I thrive on digging into historical mysteries and uncovering secrets. While I was growing up, I sensed that Mom was hiding something from me about her past. My need for answers was one of the reasons why I became a librarian. I found it satisfying to help other people who were seeking information, even if some of my own questions remained unanswered. After thirty years as a librarian, I retired from the Library of Congress with impressive research skills but nowhere to direct them. Nowhere, that is, until I decided to take on the family history. After seven years of research and writing, I’ve compiled all I learned into the memoir, Secrets of the Asylum.
Even though I’ve uncovered most of the secrets on my mother’s side of the family, I still crave the exhilaration of digging up the forgotten past. In 2017, I began researching the history of the 100-year-old Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D. C. Approximately 50,000 pets are buried there, and over 50 humans. I found so many fascinating stories, I started a blog called “Pet Cemetery Stories.” In 2019, I received an award from Montgomery Preservation, Inc. for my documentation of and advocacy for the pet cemetery. My work was also featured in an article in the Washington Post.
I speak publicly about my family history not only to tell the fascinating story I uncovered or to share my research methods. I also believe that I have benefited from knowing my family history, even with all its dark secrets. I felt empowered by exercising my right to know the truth about my family. In addition, I gained empathy for people in my family who I’d always found difficult once I know what they’d gone through. My hope is to help other people have similar experiences.
A recording of my talk at Enoch Pratt Free Library (Baltimore, MD), “Family Myth Busting,” is available through the Crowdcast platform at https://www.crowdcast.io/e/virtual-genealogy-circle, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theprattlibrary/videos/286558142501891.
I also have been featured twice on the podcast “Genealogy Gems,” which has 35,000 downloads per month.
P.S. My last name, Mangin, is pronounced with a soft “g.” When I meet you, feel free to make sure I’m pronouncing your name correctly, too.