We began at the public library searching for names in the diary. There are many full names listed, so city directories seemed like a good bet. I explained to my daughter what a city directory is and how it lists people by names, addresses and occupations. We had a hit on the first person, George Grant. The excitement was palpable, but our bubble of enthusiasm began to dissipate as we struck out with the next ten names on the list. "Well honey," I said, "George Grant is a very common name. I think we've got the wrong George Grant."
|An Appalling Accident - B&M Railroad |
January 6, 1882 in Wells, Maine
It took about half an hour to find the next related article, but such a long time between "finds" caused my research partner to lose interest. She very much wanted to participate, but microfilm was not her bag. I sent her to look through books listing marriages in the town. We wanted the name of a particular minister who was mentioned as the person who married and buried a few people in our diary. When his name could not be found and the name of the people who were actually married couldn't be found, she was growing frustrated. While she searched, I continued to dig up articles related to some local deaths of people mentioned in the diary. Another exciting group of finds was articles about a court case related to a doctor being brought up on charges for a botched abortion. There were also more train crash articles.
|Kennebunkport Scandal - February 17, 1882|
I learned two things on this trip and they were things I set out to learn.
1. Our diary writer was not from Biddeford. Based on the articles and death notices, I now believe the gentleman is from Wells or Kennebunkport, Maine.
2. My daughter is not ready for exactly this type of research yet. I suspected that. Knowing her personality, I also suspect she will want to try again when I start finding directory information. She has an inbred librarian gene and will enjoy looking up names when they are easier to come by. In the meantime, I have devised a new path for her end of the project. We are going to research the B&M railroad. She is going to make a map of its route through Maine, identifying local towns and diary landmarks such as the bridge into which the train crashed. Then she will dig into her crayons to decorate it. When enthusiasm wanes, teach little kids with craft projects!
Thank you to Renee and Sharon at the McArthur Public Library in Biddeford, Maine for your help.
Next stop: Kennebunk! Woo Woo!