Part 2 of this baby boomer, genealogist-mom’s recent trip to Washington, DC: A visit to the National Archives; meeting some Desmond cousins for the very first time, and a comedy review of all things Washington.
Day 2: Friday, November 13
On Friday morning, my daughter Meg, and I split up. It was a workday for her, and a day on my own at the National Archives for this genealogy driven mom. I’d prepared well for that visit, having been there before, so no issues with that, I was ready.
After a bowl of Cheerios and a few grapes, we were out the door to the bus stop right around the corner. At the Chinatown stop we exited the bus and parted ways—Meg walking a few blocks to work, and me heading down to the Metro to take a train to the Archives stop for the final leg of my journey. All went smoothly.
After going through the usual routine required for entrance to the Reading Room, (to be covered in a future post on prepping for the Archives—that’s a story in itself), I filled out some call slips and consulted with an aide at the information desk in the Research Center regarding my requests.
That’s when I received the text I was waiting for: My newly discovered cousins whom I’d never met before—Ralph Bradley, and his wife, Kathy, who live less than an hour from Washington—were patiently waiting for me right outside the building, just as we had planned.
I was about to meet some cousins I’d never even known I had, and what could be a more appropriate place than on the steps of the National Archives?
I texted them back (no talking in the Reading Room) and said I’d be out in a matter of minutes. I exited the floor, headed back to my locker to grab my jacket, and left the building. Hugs all around for the three of us as we Desmond descendants met each other for the very first time.
After some initial chatting, I suggested we head across the street to a sandwich shop to grab a quick lunch. After sharing some family background on our respective Desmond lines, we finished our meals and went right next door to the local Starbucks.
I wanted to take advantage of its wifi to use my iPad to connect to Ancestry.com, and show these cousins the Desmond family tree. (So much easier—and more fun—to provide a visual of how we’re related than to describe it in an email or text.)
The key to our relationship, I pointed out, was that Ralph’s grandfather, Ralph E. Desmond (1894-1951), was the eldest brother of my dad, Gerald J. Desmond Sr., (1909-1979), making Ralph Bradley and myself, first cousins, once removed.
(I know, I know, all that “once removed” stuff is quite confusing. That’s why I keep a handy dandy relationship chart available which can easily be obtained online by googling “relationship chart + images”.)
I showed Ralph and Kathy how both his grandfather, Ralph Desmond, and my father, Gerald Desmond, descended from Owen E. Desmond (1861-1952). Then, I showed them how Owen descended from Jeremiah Desmond (1818-1897), an Irish immigrant who came to this country in the mid-1840s during the Great Irish Famine. So fun for me to see how excited they were about seeing it for themselves firsthand!
I then invited Ralph and Kathy to go back to the Archives with me so they could see firsthand what its like to enter this icon of American history. I also hoped there would be something fun awaiting us in the files that I’d ordered that morning. They were game, so back to the National Archives we all went.
They patiently followed the procedures required to gain access to the Reading Room, and we headed upstairs.
I signed out the first of several Civil War pension files I’d ordered and quickly shared their contents with the pair.
Nothing especially startling or informative there–most of the files belonged to unrelated men who, unfortunately for me, had the same names and hometowns, as several of my ancestors.
(Cousins of my guys, perhaps? Further research will definitely be needed. Guess I’d better make reservations for my next flight to DC!)
Though I wasn’t able to share a new family discovery with my cousins that day, I was able to point out the kinds of documents and data that can be found in such files: enlistment papers, muster rolls, affidavits, and medical reports–any of which could potentially contain addresses, signatures, and names of ancestors.
I then encouraged the Bradleys to come back and try researching on their own sometime, since they live so close to Washington and now have their very own official Archives ID cards which are valid for a full year.
Needing to beat the traffic back home, Ralph and Kathy left the Archives, promising to keep in touch. I headed back up to the second floor to finish reviewing a few more files and left the building at 5 pm, knowing I would return the next day to finish examining the rest.
A Friday Night in the Nation’s Capital
After work, daughter, Meg, met me in front of the Archives and we headed off for a quick dinner just a few blocks away at Hill Country Barbecue. It was a casual, friendly (and large) barbecue joint, where all are encouraged to sample whatever they choose before placing their order. We happily did just as instructed.
On the menu? Short ribs, beef brisket and boneless prime rib, which can be paired with an assortment of mouthwatering sides like sweet potato bourbon mash, longhorn cheddar mac & cheese, and braised collard greens with bacon. Dee-lish!
Then we moved on to see The Capitol Steps which bills itself as “an American political satire group” that’s been “mocking democracy” for over 30 years,—a hilarious way to end my first full day back in our nation’s capital.
If you get a chance, do take in this clever ensemble whose cast members make the most of the current political season where everyone on the evening news is fair game.
See one actor’s imitations of Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, and–my favorite–the pouty-faced Donald Trump.
Watch a presidential impersonator put the swagger in Obama’s strut with just the right syncopation and the oh-so-smooth rhythm of his velvety voice.
Enjoy how certain female cast members, with just a flip of a wig, present Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, and of course, the lovely “eye candy” anchor ladies from the oft-maligned Fox News.
It’s a show that satirizes today’s best known players inside the Beltway—but it’s all in good fun, with smiles all around, for those of any political persuasion.
It was a long day for Meg, having put in a full day at work, and a fun and fulfilling one for me in meeting new kin; but we were ready to head home via cab and so we did.
Good night, again.
(Next Up: Post 3, Day 3: Back to NARA, a spot of tea, fine dining, and going “clubbing” with some millennials in the nation’s capital.)
Photos and post copyright © 2015, Patricia Desmond Biallas