…and then the fire alarm went off!

When I go to a library to research, I do not expect a fire to break out.  Very bad thing–a fire.  Worse, the water damage that occurs where the fire burns.

And the whole process of exiting in an orderly fashion, while you leave your days’ work on the table to burn because attendants shoo you out quickly. “Take only your wallet and leave!” they command.

After the Family History Expo in Redding CA (Northern California), I drove back to Pasadena  (Southern California)  to spend a week at the Huntington Library in San Marino.  I had some 10 research client files with name lists and specific questions to search in the Robert A. Brock Collection.

Robert Alonzo Brock was the Secretary of the Virginia Historical Society and a serious manuscript collector in his own right.  His materials include over 200 bound volumes and nearly 400 boxes of original documents from Virginia.  I had been warned that the majority of his papers were nineteenth century stuff. And I was interested in the information from the Colonial era through about 1820.  Stay tuned for my assessment of the pre-1800 stuff in this important collection.

So with my extracts and notes spread out on the table in front of me from three days of work.  With my client files and names lists fanned out across the end of the table.  And with the Brock documents stacked (out of the box) so I could keep them in order.  The fire alarms around the reading room began to flash and ring!  Sheer panic flooded me.

Other researchers around me with their laptops at the ready, literally gasped.  And when we were told to leave our computers and our work on the tables and exit quickly, one lady said audibly, “Not without my laptop!”  And she unhooked it and gathered it into her arms as we exited and followed staff members 500 feet from the door.  I grabbed my notebook with my notes and extracts–no copied documents, they will be copied and mailed to me later.

WhenI take client files with me, they are photocopies of essential name lists, to do instructions, questions to be answered, sources to be searched–with their locations and where possible call numbers carefully gathered in advance.  These too, are only copies.  Complete sets of everything are left at home for just such an emergency.

You, see, this is not the first time I’ve been in a research library when the fire alarms went off.  The Family History Library has had fire alarm incidents. The University of Colorado at Boulder research library caught fire, damaging portions of their microforms collection, while I was wheeling a full day’s searches on a cart to the copy room.  “You can always return and re-mark the books,” the attendant told me.  Yeah.  Sure.  Not.

The Los Angeles Public Library caught fire–a disgruntled employee set a fire among the business volumes seriously damaging one of the few complete patent collections in the United States. White smoke changed to black smoke as we stood helplessly watching from the hillside.  And the matchless genealogy collection there sustained some permanent damage as well.

So when the Pasadena fire department came flashing into the parking lot followed by the paramedics, we all gasped.  “This must be for real,” exclaimed one scholar.  And I shivered in the 80 degree sunlight.

The water supply mal-functioned.  There was no real fire.  For an hour and a half we stood there on the lawn waiting for the all clear signal that we could re-enter the building and finish our work.

Actually, I will go back to the Library in March 2010 when I go to Brea CA (Southern California) to speak on 14 March and again in April 2010 when I speak to the Immigrant Library, Pommern Group the second Sunday afternoon in April.  Two more weeks of Virginia research in documents that have had very little exposure to the genealogy world, in spite of the more than 30 published volumes abstracted and edited Beverley Fleet many years ago.  His abstracts were re-printed in 34 volumes in 3, by Genealogical Publishing Company under the title, Virginia Colonial Extracts (1988 and other reprintings).

I did not get to search St Paul’s Vestry Book (Hanover County VA) nor St Ann’s Parish Vestry Book(Albemarle County) nor the Quaker Minute Books for Hanover with marriages and removals included, etc.  These volumes were re-numbered and we could not find them the first go round.  So they will be first on my list when I get there in March.

These are only some of the documents I searched: early shipping records, correspondence to and from the Land Office regarding bounty land for transporting settlers into Virginia, payrolls and size rolls and weapons lists, troop requests, and other military records proving actual service!  Filled with new Revolutionary War ancestors for DAR and SAR membership.  Ancestors never before claimed because no one knew for sure that they had served.  I’ll tell you about other goodies I found in future blogs–and all my California adventures–probably more than you want to know.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle   http://arleneeakle.com

PS  Stay tuned.  Kathryn has prepared a whole line of merchandise with my photograph and tag line for sale–watch for her to add the link to my Home Page.  Imagine wearing my face or carrying my face on your favorite clothing and tote items!  Ha!

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