Monday, August 26, 2013, was a great day for me. To explain why, let me start with a story…
I had grown up hearing the story that my great-great-grandfather, Walter Carpenter, a one-legged diver from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had died in a diving accident. There was an explosion of sorts which knocked him off his raft and into the water without his helmet on. His heavy diving suit filled up with water and sank him to the bottom. Years later, after getting into history and finding work as a museum archivist, I got the “genealogy bug” and became intent on finding anything I could on the incident. One day I got lucky online and found the front page of the Coshocton Daily Times (August 26, 1913), which explained Walter’s accident in detail. Several more months of research allowed me to piece together a much larger story of the accident and the Carpenter family’s diving operations in Pittsburgh, including how Walter lost his leg years before. When I recently got in touch with various Coshocton, Ohio, agencies for more information, a local radio producer got wind of it and decided to run a story on the centennial of my ancestor’s accident.
On Monday, August 26, 2013, my immediate family and I (along with scattered Carpenter descendants) huddled around our computers and listened to the segment, which included a couple of sound bites from me, on the radio station’s Web site. After my 15 minutes of fame (more like 3 minutes, 2 seconds), we raised our glasses and toasted to “Walter the One-Legged.” Not a single August 26 will ever roll by again without remembering Walter Carpenter and the fun time I had unraveling his story.
The other thing that made that particular Monday special for me was starting a new job at the Rochester Central Library’s Local History & Genealogy Division. Working in this division had been a secret dream of mine for years – helping people get started with their genealogical investigations, assisting researchers looking at Rochester history, etc. It was right up my alley.
I had frequented the division over the past few months, looking at obituaries, microfilms, city and suburban directories, etc. Now that I work here, I’m getting acquainted with the wide array of resources at the division’s disposal.
If you’ve been bitten by the genealogy bug, be sure to come in and use the resources available in the Local History Division, which include access to Ancestry.com and other great resources. Be sure to check out the upcoming Family Detectives Club sessions, and don’t forget that expert genealogists from the Rochester Genealogical Society are available on Saturdays to assist patrons in researching their family history.
-Jesse Peers, Library Assistant, Local History Division