Only someone interested in history and/or genealogy can fully appreciate my excitement when I pulled into the parking lot at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland in April 2012. Would I really find as many documents as I had been led to believe, or was it another search that would provide little new information?
What did I need to do to gain access to the archives? A research card was needed, which necessitated showing a photo id such as a passport or driver’s license, having a picture taken, and watching a short video explaining the rules of handling the records. Most of my procedural questions were accurately answered on the FAQ page in advance of my visit at: http://www.archives.gov/publications/general-info-leaflets/71-06-dc-area-records.html .
After taking care of the initial red tape, I was ready to go, imagining myself pouring through all the mysterious documents by that afternoon. Unfortunately, it took much longer than I had envisioned. I provided my archivist, Elizabeth Gray, with some pertinent names and dates for one of the afternoon pulls, and out came a cart with twenty boxes – each the size of an old-fashioned card catalog drawer filled with index cards. How could I ever accomplish anything in four days? Nevertheless, I began going through them card by card, and I was able to find a few cards containing information on Dad and his family such as these three:
I was discouraged but determined to find more than just index cards. The following morning, another search uncovered a list of Americans granted passports during the month of April 1941. Dad’s name was on the list, stating that he was being issued his passport on April 29, along with a man named Jerry. (This will not be the last we will hear of Jerry.)
Admittedly this was not enough. I returned from lunch optimistic that I would be successful with my next pull request. I decided that, perhaps, I needed to expand my search in case the documents had been misfiled.
I waited and watched the board near the front of the room until my name appeared. It was like Christmas had come to me at the National Archives! I was given several boxes, and like I had guessed, the documents I had been seeking had been filed incorrectly.
Inside one of the boxes, I found a stack of papers stapled together. With little time left before the end of the day, I carefully picked through the papers and realized I did not travel to Maryland in vain.
I took pictures of as many documents as possible and returned to my hotel. I was feeling excited, relieved, and impatient for the next day. Would I be able to sleep knowing I had found my treasure?