by Jilly Horaneck
Elm Staff Writer
On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Martha Frick Symington Sanger came to Washington College to give a talk on her newest book, “Maryland Blood.”
“Maryland Blood” tells the history of the Hambleton family, from the time they arrived on the Eastern Shore in 1657 to their whereabouts today. The book includes over 600 pages of rich family history and over 400 images to detail the events that took place in the Hambleton line, from which Sanger is descended. Sanger spent 11 years researching for the project.
Sanger is “an eleventh-generation descendant of William Hambleton, and a great-granddaughter of Henry Clay Frick.” Her previous books include “Henry Clay Frick: An Intimate Portrait,” “The Henry Clay Frick Houses,” and “Helen Clay Frick: Bittersweet Heiress.”
Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience Adam Goodheart said, “[Martha] Sanger is a family historian like few other people are. Family history is a big craze right now because of Ancestory.com and other websites like that where people can sit at home on their laptops and look at digitized records of their various ancestors. Marty, though, goes well beyond sitting at home on her laptop.”
“The book started with a phone call from my cousin ‘T,’ who was a pioneer of a Broadway theatre, called up and said, ‘Marty, I want you to do a book on the Hambletons,” Sanger said.
She had just released her third book on her ancestors the Frick family and had no information on the Hambletons.
Sanger said she, “simply couldn’t do it.” Later, she changed her mind when t passed away. “I really could not deny a dying man his wish,” she said.
Sanger’s research started with papers her cousin gave her in a cakebox. It included pictures, deeds, and wills that dated back to the mid-1600s. Sanger said when she first laid eyes on it, she, “practically fainted.”
Sanger continued her research by looking into everything and going everywhere she could. She travelled all over the country, from the Library of Congress, to California, to Lake Michigan and down to North Carolina. Sanger had laundry baskets full of photo copied primary sources and other papers covered in her notes. A chart of the family tree hung in her dining room for the 11 years she spent researching the distant relatives.
“I would fill out the chart with little notes and things so I wouldn’t get lost.”
She told the audience that she was very strict about which members of the family went into the book.
“If the people were not connected to the [first Hambletons to arrive] by a letter or will, I decided not to include them in the book.”
Goodheart said, “There is so much you can’t get by Googling things for research. A lot of it you still have to go out and sift through documents, find it, and breathe in the dust.”
Through her research, Sayer learned the stories of her father’s family members. Several died in plane crashes, one stole a ruby ring, and one was the slave owner of Frederick Douglass. These facts helped her weave her family history into the greater fabric of American history.