Research Success Stories

Adventures in the Los Angeles Archives

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Written by Juliette Eames

Often times on this blog, we publish “Success Stories”. This takes you through the process of someone reaching a brick wall and posting request to AncestorCloud – and then seeing the results. Today I want to put a different spin on the stories and tell you about my experience as a helper. We can call it a “Helper Story” and I hope it inspires you to be a more active part of the community in which you are in! Mind you – this is written from the perspective of someone who did their very first job on AncestorCloud and can walk you through the excitement of finding something and sharing it.

Last week my husband told me we had to make a special trip to the Los Angeles Archives. I am not a genealogist and to be frank had no idea what to expect going into this quest for a simple divorce record. My husband is the founder of AncestorCloud and trace.com his vision is to change the way people discover their families. I’ve always been a huge supporter of this vision and think that the AncestorCloud platform is a great way for people to connect and further their genealogical research. Never before though, had I been a part of a project and seen the magic firsthand.

The LA archives, or more formally named, “The Los Angeles County Hall of Records” are located right in the heart of downtown. Erected in 1961, the building sits near Warner Brothers Studios, University of Southern California, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and beautiful downtown parks. We parked about .25 miles from the record office and walked in pouring rain, pushing our baby in his stroller, all the way over to the record office.

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I was expecting a warm reception from a front desk staff in a well-lit foyer with nice carpets and a large sitting room. Reality was quite different from my imagination however. There was no one to greet us at the entrance and the lighting was a gross musky yellow. There was no decor – only drab hallways and little signage to guide us to our destination. We set out on one elevator to the basement. When we arrived at the basement there were a series of signs that pointed us different ways to the archives. The floorboards had all been destroyed – withered away with time and clearly no maintenance from California’s taxpayers had contributed to the upkeep of the historical building.

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In all honestly it felt like we had entered a dungeon maze. We got deeper and deeper into the building entering several different elevators until we finally found the archives. Upon entering, we first had to fill out some paperwork and then go through security. The amazing part about the archives though, is that it’s really just a TON of papers that comprise infinite stories and histories untold. Wesley explained what we were looking for – a divorce record from the 1940’s-1950’s. With the little information provided we were given several books to look through and then we went to the computers and looked through the microfiche files. (Microfiche, as I learned that day are flat pieces of film containing microphotographs of the pages of a newspaper, catalog, or other document.)

image-1-5There we found Selma, whom we were looking for!  Upon seeing the name, date, and information we were then able to request the divorce records. We paid a small sum of $4.95 to take the copied documents home with us. All the while Wesley was texting David, giving him updates on what we were finding. It was thrilling not only to us, but to David as well who was eagerly awaiting updates on our progress.  We looked through and double checked to make sure that we got everything that we needed. We spent probably an hour maximum at the archives and my husband loved the investigation.

As we walked back to our car (in the rain) we talked about how seemingly simple this process was. My husband built AncestorCloud upon this entire premise that when a genealogist gets stuck – they can post a request and have a helper go to the local archives and pick up documents that they need. AncestorCloud has since become much more, and people don’t always need to leave the comfort of their couch to get their requests done, but as for us we loved every minute of the adventure and felt so fulfilled to help someone further their research. I personally don’t know the reason David needed that divorce record. But as I read through it – it stated the reason for their divorce and discussed the legality of separating their children and assets. There was quite the story to be told just written in those 5 pages. I am assuming that history means so much more to David, who is the grandson of this divorced couple, and could point him to a greater understanding of himself and a self-discovery attained through our help!

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In correspondence John said to Wesley

Hi Wesley, thanks so much. What a great service. Isn’t this document just the kind of document your service can help with. Where you are unable to get such papers online. From my years of research it seems to me so many people are missing out on filling out their stories because of a lack of knowledge about what to do, and where to look, and what’s out there. Very helpful, thanks.

I am so glad that I had that experience. I think it’s wonderful and meaningful to focus our lives upon our families, which is what genealogy in centered upon. Since that project we have also submitted proposals to three other projects and are working on those currently. Two days ago we traveled to the Salt Lake City Family History Library, which is the largest genealogical library in the world, and looked for a record for a woman who lives in Cancun, Mexico. It is so rewarding to be a part of this community and even more amazing to see my husband’s vision come to life! Thank you ALL for your participation in AncestorCloud, whether you are seeking professional help, or are highly skilled in researching family history – I am grateful for each one of you who make this magic happen. It has been such a joy to see the community grow and more and more people join in this wonderful cause each day!

We hope you have a wonderful New Year filled with purpose and discovery!


Want to find other researchers like Wesley and Juliette? Post a request to our community today!

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