I wanted to know who all the people were in the diary, not just the relatives, and after a few years I began to piece together the place and the neighbors. Bill and I spent many a happy hour in the Belfast Library reading old copies of the Republican Journal, in the Penobscot Museum going through family folders, and in tramping around the area where my grandmother had grown up. I joined some family genealogy associations,meeting people there who helped me. I met a man at the Penobscot Museum who was doing research on part of my family – and it wasn’t even his family. He was a pilot, had been in the Vietnam War, had retired to the coast of Maine after having several heart attacks; the history of the area had become his passion. Through censuses, cemetery lists, vital records, I figured out who all the people were and found out quite a bit about them in newspaper accounts.
Later my cousin gave me my grandmother’s trunk, filled with letters, another diary, and other treasures. I typed up the 100 or so letters to add to the diaries and annotated both the letters and the diaries. I gathered family photos and eventually compiled a family history of about 250 pages. I wrote to my cousins to ask who would like a copy, and finally I printed out 35 copies.
Now I am organizing what I have accumulated into two categories: important documents that shouldn’t be thrown away, and papers and notes important only to me that can be chucked when I bite the dust.