Pulled From the Stacks: Finding the Mayor

Written by: Kiera E. Nolan, DAR Library Reference Librarian
November 16, 2015

In Bergen County, New Jersey there is a town no one I have ever met, who is not from that town, has ever heard of. It is named Emerson. Named for the famed poet, yet obscure enough it is New Jersey’s second best kept secret, after wherever they are hiding their most lauded gardens.

My mother comes from Emerson, and I spent my summers there growing up. I grew up believing our family was well known in the least known town of New Jersey. My grandfather was a councilman, then police commissioner, and finally Mayor of the Borough of Emerson during the late 1960’s through the 1970’s.

In helping a patron at the DAR Library, who was looking for another, better known town in Bergen County, New Jersey, I spied a book on the lowest shelf in the section with “Emerson” in big bold letters on the spine. I was flabbergasted. Never did it cross my mind that this library might have a book on my mother’s hometown in its vast collection. Later, upon further inspection of Emerson, from Basilicata to Etna : the story of Emerson, New Jersey's early Italian-American Community and its First Families, by Dwight de Stefan, I saw it had no mention of my grandfather, the former mayor.

To be fair, its focus was not on the latter half of the 20th century, but on Emerson’s earliest beginnings until about the mid-1950s. I was excited to find pictures of our old family priest, Father Orrico, as a much younger man than I remember. But, to my dismay, I couldn’t find my mayor. Now, I was on a hunt, but I knew I had to change my strategy.

To find my grandfather I turned to the “Resources” tab in the GRS, located in the Seimes Technology Center of the Library. I searched for my grandfather in Ancestry Library Edition, hoping to find him in old newspaper results. Instead, I found his freshman yearbook from Brooklyn, New York. He was class treasurer. It turned out his political career began much earlier than my family ever knew, and due to his nerdy look in that photo, my nerdy uncle may not be adopted after all.

Still on the hunt for the mayor, I left Ancestry Library Edition, returning to the GRS “Resources” tab. I read the description for each of the Library’s online databases trying to discern the best one to use for my hunt. WorldVitalRecords, I read, has a small town newspaper archive. I clicked into that database, then into their newspaper archival collection, and did a simple search by my grandfather’s name.

What came up was a page of The Palladium Times of Oswego, New York, from Wednesday, April 8, 1959. My grandparents moved from Oswego County, New York to Emerson, New Jersey in 1960, so the time and place fit just right. Among the various articles on this and that, and the huge ads taking over the paper, there was a small section announcing “Board Appointments.” The town of Phoenix, where my grandparents resided then with their first five children, had appointed my grandfather to be on the Water Commission, along with two other town members.

Furthering searching yielded no more results on his political career, but in my search to find the mayor I found a 14 year old class treasurer, and a young man appointed to the Water Commission of Phoenix, Oswego, New York. I was well pleased with the results of my search. Even though initially, I could not find him in Emerson’s only book in the DAR Library’s collection, I did find a much younger budding politician through the Library’s online databases. If at first you don’t succeed, try the Seimes Technology Center!

Books Pulled:
Emerson, from Basilicata to Etna : the story of Emerson, New Jersey's early Italian-American Community and its First Families, by Dwight de Stefan

This work was found under the call words:
NJ
COUNTIES
BERGEN
EMERSON
DE-S

Databases used in the Seimes Technology Center:
Ancestry Library Edition
WorldVitalRecords

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