Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
Part V
 (To Review, Part I)
(To Review, Part II)
(To Review, Part III)
(To Review, Part IV)

Strolling into the library the researcher smiled at the hum of activity around her. Children were busily perusing books in their brightly colored area. It was so cool that it had furniture designed for tiny kids and books at eye levels for all ages.

Skirting around the reference desk, the researcher approached the wi-fi bar at the back of the library. She sat and opened her lap top and began organizing her stuff while it booted up. Entering her library card number she had instant access to HeritageQuest and Ancestry.com.

She started with HeritageQuest, and clicked “Search Census.” The screen asked for a surname, first name, census year, and a state. Mahoney was a pretty common name, but Emajean may have been spelled lots of different ways in the census, she reasoned. She typed in Mahoney for the surname and left the box for the first name blank.  The annual showed that she was a college graduate in 1933, so the 1920 census would be the first target.  She left the state blank as well.

Whoa! The screen showed 8894 Mahoneys! She scrolled down to Michigan where there were only 230 and clicked through. Although there were two Emmas, neither was the right age. But then the researcher realized that all of the ages listed were over 18. They must only index the adult names. Darn! In 1920 Emajean would have been a minor child and the researcher did not know her father's name. Okay, time for logic. Jackson is in Jackson County. If I go back to the Jackson County subpage, I can try to look for a father's entry. The researcher tried that and got nine results. She quickly clicked through each of them, rejecting the records one by one. Time for a new approach.

Going back to the main screen, she changed her selection to the 1930 census. Rats! Only a few states were listed. The others had a notation “this state is not yet loaded.” Probably a budget thing, she grumbled to herself.

She sat back for a minute to clear her head and organize her next attack. Searching through the photos she pulled out one that showed what she thought was a new nursing graduate, proudly posing with friends and compared it with the yearbook photo. Then the researcher pulled up the close-up she had made by scanning the original and using Photoshop to crop and re-size the face.  Emajean was clearly the girl on the left, and it looked like the other two were sisters. Research note: go through photos of class to find other girls. May provide more clues.







Wow, thought the researcher. These are the women who in a few short years would be nursing the wounded when the war came. I wonder if any of them went to the Pacific...

She shook off her imaginings. As she sat forward to begin again, the researcher glanced to her right. The library had just opened a new “Young Adult” reading area for teens. Each oddly-shaped chair could fit one child only, and each chair was full. In most, the kids had their legs tucked up underneath them, and the kids were each lost in a book. One girl had dark eyes and curls, reminding the researcher of the first photo she had found.

She smiled thinking what Emajean might have thought of today’s students, and what today's students might think of this rabbit trail the researcher was following. Turning back to her screen she backed out of HeritageQuest and switched to Ancestry.com. Finally, she struck gold.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying your description of your research efforts with Emajean.