This blog is a reprint of my internet journal from 2001 to 2002 in which I documented my "vagabond" solo journey in a Chevy Conversion Van tracing my roots. I not only traced their paths and found their homes and final resting places, but I did extensive genealogical research in court houses, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, cemeteries, and talked to the local people. I traveled with a laptop to upload my notes and photos, and use e-mail. It was a fantastic journey which lasted two years. I had no other home except my van to sleep in...just a bed and video player. My household goods were put into storage for two years. My mail was delivered to me at general delivery when I phoned "MailBox, etc." and told them where to send it. At night I stayed in campgrounds, motels, friends' backyards, friends' homes, and those of the few living relations I've tracked down. As I traveled I collected so much genealogy information, that I had to get rid of items that I had originally thought essential to my travels (like a microwave oven). Between ancestral sites, I visited any tourist sites I could find and got to know alot about the USA. This was a trip of a lifetime and I'm still sorting through all the wonderful memories, photos and invaluable genealogical data I found. I will post to this blog as I can - one or a few days at a time of that journey from 2001 to 2002

Sunday, August 29, 2010

15 May 2001 Fire Trucks & National Archives - Washington DC

At last, I'll be able to do some genealogy!..... but first....

Red lights and siren. Just another day in the life of Donna Wendt. I drove my van to the Wheaton Metro Station, and drove in to the Parking Garage entrance that said clearance 7’3”. The garage entrance has a large diameter PVC pipe on a chain which indicated if your car is too high for the parking garage. Although the pipe was touching the top of the van (and rolling harmlessly over it) I thought I could park at a space directly ahead and not go into the low ramps...   or at least turn around in there.  But as it happened, there were not parking spaces for oversized vehicles.  So I was going to turn around, but saw I couldn’t go forward because of the roof beams of the garage. And I couldn’t reverse because the pipe wouldn’t swing backwards - there was a beam blocking the swing of the pipe in the other direction. So I was stuck.   What to do?

With my trusty new cell phone (delighted to have a use for it) I called the non-emergency number that was handy by the entrance gate, to get a garage attendant.  But it went directly to the Police. Despite my protests, they transferred me to Fire and Rescue. And before I knew it a big red fire truck with all the lights and siren came to my aid. The heavily clothed firemen arrived and just looked at me, quizzically.

After much discussion, and my suggestion, one got on each side of the pipe and lifted it above the roof of my van, and I was able to back out. That's all I needed but, of course, not one person had walked by the entire time I was stuck.   The firemen were very nice and maybe relieved that it wasn’t something more difficult, but they probably also thought I was pretty dumb. Well, yes.
Fireman at Garage - looking
Fireman lifts pvc pipe up with a pole
 I remembered to grab my video camera as they were working to free me, and one asked if I was going to submit it to the  "Stupid Home Videos" show.  Well, anyway, now I know the van is more than 7’3” high. And there are probably no parking garages in Washington DC, or anywhere, that I can park in.
Who's confused?
The saga doesn’t end there. I drove to the nearby open air lot and found a very nice space. I put every quarter I had into the meter for 5 hours, then read the sign. I couldn’t believe it indicated there was No Parking between 3:30 and 7:30 pm - So what good was it? I walked into the Metro Ticket office and didn’t get much of an answer. I did, then, realize I had parked in a “Kiss and Ride” lot and it’s only for drop offs!  But, darn, it was a big lot. Anyway I went to get more quarters change for the next meters I might find. I was told that at "Forest Glenn" (two Metro stops towards town) there was a big open lot. So I drove there, but became frustrated when I couldn’t seem to park in the small spaces. Finally after 10 minutes of attempts, I made a last valiant effort (remember my neck hurts), and parked the van quite nicely. The lot was $2.25/day. I was glad to finally get going into Wash DC.
Van is happily parked
Finally, I went to the National Archives to do genealogical research. Aaaa, at last!!  Security to the building was first, and at that time I had to register my video camera with the guards.  Why?  They said so that if I lost it they would know who it belongs to!   It was fairly overwhelming to really understand all the rules and what to do next.  I found census records for William Wallace and Josiah Wallace          ( note: these were the days before all census were available on
National Archives Microfilm Room
I ended up ordering up Civil War Military Records for Edwin Ells and John Hague. They both were available, so I went down to the 2nd floor to look at them. Ordering records can be done by mail, but costs $37.50. Much cheaper in person.   Well, it seems that Company K of the Iowa Infantry thought that Edwin Ells had deserted. They later realized he was taken sick in Elizabethtown, KY, and eventually got a medical discharge. I made copies of all these original records, for John Hague also, even though I’m not sure if he’s a Hague that is my ancestor .
Civil War Record of Edwin Ells, Pvt, Co K, 10th Reg't Wisconsin Infantry 
He is "absent sick" in Elizabethtown, Kentucky
     This being the first real genealogical/historical library I'd used, it was a little frustrating getting used to using a little locker on the floor where you look at the documents.  They only allow a pencil and piece of paper (and camera, I think).  I wasn't used to the suspicion, and the obvious need to safeguard the documents.  The woman security guard was so patient with me, kudos to her.   I stayed till closing, then found my way back home.
Metro Station - Silver Springs, Maryland

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