Thursday, February 19, 2009

Doctor Procter

Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? Don't you just love Google search? Librarians are often discouraged from saying that, but it's true that an entire world of, perhaps not scholarship, but certainly obscure pieces of information, has opened up to researchers everywhere.

Case in point: a 35mm slide, one of many in a recent donation from the OHSU School of Dentistry Alumni Association. Labeled only "Dr. Proctor." Clothes and furniture styles indicate that the photo was taken circa 1950s-1960s. "Dr. Proctor" appears to be in his 50s or 60s. Question: What is the doctor's first name?

No dentist called Proctor is listed in the 1991 OHSU alumni directory, so we move on to the next-lowest-hanging fruit, W. Claude Adams' History of dentistry in Oregon (1956). There is no entry for Proctor in the index, but in Appendix E, "Honor roll, Oregon dentists in the Armed Forces", we see a listing for "Proctor, Auburn F." This is the only Proctor listed. A quick check of the Social Security Death Index unfortunately reveals no record for an Auburn Proctor. So, to Google!

But, no results for Auburn Proctor (except for a few of what we call "false drops" for Proctor & Gamble in Auburn, Alabama (or California, or your-state-of-choice). Back to the drawing board.

Nothing for it now but to go through the yearly lists of alumni in the old catalogs from the School of Dentistry's predecessor institution, North Pacific College. And there, in 1923, we see a listing for a graduate called "Proctor, Alburn Frankland". Alburn! Well, that makes a good deal of difference--and being an unusual name, it should be easier to find. Back to Google!

And here's where I must admit that the searching algorithms really did come to the rescue. "Alburn Proctor" gets nothing. "Alburn F. Proctor" gets nothing, but Google suggests the very helpful "Results for Alburn F. Proctor (without quotes)". Jackpot!

Alburn Frankland Procter, DMD, applied to the Washington State Department of Licenses in September of 1925 for a license to practice dentistry. And the State of Washington has helpfully digitized the application and offered it for free download. Alburn was born April 30, 1897 in Settle, Yorkshire, England, and became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. on February 19, 1925. The application also supplies us with his current address, information on his schooling, and a precis of his training in dentistry.

A bit more searching locates his death record at, where we learn that Alburn died in July 1985 in The Dalles, OR, a fact now confirmed by the SSDI. No more information has been forthcoming from either the Oregonian Index from the University of Oregon (pre-1987) or the full-text archives of the Oregonian (post-1987), but perhaps some sharp-eyed descendent out there will see this post and contact us with more information. We'd sure love to hear from you!

The photo has been labeled and inventoried. On to the next slide!

No comments: