Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Diary Project Continues: Making Connections

Catch up on former Diary Project entries here:
The cemetery where my diary writer is buried. I now have a
stronger interest in the man who served as a town minister.
Did he officiate over any burials here?
I never made it to Maine over spring break to do diary research. The weather was iffy and time flew by with other things. Despite putting aside the diary for awhile, I do have some news. Recently I was contacted by a gentleman in New Jersey who has been researching the life of the minister who officiated at my diarist's wedding. The researcher came across my last blog post on how I found my diary writer. Based on what I said, he realized that the minister to whom I was referring was probably the one he was researching.

The Internet has opened up so many opportunities for researching and sharing information. Just a  few years ago, this researcher and I probably would have done our work totally separately without any opportunity to share information; without the opportunity to know that the other person existed. Here are some thoughts about this:

  • Blogging is great for tracking your life, sharing your views, sharing information and making connections. I've met so many people around the world through participating in social media. These people have influenced my thinking, my career, and my personal life.
  • Through the Internet, I have found information about my diarist and connected more easily with archives that have information to assist me.
  • I have been able to plan my trips to Maine to do research by using the Internet. I knew virtually nothing about Maine before this project. The Internet has allowed me to set a strategy for my work in a more organized way than I could do without it.
I think we all know the advantages of the Internet...but the value of visiting archives themselves and really making human connections to find information is illustrated by this project. During my last visit to Maine, I visited a repository and queried the assistant there to get information for my research. The repository lacked a finding aid and I needed to rely on the knowledge of the person who was helping me. I asked for church records thinking that marriages would be recorded there and was told that there were none. I needed to backtrack and rethink and re-frame the question. I made a list of other possible materials the archives might have. I asked for records or publications related to marriages in the town. Bingo! None of this information is on the Internet. As much as we would like to think that the Internet is the end all for all our information needs, it is not. In fact, few small repositories have the resources to connect their resources to the digital world. This repository still did not even have their materials "indexed" on paper.

The gentleman I spoke with on the phone has also done some digging for records in Maine. He told me that his minister lived in NJ, Maine, and California. That he always had health issues and seemed to keep moving in part because of these health issues. In addition to being a clergyman he also studied medicine. I suggested that my new friend query the Town Hall for records. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, old church records fall under the jurisdiction of the Town Clerk when a church goes defunct or can no longer care for its archives. Perhaps he would find some mention of his man in the Town Hall vaults.

In case you're interested - Mass. General Laws Chapter 66 "Section 16. If a church, parish, religious society, monthly meeting of the people called Friends or Quakers, or any similar body of persons who have associated themselves together for holding religious meetings, shall cease for the term of two years to hold such meetings, the persons having the care of any records or registries of such body, or of any officers thereof, shall deliver all such records, except records essential to the control of any property or trust funds belonging to such body, to the custodian of a depository provided by the state organization of the particular denomination or to the clerk of the city or town where such body is situated and such clerk may certify copies thereof upon the payment of the fee as provided by clause (25) of section thirty-four of chapter two hundred and sixty-two. If any such body, the records or registries of which, or of any officers of which, have been so delivered, shall resume meetings under its former name or shall be legally incorporated, either alone or with a similar body, the clerk of such city or town or the custodian of said depository shall, upon written demand by a person duly authorized, deliver such records or registries to him if he shall in writing certify that to the best of his knowledge and belief said meetings are to be continued or such incorporation has been legally completed. The superior court shall have jurisdiction in equity to enforce this section." It is certainly worthwhile for any researchers to understand what records are held in public trust. There are often many records that reflect local citizens lives held by Towns.

So here's my thinking today... because my diarist was pharmacist and I now know that his minister was a doctor, I wonder if there connection goes beyond "business." They were both upstanding citizens of the community, considered in the higher echelons of Town life. I wonder if beyond the pulpit, perhaps the "hung out" together? Did they sip tea together? Professionally, did the doctor write any prescriptions that were filled by my pharmacist? I may never know the answers to these questions, but at least now I have another thread to pull.

I think that before summer arrives, I will write to my friends at the Maine State Archives to see if they have any information for me. I will then plan to make a visit this summer. My mentor, who originally worked as the archivist at the Portsmouth Public Library when I was a college student, is now at the Maine Archives. She and I have stayed connected, but we haven't seen each other in over a decade. It's time to catch up. Nancy, here I come!

1 comment:

  1. Mellisa you have been most gracious in your blob. I am sending via USPS my information about the Rev. Lyman Chase.

    He held Baptist pastorates in Blue Hill Maine and several other towns in that state as well as New Hampshire.