Author delves into county's immigrant past

February 16, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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fuller:photoAuthor delves into county's immigrant past

Anyone curious about their ancestral background in Washington County may want to check out a new book before heading to the courthouse to do hours of research.

Hagerstown author Marsha L. Fuller has compiled records of every person - totaling more than 1,700 - to become a naturalized citizen in Washington County up to 1880 and turned it into a book, "Naturalizations of Washington County Maryland prior to 1880."

"It's not like writing fiction. It's an awful lot of research. It's a lot of work putting it together," said Fuller, who spent hours each day with a laptop computer transcribing the documents.


What Fuller found in the courthouse basement is a genealogical gold mine.

Naturalization documents listing full names, birth dates, places of birth in Europe, the ports they departed from and arrived at and when, is the kind of detailed information Fuller discovered and listed in her book.

To break up the monotony of names and numbers, the author included excerpts about the lives of the people - mostly of German and Scots-Irish roots - who settled in the area.

Stories Fuller found in old newspaper clippings tell about the Irish immigrants who helped build the C&O Canal, a cholera epidemic that swept through Hagerstown in 1833, and stories of immigrants fighting in the Civil War in exchange for their naturalization.

"These were people's lives. They weren't just facts and figures on paper," Fuller said.

As she delved into naturalization papers, Fuller also came across two books of manumission records - orders to set slaves free - and simultaneously deciphered the tedious script into her second book, "African American Manumissions in Washington County Maryland."

In her research, Fuller came across disturbing accounts of slaves who were separated from their families and then stories of those who were treated like members of families.

"I look at this stuff and I realize that these people went through so much and their voices deserve to be heard now," Fuller said.

To round out her book, Fuller included parts of people's diaries and entries found in family Bibles.

"I think I acquired a really good sense of the culture and the history of the area and I think everyone should know that about the county and where they came from," Fuller said.

A history major in college, Fuller's interest in genealogy began when she researched her own family tree.

Now she works as a professional genealogist who researches people's ancestors from the area. Fuller also owns Fuller Consulting Services, providing consulting, advertising, and public relations services for clients.

Fuller is publishing the books herself and they will be available for purchase Monday, Feb. 23, by writing Desert Sheik Press, P.O. Box 3623, Hagerstown 21742.

The books will be available at a book signing scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 28, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Washington County Free Library, 100 S. Potomac St.

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