Thursday, February 25, 2010
I had grown up reading The Great Brain books. My mom read them to us first, but after that my brother and I re-read them repeatedly over the years. The tattered books remain as evidence of our undying devotions to the stories.
The itch for research didn't begin until years later, when I finally read Papa Married a Mormon. The book stuck to my heart in a way no other book had. Questions abounded. I was sure a quick internet search would answer the questions. I was wrong. No such site existed. Eventually my husband found one called, Searching for the Great Brain.
It was the sweetest site. A family of homeschoolers had read the books. They then set out on a trek finding Adenville. On the site they had some pictures, some brief descriptions, and some links. Sadly, they never found Adenville. For me, they were the first "finders".
Toward the bottom of their site was comment by another "finder", who claimed to be a Utah historian. His post sounded authentic. I was sure he could get me the answers I needed. I emailed him. Our first exchange was pleasant. Being naive I told him my dreams of writing, my interest in The Great Brain books, and asked if he could answer my questions? Suddenly the exchanges turned vicious. He wrote me a curt reply where he stated, "My friends warned me about people like you - grifters." I had never been called a grifter. I wasn't even sure what it was, but I got the point. He then said he would charge me $37.00. His final warning to me was, "As for becoming an author, do it if you must, but expect little in return."
It took a couple days to shake the awful feeling he left. Somewhere in those days it occurred to me, there must be some pretty cool stuff if he was so possessive. The hunt was on. I was now an official Fitzgerald Finder. With what little existed on the internet I began writing letters. I wrote a woman who had written and presented a paper about John Dennis Fitzgerald. She wrote back, much more politely than the previous man. She didn't have much information, but she encouraged my research.
I began reading Utah State history books, writing or calling libraries, and trying geneaology. Little by little pieces arrived. An article here, a marriage license there, a photograph, or short interview. My project was fun. I would share my discoveries with my mom. Before I knew it, she became the third "finder". She and dad took a trip to southern Utah. On the way they stopped in Price and visited the cemetery. They took the first pictures, I would receive, of Papa, Mamma, Bill, Charles, and Tom's markers. (I cried when they gave me the photos)
On my second night in Price, I ate dinner with the present owners of Papa and Mamma's last home. During dinner they told me about a school class that had taken a field trip to research John Dennis Fitzgerald. They mentioned that the kids had stopped by to look at the house. After digging around I located the principal of Wawona School, a wonderful woman, named Michelle.
I found "finders" on chat sites. Before there were blogs, people connected in chats. Sure enough there were Great Brain fans everywhere. As I completed various researches, I would put my email out for contact.
One day I received an email from a student at Brigham Young University. She was a drama major. The drama department had written their own play of Papa Married a Mormon. Her job was to find supporting material to help deepen the production. She and I wrote each other regularly. One of her last requests was asking me to speak at a panel after the play. I was delighted.
As the years have progressed I have loved meeting new "Fitzgerald Finders" and am glad to share my findings with you.
Posted by Carrie