5 Replies Latest reply on Dec 28, 2016 4:23 PM by Thomas Richardson

    What unexpected things did you ever encounter during research?

    Thomas Richardson Navigator

      You can run into so many unexpected things that can alter the course of your research. That one piece of evidence that dramatically shifted your argument or shatters your original thesis.  What did you come across that had a profound impact on your research?

        • Re: What unexpected things did you ever encounter during research?
          Christian Belena Adventurer

          One discovery I made was quite unexpected: Whlle doing research at the New-York Historical Society, I came across a "Declaration of Dependence" which has drafted and signed by New York Tories in response to the Declaration of Independence. Over 800 signatures were recorded and sent off the George III who promptly ignored the pleas for protection. Although I was able to incorporate it into my research, it did not change my thesis but certainly helped support it. As we say, "You never know what you'll find..." at ANY archives.

          • Re: What unexpected things did you ever encounter during research?

            About three years ago I was invited to write a chapter in a book to be published by Historic Seattle, an architectural preservation authority in Seattle, Washington. Celebration of this non-profit organization's 40th anniversary was the occasion for publishing the book. Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill: Propriety, Profanity, Pills, and Preservation (Documentary Media, 2014) was written about the First Hill neighborhood's origins, how and why it changed, and the potential for future development on the hill that respects the neighborhood’s surviving historic buildings. The chapter I wrote was on Social Organizations and Associations. 


            While doing the research for 'the chapter,' I stumbled across an early Seattle newspaper article (see below) that piqued my interest. Let's just say I couldn't let it go: it led me 'down a rabbit hole' to learn more -- and boy was there more!  It had nothing to do with the chapter I was writing, but I couldn't let it go. Even though it had been front page news in 1905 (and beyond), none of the nearby historians I consulted could shed any light on the incident.


            After the book was published, I went back to this newspaper clipping and dug deeper. I ended up spending hours and hours researching its backstory at the National Archives at Seattle. I searched through U.S. Civil Service Commission records (RG 146), Assay Office records (RG 104), U.S. Secret Service records (RG 87), Department of Justice records (RG 60), federal court records (RG 21), federal prison records (RG 120), and Pardon Attorney records (RG 204), along with hundreds of newspaper clippings.


            I ultimately contacted the editors of Prologue, and they published my article in the Spring 2015 issue.


            But the story doesn't end there!  While researching that story, I came across an even smaller (and much less prominent) newspaper clipping about a September 1912 prisoner transfer from McNeil Island Penitentiary to Leavenworth Penitentiary, by rail. It involved 14 prisoners, one of whom is well known throughout the country because of a major film that was made about his 'life journey.' For the past year I've been following that thread, looking at a whole new set of archive record groups, and now I have begun writing another article for Prologue.


            What a journey it's been!  Plus I've learned vast amounts of history, as well as how and where to 'pull on threads' to uncover details for the story. 



            Adams - Seattle Star 11-24-1905.jpg