williamshirtcutter

City Directory, Troy, New York, 1887, William Macauley (“Wm. McCauley”) age 17, working as a shirtcutter at 70 Sixth (Avenue), a shirt factory (unidentified); b. (boarding at) 32 Eleventh (Street), Troy (structure still standing though much altered).

In our story, William’s and mine, are to be found the names of ancient cities, sometimes mispronounced.  Cairo.  Troy.

It was cold in Cairo that time (see the previous entries).  Not Indian Summer like it was in Troy.  I forgot to mention that.  I hadn’t dressed for it, hadn’t planned on being there for so long.  Exactly how long is a story for another time, but for the moment know that it was cold in November of 1909, colder still in February of 1904. I learned then that you can Fall and feel the seasons of the past, the weather and climate, along with the more immediate sensations. Fear. Sadness. Regret. Panic. Terror. Love.

I should probably be clear, though. You don’t need Falling to find someone.  There are city directories for that.  The Nineteenth Century loved measuring itself; counting its citizens, its streets and roads and alleys and lanes, its size, bulk, girth and growth, its buildings, businesses, bridges, banks, births, laborers, widows.  Impressive tomes when you line them up on a shelf, the important local enterprise taking over the cover for advertising, the biggest Dry Goods Department Store, for example, and oh the advertising, the things to buy, places to see, go, spend your money, invest, how much like Look At Me the city directories are, brag books of numbers and statistics.  Look At Us, they exclaim, how big we are, how fast we are growing, expanding, how many, how much, how often.  Add the city directories to the national census records, the voter rolls, the passenger ship manifests, check the obituaries and local news in the local papers and it isn’t that hard tracking someone down.  You don’t have to Fall in Time to find a person.

I did not Fall to find William Macauley.  You could argue that Falling was a way to make the research come alive, or that I was simply imagining the facts into greater reality, but the truth was exactly the opposite.  I didn’t have to imagine.  I already knew the facts anyway, in a fashion.  I didn’t need to study the city directories – which, unlike census records, only list heads of household, not dependents, and not women unless they are widows, and not children unless they are working – I wasn’t perusing the microfiche and scanning the fragile brown disbound pages to find proof or evidence.  Been there, done that, you could say, and literally. The research was great fun, however, like a game, a puzzle, a treasure hunt, and you could not ask for better companions to play with than the archivists and research librarians and historical society staff I met along the way.  Barbara and Cathy and Rose, you are treasures yourself and thank you!  But I wasn’t really looking for something or someone I didn’t know.  I was being guided and directed and reminded of what I had forgotten.

I was remembering.