June 4, 2011: The National Archives – Rotunda and Exhibits

While planning our trip to D.C., I struggled with whether to do research at the National Archives or not.  I  decided that I was content.  However, I had not toured the Rotunda in a long time and that was very cool.  The Nation’s Charters of Freedom documents are on display there. 

Here is a Wikipedia short blip about them:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charters_of_Freedom 

Since I could not take pictures inside Wikipedia has a nice one showing what the Rotunda looks like, however, the Rotunda is now darkened so it is not quite as bright as their photo implies. 

The Charters of Freedom are:  The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Three of our Nation’s most important documents. 

There is so much to do at the National Archives I was surprised.  I don’t remember all this from 1999?  I think things have changed a lot and restoration has been done for there was evidence that the Rotunda area was quite different than memory serves.

You stand in the line to the left and enter into the National Archives in what might be the lower floor.  Once through security you can pretty much wander around to different areas and exhibits on your own following the signs. 

The National Archives building on the outside is very ornate as you see from the photos.

To do research you go into the Archives on the North side of the building.  I just remember the security checkpoint but there might be more to see there according to a reliable source?  There are actually two buildings one in D.C. and the other in College Park.  You will have to determine which works for you.  When I went years ago I was so green I didn’t know how to use a microfilm reader.  I was so intimidated by it all. I suggest that you prepare by visiting the website and studying the rules and regulations.  Also do a search of the NARA catalog and pin down as much as possible what you want to research like Civil War pensions or Revolutionary war pensions and more.  I know that they have changed things greatly since then and have hours for pulling the documents, so you do need to study up and plan. 

The other option is to hire someone to help you via the APG (Association of Professional Genealogist).  There is a chapter in D.C. called the National Capital Area Chapter of APG.  The cost of a Civil War Pension file has gone up greatly and this is an alternative.  A professional will be working for you and knows what they are doing and will make sure copies of the whole pension or service file are made for you.  Yes, they will charge you but they can get the documents for less, I believe.  My friend and colleague Lisa Petersen knows the D.C. area archives very well.  She is a member of this chapter check out their membership listing by clicking the link. 

My great grandfather George A. Barclay’s Civil War pension file was not at NARA!  I waited so patiently for it but they said they didn’t have it. AUGGH!!!  It was at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs! They, the VA, copied the whole thing and didn’t charge me anything.  It was at least 2 inches thick.  Yes, I was very fortunate.  I obtained other documents as well before they raised the rates.

My first stop was the Archives Shop.  Now I did see the movie “National Treasure.”  The gift store that is in the Archives did not look a bit like the one in the movie…giggle!  I studied the gift shop carefully and pondered how I wish I could do more reading.  I am amazed at all the books that are written about many topics of history. So little time!

Now they have restrooms near the Archives shop and a Cafe?  I don’t remember all that from before? I did not go to the Cafe for I was not hungry.  I headed to the Rotunda and was immediately stopped with the crowd of people waiting to get in. 

The line wandered around with cording to guide you and there were these reading boards and a video being displayed but I had to keep moving so I didn’t get to read all of that part.  As you enter you first find a display about the Magna Carta.  They had one of seven copies of this document.  It is being prepared for a new exhibit so it was a temporary one.  There is actually a hereditary organization you can join: 
http://www.magnacharta.org/  It would take a lot of work to prepare for membership.  I counted 10 generations for a client to just get to crossing the Atlantic Ocean and that didn’t include England and those generations. 

As I waited to get into the Rotunda area, I observed the murals on the wall showing our founding fathers looking very much like a Renaissance painting which was a little odd to me????  I tried to count the eagles but could only find six and not the nine they said were in the area. It was very dark and cool in there. 

At a certain point they let in a group of people, lining you up shoulder to shoulder four lines deep by the gates and steps.  I think they wait ten minutes and let you into the Rotunda area as a big group.  I headed for the left which was backed up with a line but you can move about if you want.

They have display boards with glass and they have prepared materials to lead you to the viewing of the main document.  First was the Declaration of Independence and I was amazed that they have copies with corrections on them. 

The sad part was the Declaration of Independence is so faded.  They say it was in light for many years at another location and the ink and parchment do not do well in those conditions.  This time the containment area they had it in did not keep dimming and coming back.  So it seems they have learned to preserve documents of this type in a different manner.  It did make me nervous when the people would lean on the glass but apparently it is okay to do that.  There are guards standing there watching. 

It was difficult to read all that they had prepared and keep the line moving but I noticed that the crowd had diminished.  It was about 5:20 pm and they are open till 7 pm for summer.  Hmmm…maybe it is in the timing?

The next document was the Constitution and the displays led up to how it was created after the Articles of Confederation did not work.  They had George Washington’s copy with his corrections.  The last was the Bill of Rights and more explanation about its origins. 

I wish my dad was here to see these documents.  He was the true Patriot in my family!

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Sunday: April 17, 2011: A Change of Plans – Peru, MA & Wahconah Falls

It is Sunday in the Berkshires and everything is closed.  That is okay, I need a little time to recover.

The Dakota Restaurant had a brunch from 10 to 2 pm and I decided to try it.  I arrived about 1 pm and they had a full buffet.  It was very good and even better than Old Sturbridge Village.  The waiter who served me did everything:  take orders, tend the bar, bus the tables.  Next stop was feeding the car.  Gasoline was at $3.50 to $4+. Ouch!

I proceeded up Holmes St. to Arrowhead the museum and soon discovered that I completely misread the website and that they are not opened till after Memorial Day.  I just went back and revisited it and the information is at the very bottom of the website about opening times.  Here is the link away Herman Melville.

