Thursday, April 10, 2008


So today was my first trip to a Family History Center.

Last night I did some research on the Family Search website
and found some microfilm records and cd rom file numbers
which I wrote down in a small notebook. I then printed up
some of my pedigree chart in a five generation /page landscape
format to go along with the older six generation/page version.
I only printed out fifteen pages of each because the full report
is over three hundred pages.

When I went to add them to the three-ringed binder I use for
my family group sheets I found there wasn’t enough space, so
I slid them into the pocket inside the front cover of the
notebook. Note to self: buy a few more binders. Or at least
start using the one of the very large ones.

Next, I checked my flashdrive, backed up any new files from
my desktop to it and deleted some older ones that were
replaced by updated versions.

Finally, I Googlemapped the Family History Center address
at 379 Gardner St. in Hingham from my home here in
Abington. When I saw the suggested route and the map, I
shook my head. I’d expected the FHC to be in the older part
of Hingham closer to the coast but instead found it was much
closer. The map suggested a route that would take me north
on Route 18 and then by a series of turns to Derby St in
Hingham where the far end of Gardner St joins it, a trip of
7.9 miles and about(it said) sixteen minutes. Except that
anyone who lives in this area knows how congested Route 18
is at certain times of day and also knows how many traffic
lights that route entails. I looked at the map and figured out
a much quicker, shorter route using the back roads I know
which would take me to Gardner St on its southern end
where it joins Pond St

Of course, that all depended on whether Ping would behave.
Ping is the name I’ve finally given to my 1992 Ford Taurus
that I just spent $1800 dollars repairing and comes from its
new annoying habit.

You know how your car chimes if the door is open or you
leave the keys in the ignition or your seatbelt is unbuckled?
Recently, the car has given that sound when I first start it up
and then continues non-stop until I reach my destination
and turn the car off. Talk about a ringing in my ears! It also
stalled out once on the way to work after I got it back which
was more what I was worried about for this trip.

This morning I got up later than I planned because my post
nasal drip acted up and it took awhile to fall asleep. Eventually
I gathered all my things(flashdrive, notebook, binder, three
pens) together and got in the car. It was (and still is) a
beautiful day outside and it is definitely a day to drive with
your car window down. Ping behaved herself and there was
no bell so I was relieved that as I drove I wouldn’t have kids
run out to the curbside thinking my car was the approaching
ice cream vendor. I turned on the radio and three commercials
and two Neil Diamond songs later(“Cherry, Cherry” and
“Sweet Caroline”) I pulled into the driveway of the FHC. It’s
in the rear of a LDS church in a quiet residential area that I
had driven by in the past over the years without paying
attention to the sign!

I found the entrance, went inside, and a very nice woman
volunteer was there along with another woman viewing
records at one of the microfilm machines. There were about
six of these spaced around the walls of the room and at least
two computers, one of which was being used by the volunteer.
I explained I was new and asked if I could see what films
and fiches they had there, as Miriam had suggested in
her comment to my earlier post. We checked some of the
film numbers I’d written down but didn’t have any luck,
and apparently the Plymouth records were in use already,
so I took a reel for the vital records of Livermore, Me. instead.
John Cutter West’s wife Arvilla Ames had been born there;
perhaps they filed marriage intentions there as well as in
nearby Sumner where they married in 1827?

The volunteer showed me how to load the microfilm on the
machine and I spent the next hour or so looking at the
images but didn’t find a mention of the marriage. By the time
I was done it was 12:30 and the room was closing at 1pm,
so there was little point in loading up a new film. I rewound
the microfilm, turned off the machine and returned the film
to its drawer in the cabinet. I thanked the volunteer for her
help and told her I’d be back next week at an earlier time
and then left. On the way home I picked up a burger, and
one Elvis Presley and one Doors song later(“Suspicious Minds”
, “Light My Fire”) I was home.

So, while I hadn’t learned anything new about John Cutter
West(and I hadn’t expected to right away anyway!) I did
acquaint myself with how to get to the FHC, what resources
and equipment they had available and with their changed
hours.(The Family Search site said it closed at 2pm but they
now close an hour earlier at 1pm.) When I go back next week
I’ll explore a bit further and perhaps order a roll of microfilm
from the Family History Library. All in all, a good few hours
out of the apartment and I look forward to more visits to
the FHC.

And that concludes Bill and Ping’s Excellent Adventure!


Jasia said...

It does sound like an excellent adventure Bill! Good for you!

I like that you added the names of the songs playing on the radio. I often wonder what other people listen to when they drive.

"Light My Fire" is one of my all-time favorite songs.

Thomas MacEntee said...

I once got smacked for singing Come On Baby Light My Fire when I was a child. It probably was out in public and I'm sure I embarassed my mother. I probably did a little dance too, if I remember.

Oh, and I'm glad you had a good adventure Bill!

Bill West said...

Thanks, Jasia and Thomas!

Of course, I tend to sing along with
the music, so I had to remember to stop when I got to the driveup window to order the burger!

But the kids who take the money and hand out the food have this look on their face like "Why is this old guy listening to THAT??"even when I'm not singing.

Miriam said...

Hi, Bill,

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself on your maiden voyage to the FHC, and hope that you enjoy many more (and productive) visits in the future!

Bill West said...

Thanks, Miriam!
And thanks for the advice!

Randy Seaver said...

Way to go Bill - and thanks for introducing us to Ping. Sounds like quite a gal.

While I'm in Santa Cruz, I get a steady diet of Sesame Street and Wiggles songs on the CD and DVD in the car. We watch them on TV too, although Disney Channel is now the station on most mornings.

At home or in the car, I don't listen to much music - mainly politics from 8 to 5, then TV news and sports.

Go and order films from Salt Lake - it's the only way to get those records you need to see and haven't been able to find online.

Cheers -- Randy

Bill West said...

Hi Randy!
Well, after riding the commuter train most of the way to work for a bit, it's nice to hear something else than station stop announcements!

I'm going back to the FHC next Thursday and might place an order then. I'm also planning a trip into Boston in another week or so for info
on my White/McFarland side of the tree.

footnoteMaven said...


My first excellent adventure included getting lost for an hour.

Obviously, I wasn't as organized as you!