I had the Joseph Walter Home Children photograph a long time before I was able to find out anything fact-wise. On arriving home the day I purchased it, I did a Google search, but it came back with zero results. Not surprising, considering how old it looked.
At least four years passed before I had any concrete facts about the place. Until then, all I had to go on was the photo itself, and from the looks of it, life at the Home did not look good for the kids who lived there.
Then one day I did another Google search. I had done many over the intervening years, but this time something came up – a newspaper article from 1912 that described the Home as a wonderful place that did good work.
To be frank, it was a relief. I had spent so much time thinking of how awful things must have been there that to learn this might not have been the case was a bit anticlimactic. I chalked my conclusions up to innate cynicism and gave a little shrug.
Then, using the site that popped up in the Google search, I looked up the name of the woman credited with running the Home, Mrs. Julia Anna Baker.
My initial hypotheses about the Home turned out to be correct.
By the time I finished my research several years later, I had more than 450 newspaper articles, court documents and other materials, all of which I used in the writing of the book.
It was an all-consuming process, but I am very happy with the result.