I hope you enjoyed last week’s ‘Q and A’ session with Lucy Sarson (The Crescent, Taunton, OPS)! For the third of our series of interviews with Society members, we have crossed the Atlantic and called upon Eric White, who last year started his one-place study of Richmond, in Maine, USA.
You know by now how this is going to start! Please share a fun or interesting fact about yourself.
My wife and I have a 13 year old West Highland terrier. He’s doing great for his age, beyond being mostly blind and deaf. We recently got a second dog – a two year old Chihuahua mix in the hopes that the younger dog would bring a little life into the older pup. So far the Chihuahua seems to be taking his cues from his older brother. Now we have two dogs who sleep the day away!
What got you interested in one-place studies – and what keeps you interested?
I’ve researched my family history for about seven years. One branch of my tree moved from Massachusetts to a small town in Maine in the early 19th century. The more I study that branch of the family, the more closely they seem to have been intertwined with the community.
When did you start your OPS?
I started the research for my OPS in the summer of 2020 during the COVID-related restrictions. I had been toying with the idea for a while, but was unsure how to really get started.
Tell us about your first steps – what are you concentrating on in the early stages of your research?
My family history research gave me a general familiarity with Richmond, Maine. I started the more dedicated study of the town itself by creating my own transcription of the 1850 census. It includes 2,057 residents within the town with information about their professions, age, gender, race, place of birth, value of real estate, if they were married within the year, if they attended school, and more. I hope to be able to sort and analyze the data to get a snapshot of the town, and then eventually see how it changes over time once I create a transcription of the 1860 census.
Of all the different types of records you use for your one-place study, which are your favourites and why?
So far my favorite records are newspaper records. I love the way that a single newspaper clipping can add so much depth to a study that might begin with censuses and vital records. Recently I have also discovered copies of letters from and to residents of Richmond that provide another glimpse into the life of the town.
What has been your favourite OPS discovery or ‘wow!’ moment?
Since I am relatively new to this research, my ‘wow’ moment is still realizing just how much I can add to my family history research through my OPS. That epiphany is still dawning on me as I flesh out my OPS.
Name your go-to websites for one-place study research – or tell us about some brilliant online OPS resources which you think are overlooked
I start with the census records and city directories on Ancestry. Next I explore newspapers on newspapers.com, genealogybank.com, newspaperarchive.com, and chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. The resource that I think can be most overlooked are the smaller archives. Nearby museums, libraries, and universities can have a wealth of forgotten records. But sometimes it is helpful to cast a wider net as well – I finally tracked down an important record related to my Richmond, Maine OPS in a theology library 1,200 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia.
If you could go back in time and meet someone from your one-place study, who would it be and what would you talk about?
When I perfect the quantum flinghopper on my time machine, I plan to have a wide-ranging conversation with my third great-grandfather, Marshall Spring Hagar. He was the first of the Hagars to move to Richmond and quickly became a leading figure during his 2+ decades there. I think that I have just scratched the surface of his many business pursuits and adventures.
Wishing you all the best with that quantum flinghopper Eric! Now, a random question: What was the last book you read?
Right now I am reading Ships, Swindlers, and Scalded Hogs: The Rise and Fall of the Crooker Shipyard in Bath, Maine by Frederic B. Hill. Bath is a close neighbor to my OPS. Richmond, Maine was a shipbuilding town in the mid-19th century, but it was only a fraction of the size of Bath. I've taken a ton of notes on local history items that I need to follow up on to see how they impacted Richmond. But the last book that I have finished reading was Rick Riordan’s The Son of Neptune. I’m in a two person book club with my nephew. We are working our way through the entire Riordan catalogue.
Which places – related to your OPS research or otherwise – are you most looking forward to visiting when Covid-related restrictions are over?
Not related to my OPS, but one of my big trips post-COVID will be to Egypt and probably a Greek isle or two. I’d also like to visit Scotland sometime soon as well.
Thank you Eric for being our third interview guest, and our first from America!
Photos supplied by Eric White.
Would you like to occupy the hotseat and take part in a future interview as a Society member? Let me know and I will send a set of questions winging its way to you by email.