An Idea For Researchers and Writers: Be Your Own History Detective

A convergence of events has inspired to try something new. A few weeks ago, my mother and I attended the Great Trail Festival in Malvern, OH. While browsing a book vendor’s booth, I came across a blacksmith’s ledger from 1849. It was interesting, and I glanced through it to see if there was a location named inside. There was no location given – just a list of customers and transactions. How mysterious. I moved on to the Ye Olde Food and Drink stands for some vintage chicken nuggets and black cherry soda, but the ledger lurked in the back of my mind.

The following day, I watched a great episode of History Detectives on PBS, and it occurred to me that being a “history detective” would be a really cool gig. For any that have not seen the show (shame on you), a cast of researchers travel the country unlocking the secrets of the historic artifacts they are presented with by their curious owners. There are some really interesting stories, and equally as interesting are the various resources the researchers discover and use in their quest to solve the mystery.

Being a little slow sometimes, it took a third knock to the head to finally rattle the idea loose. I stumbled across a series of instructional videos on FamilySearch.org. One in particular caught my attention: The Bachelor: Reconstructing a Solitary Life Using Obscure & Far-Flung Records , a presentation by Mary Penner in 2009. It was a fascinating account of a store owner in the 1850s. I highly encourage you to watch this video – and the techniques used certainly apply to more than bachelors. The research all began from his business journals. The message of the video was that there are all kinds of as-yet undiscovered stories waiting to be told – stories that are terrific research opportunities for a variety of reasons.

Finally, it had all clicked into place. I’ve emailed the bookseller to see if they still have the ledger. Using the names listed, I hope to be able to track down the location of the shop and go from there. Maybe it will be a fascinating story. Maybe it won’t. Regardless, I am looking forward to the challenge of the research, and hopefully, the joy of discovery. More likely than not, it will at least yield an article in some form: journal, society publication, magazine..maybe all of the above. If you are a serious researcher and established or aspiring writers, I hope you will join in by creating your own quest and finding your own little piece of history whose stories are waiting to be uncovered.

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One Response to An Idea For Researchers and Writers: Be Your Own History Detective

  1. Good for you, Chris! Great idea too.