In the 1980’s Louise Carlson and her husband lived in the Philippines. During trips to Boston to visit with her sister, they sought out auctions in the area, primarily looking for vintage linens. Feeling particularly lucky at one such auction, she purchased a $5 box-lot of linen. Once home, she removed the pieces of linen and discovered what appeared to be a well preserved book at the bottom of the box. Removing the wrapping with care, Louise realized it wasn’t a book she held in her hands, but the diary of a 17 year old girl in Groveland, MA in 1854.
And so it began.
Louise had never done genealogy, but was intrigued by what she read in the book. After returning to the Philippines, she typed each diary page into her computer and over time, created an index of every person named. The following year, Louise again visited her sister in Boston, and set out on a ‘pilgrimage’ to visit the town of Groveland and home of the diary’s author, Sophia Jane (“Jennie”) Griffith. This first pilgrimage became the pivotal moment when Louise’s mere ‘curiosity’ turned into a passion for genealogy.
Louise and her sister visited Jennie’s gravesite, located the newspaper obituary, town maps, and a book in the Groveland public library which listed every home and occupant, enabling Louise to match the names in the diary to their actual place of residence.
WHAT WAS THE PLAN?
Louise’s plan was to look at the Federal census for each name mentioned in the diary – ‘just to see what I could find’. She created a worksheet to keep track of the number of times a person’s name was mentioned, and who Jennie came in contact with on a regular basis. Learning (from Ancestry.com) Massachusetts conducted a state census between the years of the Federal census, she located a 19 page state census for 1855, which included everyone who lived in Groveland, during the year the diary was written. A closer inspection also revealed the 1855 state census taker was Nathaniel H. Griffith, Jennie’s father.
CONTINUING THE RESEARCH – 2014
While recently using Mocavo.com, Louise discovered a book, The Inhabitants of Groveland, MA through Jan 1, 1856 (population approximately 1200) published in 1912. The contents of the book, (accessible on line) lists each resident of Groveland, their occupation, age, marital status, family and household relationships.
An excerpt from page 19 reads:
“693 Griffith, Nath’l H., 41; b. manf.; son of Wm.
(699) ; m. 697 Sophia, 38, dau. of Aaron
Rogers (1974), and has 1 ch. (696).
696 Griffith, Sophia Jane, 19 ; dau. of Nathaniel
H.; school teacher ; unm.; at home (693).”
Sophia Jane Griffith never married, and lived in the same house her entire life. In 1912 she gifted the town with the Griffith Memorial Archway, in memory of her parents. The structure remains today, located at the entrance to Groveland’s Riverview Cemetery.
Louise continues to research Sophia Jane Griffith, and looks forward to one day locating a picture of Jennie, or perhaps one of her paintings.
“If you go to an auction or antique store and see a diary,
it’s just ‘good manners’ for a genealogist to buy it
and see what they can do with it . . . I just like finding things.”
In the end, Louise got the vintage linen, visible from the top of the box, but it was the layer below where the real treasure was hidden. I believe she found one of her life passions in that diary book.
Louise Carlson has been a member of the Siuslaw Genealogy Society for 7 years, and is a contributing member of the SGS Web Development Team.