I always tell people, “It’s a new place if I haven’t seen it yet!” No one understands my love of old places or the way I view them. When I head out on one of my genealogy trips, it doesn’t matter where I’m going. I try imagining it as it used to be, even if it’s not that great anymore.
Call them rose-colored glasses, but I didn’t dwell on the “rust belt” part of Ohio that I saw. I’d recently discovered that a branch of the family had settled in Seneca and Sandusky Counties, not far from Toledo. The county seat (and the area where they settled) was Tiffin.
The town had obviously seen better days, but it had an easy-to-use courthouse where they allowed me free access to the records, and the library had a card file of important vital events contained in the newspapers, saving me hours and hours of searching. I saw the old Tiffin– the town of glass factories and American Standard, and the folks driving around in Model T’s and the women wearing bustles around the time my family lived there.
I managed to visit two cemeteries outside town, and in Green Springs nearby, getting a ton of photos of all the dead people I was looking for (and the graveyards were small enough that the folks were easy to find). The houses around the entire area where beautiful old rambling farmhouses, and I wish I’d been closer to family nearby to point me in the direction of the old Horton farmhouse. I now have a photo of it, but I would love to have found it in situ while I was there.
I moved on to Fremont, the home of the Rutherford B. Hayes Library. More research, in a few of the papers they hadn’t had in Tiffin, and a gorgeous walk around the grounds of the house they call Spiegel Grove. “Been there, done that, got the mug!” is now my mantra for all new places I visit.
This trip made such an impression on me that Millionaire’s Row in Buffalo and Spiegel Grove both made cameos in my first novel. With my writer’s eyes, everything carried new importance. So next time you find yourself somewhere unfamiliar, and all you can see around you is ugly, try this trick with the glasses, and see if you find something beautiful around you.