Have you ever experienced “Research Rapture?”

(don’t you just love that phrase…see below where I heard it first)

I have been in a month of “research rapture.”  Where I am so “into it” that I can hardly extricate myself from the process.  I look up and its 1:00 AM!!  Where did the time go?

I have been working on my April assignment for ProGen, the virtual study group, this month and just loved it.  So, here is my story.

I have been wondering what I can do in the NW that would utilize the records here and be additive to my genealogy business, i.e. a service I could market locally.  I have been considering doing house histories.  Now, this is an obvious choice and some of you may be wondering why it took me so long to come to this conclusion.  Honest answer….I don’t know why it took this long.  I am an architect by profession and so analysis of properties is something I have done all my career.  Couple that with the genealogist’s investigative and document identification and evaluation skills and I think I have a great match of skills for this…maybe even uniquely so.  I also have done most of my research in “small town America;” I would like an urban experience as well.

ProGen’s April assignment was to develop a locality or subject guide of our choice and so I chose House Histories in Seattle, King County.  It turned out to be a 15 page paper that I worked on like it was an obsession. A key finding:  it is hard to do house histories in Seattle because the records are scattered all over the Puget Sound area. It does not appear that many people are doing these and that is good news for me.

So armed with my locality guide I am writing a house history of my own house.

The house we live in was built in 1997, so what is there to know?  I have found out some interesting things:

  • our house was new in 1997 but sits on a foundation built in 1937.
  • It appears that it was originally a one story house on top of a three car garage!
  • The three car garage/house was owned by the adjacent property owner up the hill, Arthur Paulson in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Arthur was the owner of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard (I have no idea what or where that was).
  • the house seemed to be vacant a lot of the time.
  • in 1941 it was owned by Marie Williamson, a music teacher who occupied the hosue.
  • in 1900, the city built Olympic Way West (see attachment below) which cut the three parcels our house sits on (6, 7, and 8 of block 12, Northern Addition) into an acute and tiny triangle that we bought in 2006 from Wendell and Robyn Jacobs, who we never met and instead negotiated the deal when they were in London and Singapore!

newspaper clipping QA drive

Getting down to business: now I need to test how long it takes to do a short report.  Working backwards, I think the most that anyone would pay would be $250 (also seems to be an amount that others doing this in other locales are charging) and that represents about 10 hours.  That represents some on line research, a trip to the Puget Sound Regional Archives (PSRA), maybe some City Directory work and writing the report.  I have done a short 4 hour report for a neighbor (2 pages of writing plus 4 pages of photocopy of her Property Record Cards obtained at PSRA).  Meanwhile, I continue to gather information for the report on our property because I want it to be very thorough.

I yearn for the title we had in Oklahoma where the chain of title of the property was included with your warranty deed.  In King County, on average, it takes me 30 min. to find one warranty deed at PSRA.  Our property flipped three times in the years between 1884 and 1889!  (all paid in gold…duh!)  I still do not have the original owner of the property but I am getting very close.  So obtaining the complete chain of title could take a lot of time, especially if the property flips many times.

So, I am truly engaged in this.  Have you ever experience such focus?  I hope so.  It’s exhausting but totally exhilarating.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Worked over 100 hours of volunteer time in layout, editing, and writing for the SGS Bulletin which went out this past week.  Got my April assignment turned in to ProGen, and started on the May assignment (not nearly as engaging to me).  I am testing Scrivener, a software for writers to assist with organization of data.  It didn’t work for the Locality guide (I think I couldn’t focus on both doing the House History subject guide and learning a new software) but it seems to be working for the writing of my personal house history.  Ordered Tom Jones’s new book, Mastering Genealogical Proof and a book on residential architectural styles.  I signed up for another virtual study group related to Mastering Genelaogic Proof.  I worked on a couple of client reports.

“research rapture”:  NPR had a feature today on Michelle McNamara, a writer/blogger who takes cold cases and using the internet and in depth analysis provides clues that reopen cases (sounds like the same skill set as genealogy to me!).  She described herself as getting so engrossed in working the data that she experiences “research rapture.”  I loved it. Here is her blog:  http://www.truecrimediary.com/


5 comments on “Have you ever experienced “Research Rapture?”

  1. Allen says:

    A couple of comments….

    Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard may have been a used clothing store; the name is vaguely familiar to me from way, way back. On the otherhand, there is a cabinet company in Castle Rock, Washington with that name.

    As far as writing time goes, an attorney friend says you should figure on hour for each page produced. The hour includes research time, etc. For chain-of-title background information, perhaps a friend at a title company might be required.

    Your market for house histories? Real estate agents who could give them as gifts to buyers of homes. Not every home might merit that kind of treatment, but a high-end, high-value home buyer might appreciate such a gift….and you know how to produce an attractive hardback book.

    Just some thoughts for a friend.

    • jkmorelli says:

      Thanks for the tips.The City Directories for businesses are like yellow pageslisted by type of product. I didn’t even know what to look for for Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.

      Interesting idea about the title company. It may help. I should call a couple and see what access they have that I don’t. PSRA has tax records at 5 year intervals between 1895 and 1941. If my property didn’t flip so many times I could use those. Lots of overlapping records: City Directories, tax records and deeds.

      Nice idea about the real estate folks–a house history could be done to assist the sale of the house or done after as a gift from the realtor to the buyer. I also thought of using them as a house warming present.

      Good comments. Thanks, Allen.

      • Allen says:

        When I was employed, I did similar research on properties, but for a different reason. I dealt with some properties that had hazardous waste issues, hydrocarbon contamination, and I needed to know the history of the site, e.g., who owned it, what did they do there etc. Your reports would be far more interesting to the general reader than mine would have been. Your architectural background coupled with your genealogical skills and melded with a sense of history, would make for fascinating history on even the most mundane of sites.

      • jkmorelli says:

        Thanks, Allen. I appreciate the support. I am still working on the one for my own house. It is quite complex. I have learned a lot.


  2. Mary says:

    I wanted to leave a message that said, duh! but thought I’d expand a little. As you well know, I experience your version of Research Rapture on a regular basis in my quilting, but what to name it? Quilt Contentment? Not sure. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of naming the feeling and of course, for the great work you do, my friend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s