Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family History Library Research

I spent the last two days at the Family History Library in Salt Lake doing research on my ancestors on both sides of my family tree. We were heading home from our 5½ week road trip vacation. Since we were going to be near Salt Lake, we decided to take a two day break from the road. Hip-hip hooray!

When I was packing for our trip I just happened to also pack the file folder I'd been keeping all of my Family History Library research. I didn't know if we'd be coming come via Salt Lake City or not, but just in case, I packed it.

I did spend some time looking at the card catalog before I left home. Printed out some things to look up, got my blank research logs, pencils, $1 bills for payment card, file folder with my forms, notebook paper; I was ready to hit it first thing when the Library opened.

The first day I got there an hour after the Library opened, not bad for me, I'm not a morning person. Since I didn't have much to research using US books, I decided to start on the third floor. After searching all morning, didn't really find anything new. I only copied three pages out of two books. I needed a break. Went down to the Main floor snack room; had a vending machine sandwich. Good thing I brought along my own water. Afterward, I went down to the second floor to tackle microfilms.

I like working the microfilm reader. You can really get into a rhythm, putting a new reel on, cranking the handle super fast or slowly scanning your document. Rewinding the reel, slapping on a new reel and off you go again for your next genealogy find.

That first day I found zilch. How disappointing. I was so ready! OK, need to regroup, need a new strategy. That night I sat down with the Library's card catalog again and searched for different places than I had the first time, I printed out the film numbers, I had my “places” picked out for my different families. I'm going to find stuff!

My second day the Library was opened from 8 am to 9 pm, yay! Plenty of time, all day long. I went straight to the microfilm readers, picked a great spot, dropped off my stuff and went in search for my first four reels.

Crank, crank, scan. Crank, crank, scan...nothing, zilch again. OK, now I'm going to look for something different. I had found my great-grandfather Rosiaro Catania's Declaration of Intention papers on about two weeks before. I couldn't really copy the document well so I wanted to look for it at the Library. I wanted a clear unobstructed copy. So I started to search; and search and search for it. I was close a few times, I knew it! His document should have been right next to the documents I was looking at.

Declaration of Intention

I must have gone through eight to ten reels in the same sequence. A few of them I even looked at twice. Where was it? Should I just forget it and go onto something different? I mean, it was on, so I should be able to find it here. No, keep looking, I reasoned with myself. I did find my great-grandfather in an index with a page number but not in any of the other reels. He's hiding, that must be it...he's hiding. I took a break, walked around, got some water. I decided after looking at all my forms and notations, I'd look at one of the previous reels again, I just had a “feeling” this time.

It was almost 7:30 pm, I hadn't had dinner (because I was “so close”). Slowly I cranked the handle. Slowly I scanned each and every page. Then what to my weary eyes should appear, his document! OMG!! I couldn't believe it, I kept staring at it just to make sure I had the right guy. Yes, yes, it's my great-grandfather! I was so tired, I couldn't even jump to my feet to do my happy dance.

I carefully pulled the film off the reader, took it over to where I could make copies and save the file to my flash drive. The lady who helped me so was nice and patient with me. I was so tired she had to repeat herself as I struggled to make the copies. I thanked her, and thanked everyone I saw as I made my way back to my microfilm reader to clean up and refile all the reels.

Before I left, I took one last look around and said a silent prayer of thanks.

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