Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Google it! by Mrs. Twombly

Google it!

Do you have curious minds at home?  My daughters often ask a question I don't have the answer to.  The easy response is Google it!
In this age of technology with information at our fingertips, Google it! is the easy no effort way of responding. If I simply suggest Google it! I am essentially satisfying the girls quest for the simple answer yet squelching their thirst for curiosity and learning in the same breath.

Recently as a family, we embarked on a years journey to answer a simple question. Who built our antique colonial and in what year?  No, Google couldn't answer this one. We stumped the Google master!  

At various times during our journey, the entire family joined the search for answers. Collectively we ventured to many corners of Cape Ann in our quest, in the process learning that not just one location or source could answer our question.  

My husband worked with town and city offices. He ventured to Rockport Town Hall to search out records from the assessor's office as well as the Registry of Deeds in Salem. We uncovered our first lead. The house was built in 1774. Next, came months of digging through hand written notes and maps. We patiently waited for non-holiday Mondays that didn't include a myriad of sport and dance activities, so we could visit the Rockport Room at the public library. The girls and I would comb through old maps, checking dates and reading Laura Phillips' hand written notes detailing births and deaths of our earliest citizens. 
We visited the Gloucester Archives, as Rockport was Sandy Bay in the 1770's, in hope of confirming what we thought we knew!  The archives turned out to be a dead end, so we returned to one of the most amazing hidden gems in our town~ Sandy Bay Historical Society. On this particular day in August, I brought the whole family along. Sandy Bogage met us at the front door and indulged my request to give the family a tour while I went into the research room.  I had visited two times previously without a solid lead, but after the most recent visit to the Rockport Room, I was assured I had a better understanding of the direction I needed to be pointed in. With the whole family present we believed we confirmed the builder that day.  I photographed our evidence, with one more source to check.  Back home, my husband and I crept tentatively into our neighbor's yard, armed with data and artifacts.  We explained we had been researching for a year and felt we had confirmed the original builder and year built of our home. The next thing we knew, our neighbor pulled a crude handmade sign from his shed and said, "I think you're right."  We were bewildered to learn that a secondary source in our back yard filled in the missing information!

This original plaque was found in a shed
near our neighbor's house
Working with the Gloucester Historical Society, we were able
to commission this hand carved sign by Bob Leonard at Old Colony Artisans.
It now is a permanent fixture on our antique colonial.

Next time you want to say Google it!, instead ask ~where may this journey lead?


  1. WOW! This is amazing and makes me want to know more about your home! What a unique project for your family and a true experience of growing up in a period home here is this special town. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Thank you for this fascinating post. It reminds me of a school assignment I once had were the professor challenged us to research the history of a familiar landmark or monument. I often passed the Capt. William Galt Center without wondering who he was or why he was honored. Turns out there was quite a bit of history attached to that name. To find out more, click here: How many more of Rockport's "hidden gems" have long and interesting stories? Follow Mrs. Twombly's lead and research them. Thanks again for a great post.

  3. This is a great example of why our students need to learn to research. Thank you for sharing this adventure and I hope it inspires others to follow unanswered questions. Great share Mrs. Twombly! Thank you!- Mrs. Castonguay

  4. What a great story!! I love history and have a special interest in historical homes. So nice that this was a family project! It is so important to keep history alive!