From the Research Room (2014)

Australia, South Africa, Germany, Wales, Ireland, France, Italy, Quebec and the United States. These are just some of the places that recent research requests to LHC have come from. Every week, staff and volunteers field requests for information from people all over the world. With the click of a mouse a researcher can e-mail us with questions about topics ranging from public health and working conditions to arts and entertainment.

Earlier this year we were contacted by an author from Australia who is working on a book about the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and requested some general information about its effects in Lawrence. LHC Assistant to the Director Amita Kiley searched our newspaper archive and scanned a few significant articles, e-mailed them to our researcher and, without even leaving the building, we helped someone on the other side of the world learn about Lawrence!

Not all requests are this easy though. In April, we received a request from a woman in Germany who was searching for her grandfather's 1893 Baptismal record and/or mention of a possible adoption by a family who were thought to be members of The Church of The Good Shepherd. Amita spent hours combing through boxes of journals and ledgers which make up The Church of the Good Shepherd Unitarian Universalist Collection, 1847-1980, but ultimately did not find the record the researcher was looking for. Perhaps the grandfather didn't belong to this Church after all. Or maybe, for some reason, his Baptism wasn't recorded. Either way, we were glad to be able to help this researcher, even if help just meant going through boxes she couldn't physically look through herself.

The majority of our research requests, no matter where they originate, are from those seeking help with genealogy, particularly early Irish immigration. Head Researcher Kathy Flynn is especially talented with these requests. Recently Kathy was able to assist a woman in Wales with questions regarding her ancestors' involvement in The Pemberton Mill disaster. Using City Directories and LHC's collection of material about the Pemberton Mill, Kathy was able to put the researcher's mind at ease and confirm that her relatives were not, in fact, hurt or killed during the collapse.
Kathy's ability to provide genealogical help goes far beyond checking City Directories. She has assisted researchers whose relatives worked on the creation of The Great Stone Dam or labored while carving out the Canals. Kathy has searched LHC's largest collection, The Records of the Essex Company of Lawrence, Massachusetts 1845-1987, and found payroll records describing the type of work completed and exactly how much the laborer was paid. Researchers are overjoyed to receive this information, accompanied by a scan of the page of the ledger in which Kathy found it.

Kathy is also LHC's resident cemetery expert and has taken many photographs of family plots on behalf of researchers who just can't make it to Lawrence. She has also visited the Lawrence cemeteries with out of town researchers and helped them locate family plots.

Naturally, our researchers don't just come from overseas! They come from all over the US; many from right here in the Merrimack Valley. Archivist Jenn Williams recently helped a researcher from Methuen who was adopted many years ago. Just that morning, the researcher learned the name of her birth mother. Using a bit of sleuthing, the woman figured out which high school she went to and what year she graduated. Jenn had recently processed the collection of Mayor Lawrence P. LeFebre Papers, 1849-2005 and remembered that there were several Lawrence High School yearbooks in that collection. Within minutes, Jenn pulled the exact yearbook that the woman was looking for and opened up to the page with the woman's birth mother. It was the first time the researcher had ever seen her mother's face!

Image2.jpg Speaking of sleuthing, Jenn has helped several LHC researchers track down records they've been searching for for years. We were recently contacted by a student from the class of 1969 at Bryant-McIntosh College in Lawrence. He was looking for his transcripts and seemed to have exhausted all of his leads. With some persistent digging, Jenn was able to determine that the transcripts were located at the Southern New Hampshire University Library. Another time, Jenn helped a researcher locate the records from the Protectory of Mary Immaculate Orphanage; they were in Montreal!

Sometimes we are able to answer requests in a very special, one of a kind way. One of our favorite requests is when a researcher discovers that we have an interview with their family member in our Oral History Collection. To have the ability to give the researcher a recording of his family's story, in his own relatives voice no less, is so rewarding. Other times we have been able to use The Urban Renewal Collection to show researchers paperwork that a relative had filled out and signed in their own handwriting. Of course, we are always thrilled when we have a photograph of a relative or childhood home (below) located in our Lawrence History Center General Photograph Collection and are able to share it with a researcher.

Image3.jpgThe reason we are able to help so many researchers is because of the generosity of collection donors, our members, and other financial supporters. The items donated to our collection over the years have blended together beautifully to tell the stories of Lawrence and its people. We'd love to help you with your questions! Just e-mail and you'll be one step closer to learning more about Lawrence, the city that captivates researchers from around the world.


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Sat: By appt
Sun-Mon: Closed

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6 Essex Street
Lawrence, MA 01840

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Founded in 1978 as the Immigrant City Archives, the mission of the Lawrence History Center is to collect, preserve, share, and animate the history and heritage of Lawrence and its people.