“I love the history of Dorchester County,” library employee Dustin Carpenter told the audience in the Cambridge Library Meeting Room on the morning of July 30. According to him, Dorchester has some of the richest and most entertaining history in all of Maryland, maybe in America. That was why he had invited Erick Windsor to talk about “Why Local History Matters.”
Windsor, a professional coin dealer and amateur historian who grew up in East New Market, is the administrator of a Facebook group called Cambridge Maryland Memories, with over 5,500 members who share photos, documents and reminiscences about the area. He discussed some of the things that have shaped Dorchester County, including the environment, farming, fishing, religion, the railroad, and industries such as canning and lumber.
But genealogy also has played a huge part in the county and its history, Windsor explained. He has personally made use of Elias Jones’ early-20th century “History of Dorchester County” to trace his family back to the 1600s. He mentioned that other genealogical resources are available in the Maryland Room at the Cambridge Library and in the Todd Research Center at the Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester.
Additionally, he said, some resources can be found in your own home. He stressed the importance of preserving and documenting photos and videos and taking advantage of older relatives who can help fill in the blanks. Windsor experienced this firsthand when he uncovered a treasure trove of old family photos featuring subjects whom neither he nor his mother could identify. So, they went to the oldest living relative, who put names to faces immediately.
“He passed away about a year later,” revealed Windsor, “so this stuff is time sensitive.”
To emphasize how important it can be to preserve historical documents and media, he used the example of the video called “Faces of Cambridge 1940.” The original movie had already been put on low-quality analog tape when, in 2014, the oldest surviving copy of the hour-long silent film turned up and was transferred to digital video that was uploaded to YouTube. Much to Windsor’s delight, viewers left comments in which they identified people in the movie that was shot in the streets, shops and churches of Cambridge.
“Just be mindful of the things you have,” he advised the audience. “Even if it doesn’t mean anything to your family, it might mean something to an extended family, someone of a different generation.”
Carpenter wrapped things up by reminding everyone that “local history matters. It matters intensely. Local history tells you who you are, where you come from.”