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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy Style - Part Four

Emily and I were up early to get to the exciting tasks ahead.  Today we were going to try to find ancestral homes.  We had three addresses.  Mary moved a number of times, most likely as her financial situation changed, her need for space changed, or perhaps her desire to locate in a better school district entered into her decisions.   There are new census records available at Www.archives.com/census .   The census records of 1930 enabled me to locate the very home my father/Emily's grandfather, lived in as the address of the person being interviewed is written on the border of the left side of the census form.  Mary is listed as living at 16747 Shaftsbury St. with her two young sons; William and Robert, her mother Elizabeth, and her youngest brother, Walter.

What a nice neighborhood!  We were truly surprised to find the tree lined street and well built homes.
Amazingly enough, 16747 was being renovated!  The contractor in charge was on site and invited us to tour the empty home.  We were able to walk around the interior and imagine what life may have been like in this mid-sized home.  There was even a tree in the backyard that the boys may have helped to plant in the early '30's.  This was most likely the last home Mary ever lived in as she died in 1934. 
The living area was astounding in that it resembled the home my brother and I grew up in so much!
The fireplace, flanked by bookcases, even had a large mirror centered over it.  Just like the one we remember on Wickham Road in Garden City. 


There was a "breezeway"...a tiny area that prevented the warmth from flying out of the house when the front door was opened.....There were three small bedrooms upstairs.  The boys most likely shared their room, Walter stayed in one and Mary and her mother in another.  There was one bathroom that they all shared.   Outside by the side entrance was a small door that led to a tiny compartment that led to another door that could be opened from the inside by the occupants of the home.  This had to be the "ice box" or the compartment into which the delivery person would place the block of ice used to cool their refrigerator or "ice box".  When electricity became available, it would be the "milk man" who utilized this compartment, placing the ordered glass bottles of milk or cream inside.  It would be a long time before wax milk cartons and even I remember having a "milk man" deliver milk to us in Garden City in the early 1950's.  Empty milk bottles were always left for the milk man to pick up and re-use.  Bottle tops were made of heavy paper that would be peeled off.
We didn't know about re-cycling then, but we were doing it anyway.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy style - Part Three

How do you describe a perfect day?  Entering Barbara's home, like entering anyones home for the first time was, for a moment, unsettling.  Did we belong here?  Were we intruding?  Would we fit in?  In no more than a moment as we hugged and laughed and made introductions, I felt right at home.  With gracious hospitality, Barb and Don welcomed us into their home and put us at ease.  Her children, all grown and with families of their own, would be coming to dinner.  So much family and so little time!  Poor Don, he so heroically put up with our jabbering as we poured thru Barb's genealogical treasures.  Photographs of old homeplaces, a third great uncle and his children, ribbon from the original National Tinsel family factory.  Barb gently took Emily under her wing and shared her bountiful collection with both of us.  Tears flowed easily when the reality of extended family hit home.  I would have travelled to the moon and back to experience these moments in time.

Dinner came too soon but as Barb and Don's children poured in, we felt surrounded by the love and support only a family can provide.  Conversation flowed easily and many commonalities were found.  I have a name-sake of sorts!  Barb and Don named their only daughter, Pamela Sue.  What a delight to finally meet her!
And all the time, hanging on a wall as if watching over us, was a family heirloom....the clock my great-grandmother, Caroline Auguste Lehman Protz brought with her to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania from Charlottenburg, Germany when she visited in 1910.  To me, it had an almost sacred presence in the room.

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy style - Part Two

Morning came and Emily and I headed to the hotel lobby for breakfast.  We were in no particular hurry and stopped to chat with a nice Canadian couple.  After telling us about their plans to visit New Orleans for a Red Hat Society Convention, they exchanged e-mail addresses with Em and promised to stay in touch.
Ridgetown, is an easy one hour drive from Windsor.  The town sits on the edge of Lake Erie and is directly across from Cincinnati, Ohio.  It is a lovely, historical town, filled with Victorian type homes and lush gardens.  Sitting in the center of acres of fertile fields of wheat, corn and grasses, wind turbines and solar panels dot the landscape.  The Canadian government seems to be further advanced in promoting alternative forms of energy.  Paying stipends to farmers willing to allow the turbines and panels to be built on their lands, both have become a common sight.  A figure of $10,000 was mentioned as the annual rent paid to a farmer per turbine....not a bad way to earn some extra cash particularly if the crops are struggling and quite an incentive!
Before long, we were pulling into the driveway of the home of my second cousin, once removed - what?
Well, Barbara is the grand-daughter of my fathers uncle....she and my daddy would have been first cousins!
As I've noted in an earlier post, Barbara is an accomplished genealogist who had put a letter of inquiry on one of the ancestral intenet message boards years ago.  I stumbled across it and we've been communicating ever since.  She and her husband, Don, traveled to Wilson, N.C. to meet me sometime around 1995.  They were able to meet my mother and we all enjoyed a nice visit.  Barbara filled in many of the blanks in my family history and generously shared pictures and information that I had never seen and didn't know.  Now, I was about to step foot into her home and introduce her to Emily....her third cousin!

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy style - Part One

We'd been planning it for months.  My niece, Emily and I were about to embark on an expedition back into time.  We met at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Emily having flown in from New Orleans via Tampa, Florida and Baltimore, Maryland.  I was lucky enough to snag a simple, two hour direct flight from Greenville, S.C.  Seeing her enter the baggage claim area made my heart leap!  This was really going to happen!  We were going to, together, dig around in our shared past and present.  We loaded our bags into our very bright and shiny, red Chevy Impala and headed for the Canadian border.  After some crafty navigation by Emily, I drove the car over the Ambassador Bridge and into Windsor, Ontario.  Built in 1929, The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest border crossing in North American in terms of trade volume and carries 10,000 commercial vehicles a day. 

 A quick stop at Customs and before long, we were checking into a Hampton Inn for the first night of our adventure.  After a nice dinner at a restaurant in a nearby mall, we crawled into our beds and fell asleep.