The Archivist's Bulldog

Vol. 12 No. 18, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives, October 13, 1998

by Pat Melville

Normally during the summer months an overwhelming majority of new researchers consist of genealogists, many on vacation from out of state. This year was no exception. Other inquiries pertained to African Americans, local history, institutions, transportation, churches, criminal matters, communication, Indians, military units, writings, health, and politics.

African American topics included apprenticeships of former slaves and early slavery in Maryland. Local history subjects involved Howard County, St. Michael's, Annapolis utilities, Camp Parole, and Eutaw Street in Baltimore. Research on institutions pertained to mental health facilities in the 1890s and the State Comptroller's office. Health issues concerned regulations on smoking and effects of tobacco on health and agriculture.

Other endeavors related to the C & O Canal, Ebenezer Baptist Church, history of capital punishment, history of the telegraph, Indians of Maryland, Smallwood's Brigade, writings of George W. Archer, Iglehart Mansion, and Republican women of Anne Arundel County.

by Catherine Jellison

Telephone reference handles the same types of inquiries that appear in the search room, but with a heavier concentration on modern records. Sometimes the questions, although legitimate, challenge and puzzle the archivists fielding the phone calls. Why would someone contact the Archives about where the water shut-off valve was located in a particular house?

A recent phone call started like many of our reference inquiries - "I've got a problem, and I hope you can help me." The woman said that her friend was going through a situation that was causing her much stress and strain, and asked if I would speak to her. The second woman said she was calling from New Jersey, and launched into a long story involving her son and a car purchase. Her son had purchased a car using her credit rating. Perhaps she was going to need a disposition on a criminal case because something had come up during the credit check. That was not it. She had not wanted the son to purchase the car because it was too expensive, and she complained that the dealer had been very pushy and pressured the son into putting down $3500 and driving the car home that very day. The magnitude of her displeasure was such that he drove the car back within 24 hours and asked for his money back. The dealer, according to the woman, refused to return the down payment. "What should I do?" was the question being posed.

I asked where she had gotten our phone number. It is not uncommon for people to be referred to the Archives for records we do not have or for information we cannot obtain. But this was no referral; the patron had located the Archives on the web. I was unsure how to help her. I asked where her son bought the car. The answer? Virginia. The woman lives in New Jersey, her son has problems with a car dealership in Virginia, and she is calling the Maryland State Archives for assistance.

I put the woman on hold in order to ponder the situation. Rocky Rockefeller, having walked by during my conversation, told me that the law in Virginia allows a customer 72 hours to void a contract, and that the car dealer's actions were illegal. Why did he know the answer? Of course, he had once sold cars in Virginia. Fortuitous indeed. He said the woman should call the DMV in Virginia, and contact the police in the county where the car had been purchased. A few keystrokes later, I had located both phone numbers for the woman, and she hung up much happier.

Calling from New Jersey about a problem with Virginia, a woman somehow comes up with our phone number from a web search, Rocky happens to be walking by as I am talking to her and happens to have sold cars in Virginia, and in a matter of minutes, we have a satisfied customer. Just another day in phone reference!

A CONTEST WINNER sponsored a contest to name the mascot of its online store, which is a little old man holding a magnifying glass. Melody Haymire submitted an entry and won the contest, receiving a prize of a $250.00 shopping spree in ancestry's online store. Her winning entry: Dusty R. Kives. The announcement can be seen at

Founded 1987

Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
Patricia V. Melville, Editor
Mimi Calver, Assistant Editor
Lynne MacAdam, Production Editor
Rita Molter, Circulation

The Maryland State Archives is an independent agency in the Office of Governor Parris N. Glendening and is advised by the Hall of Records Commission. The Chairman of the Hall of Records Commission is the Honorable Robert Mack Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The Archivists' Bulldog is issued bi-monthly to publicize records collections, finding aids, and other activities of the Archives and its staff. Subscription cost is $25 per year, and the proceeds go to the State Archives Fund. To subscribe, please send your name, address, and remittance to: the Maryland State Archives, 350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1686. Phone: MD toll free: (800) 235 4045; or (410) 260-6400. FAX: (410) 974 3895. E-mail: The Editor welcomes editorial comments and contributions from the public.

This web site is presented for reference purposes under the doctrine of fair use. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: The site may contain material from other sources which may be under copyright. Rights assessment, and full originating source citation, is the responsibility of the user.

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Copyright November 17, 1998 Maryland State Archives