I ran into the Executive Director Betsy and she told me that Melville had been coming to the area since a child of 13.  Greylock Mountain was the inspiration for Moby Dick. Like everyone I read “Moby Dick,” and new it by heart.  Of course, you have to see the Gregory Peck movie version.

I learned that they give tours every hour at his home starting at 10 am when opened.  Betsy informed me that they have just received the paperwork to go ahead and repaint Arrowhead, which is really in need of some help and funds to do so.  The paint was peeling as I wandering around taking photos.  They have to proceed carefully because of the historical significance of the house.  No power washing here.

The Movie Website gives some information about this movie:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049513/  It was done in 1956 and it was not bad.  I believe that Patrick Stewart was Capt Ahab and did a TV version in 1998 with Gregory Peck in another role.  Patrick Stewart was formerly Capt. Picard in Star Trek Next Generation.

There are other interesting things you can do in the Berkshires like the Hancock Shaker Village, The Berkshire Museum or the Museum of the Gilded age.  Betsy tried to entice me but I was more interested in the Center Cemetery in Peru, Massachusetts and decided to drive there and investigate.

Well, I missed the turn to Hinsdale and ended up at Wahconah Falls State Park.  I had thought of stopping there on my way to Pittsfield on Friday but changed my mind.  Well there it was so I followed this other car onto the turn and gravel road and headed to the Falls.  A short walk after parking the car and I found something reminiscent of home! Awe this is more like it.  Raging water over rocks!! Enjoy!!

 

A short easy and pleasant walk.

I have noticed that although there is forest which is mixed with deciduous and pine trees, there is no undergrowth like ferns and bushes in these forests and like back home.  It was very pretty and there are barbecues situated here and there, ready for a picnic. It looked like there were trails to follow.

A young couple was at the falls and I asked how to get to Hinsdale.  She corrected me and called it Hinnnsdale.  Oops!  I smiled.  Well she was right, I missed the sign. So from Hwy 9 you turn onto Hwy 8 which takes you to Hinsdale with a sharp turn left onto Hwy 143 and head up a very steep hill to Peru (formerly Partridgefield, officially changed to Peru in 1805.)

My quest was to find Haskell’s.  Roger Haskell the son of Zachariah (Zechariah) Haskell and Keziah Goss Haskell was buried in the Center Cemetery in Peru.  Now this cemetery might also be called “Hill Top.”  My theory is they all came west together.  No one knows where Zachariah and Keziah Goss Haskell are buried.  I was hoping to find a sign.  I did find their son Roger and his wife Mary’s tombstones.

As I turned south to go to the cemetery  after reaching the center of Peru. I drove by a chained Doberman Pincher. Lots of the dogs that live in the country in Massachusetts do not like cars.  I had never witnessed this behavior.  He was chained but it seems dangerous for the animal??

The Center Cemetery was very wet.  There were puddles by some of the stones, mushy grass, mud and my shoes got really wet.  It was threatening rain even though the pictures doesn’t seem to indicate it with the fluffy clouds.  The cemetery is sort of on a hill and slope.  It is a good size.  I tried to pull the Aveo in but she protested and spun her wheels so I carefully turned around so I could get out and didn’t go any further which put me in a puddle.  Ugh!

 

 

I found Roger and his wife and other Haskell’s.  One tombstone was toppled over and I could not budge it and the danger of hurting myself was imminent so I backed off.  It is a Zechariah Haskell but not the one I want to find.  Darn!

I am a little worried about this cemetery.  It is out in the open but it does seem to need to be cared for?  I worry about our heritage and see it slipping away.  The ground was so soft and the tombstones were leaning in all directions and lots of breakage.  I know it was a rough winter and there has not been a lot of time to get to repair, I hope they do.

Roger Haskell is on the left and Mary on the right

Roger Haskell died Apr 8, 1842 age 90 years (hard to read he was leaning over.  Next to him on the right, Mary Haskell died Dec. 13, AD 1849 aged 86 years and 23 days.

More Haskells – Hannah Haskell wife of Cullen B. Watkins 1843 to 1931 on the left

 

Little Bertha, Precous Jewel on the left, George Haskell 1844 to 1914.

 

It needs a shovel and several people to move it and flip it, not to mention fixed it.

The Berkshire Collection had a book titled Cemeteries of Hinsdale and Peru.  I took copies of the Center Cemetery but messed up some photos so I will have to revisit that book.  There was a handwritten notation that listed Haskell names in the collection but only gave page numbers.  I was going too fast and running out of time at the Berkshire Athenaeum.  The lesson, take photocopies as well of critical stuff.

Find A Grave has a listing for this cemetery but it is not complete.  I have more photos of this cemetery and will post them later when I get a chance.

The Peru Church with two steeples!! The Library is to the left!

I returned on Hwy 148 to Hwy 8 to Hwy 9 to Dalton and then Pittsfield which was quiet today because it was Sunday so I was able to study the city of Pittsfield.  I missed a Rite Aid because it was housed in a building butted up to others.  If I could describe Pittsfield it is that the streets are wide in the downtown area.

I really didn’t want to eat at the Dakota for I had done that twice but the Italian ristorante was not opened so I had dinner in my room in the Comfort Inn.

Before I had left for the day and went to brunch about 1 pm I called Rose Miller of the Granville Library and explained I had a problem.  The original plan was to go to the Granville Town Hall and view vital records with the town clerk who was there in the morning and afternoon on Mondays.  Well with Patriot’s Day that was not going to happen.  Rose also had a conflict but an appointment at the library at 1 pm.  She had access for it was also closed.  So I would drive down to Granville and visit with her and see the Main Street Cemetery.

Chores and dinner done, I settled in to bed.