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Friday, August 14, 2009

Rare Maerlein Family Photograph

The museum's collections staff assists about 1,700 people each year. Many of these individuals need access to the Lake County history materials or the Teich postcard collection. They contact us by phone and email, and a portion of them visit the archives to complete their research.

We've had visitors from Europe, Canada, and across the United States. Lake County residents often stop in for one to two hours to pore over historic maps, photographs, manuscript collections, or to utilize our special library. It's not unheard of for researchers to make an appointment to spend an entire day, or even several days to fully delve into their research topic.

Recently, a couple visiting from San Diego, California, spent a day digging into their family's Lake County roots. They gave me a list of family names and asked if there might be any photos or other materials related to them. One of the surnames on the list was Maerlein or Merline.

A query of the archives database showed a couple of items of interest, but I recalled a collection of photos related to the part of the county they were researching that weren't yet catalogued on the computer. After checking the inventory for the Wagner Collection, I found the name Merline listed, and pulled the photograph to show the researcher.

Handwritten on the back was: "Merline family, daughter married Titus." No other information was known, other than the family was from Fremont Center. When I showed her the photograph, she was overjoyed. It was an extraordinary find for her. The photograph was of her grandmother and great grandparents, and the only photo of her great grandparents she had ever seen.

What turned out to be a great discovery for her was also a bonus for the archives. The researcher was able to identify the individuals in the photograph as John and Margaretha Maerlein, and their daughter Anna. Anna married John "Joseph" Titus in 1907.

After returning to California, the researcher sent me a note to thank me for assisting her and making a quality copy of the photo for her. She wrote: "I consider it one of my treasures, because I have few or no pictures past my grandparents' generation."

Finds like this don't happen every day, but they do happen, reminding me of the great value of organizing and making these materials available to people around the world.

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