)

There you have it. The beginning.

(Note: the photo of James Masterman Jr. 2nd is a "tintype," printed on metal, from the collection of G-pop Masterman. James is G-pop's great-grandfather!)

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