I have realized how much I didn't know about the world where I grew up. When I write, I am leaving big gaps in my essays. This is slowing down the writing process quite a bit, although I realize that I may be getting a bit too caught up with the research that I am getting distracted from my own writing.
Still, I was thrilled to find a few books about local history by Dennis McGeehan. These books are comprised of old photographs and stories. Together, they tell a scattered history of my part of the world. (I strongly believe that real history is scattered -- that history should not be presented as a straight linear line of events labeled with mere dates.)
I have also recently finished Here and There: Reading Pennsylvania's Working Landscapes by Bill Conlogue. (See my review here.) Conlogue's work reminds me of the importance of research, but it also reminds me that part of a writer's job is to give a voice to a time or place that may not necessarily have a presence (at least a written presence) in history.