Saturday, April 23, 2011

Genealogy Field Trip - Day 3

All good things must come to an end...and this field trip is no different. As I sit here writing, I'm back at home and already back into my role as "ma! mom!" and "mommy!" But my mind...although tired from a day of research and driving...my mind is still in Steuben County, NY.

There was no rush to jump into things today. The library I was planning on going to didn't open until noon. Added to that - it was pouring rain when I woke up, so any cemetery excursions were going to be put on hold until I could tell if the weather would co-operate with my plans. For one last morning I got to be lazy...lying in bed watching a movie, and doing a little more "pre-research" via the internet. Eventually,the weather finally broke and I checked out of my home-away-from-home...it was time to head out to South Dansville and check in on my ancestors.

I have yet to go to my ancestor's cemeteries the same way twice. It's not that I don't know where they are, I've just always come from different directions...and I only got lost one of those times (although I will never publically admit that to anyone.) Oddly enough, I know the area well enough that I have a pretty decent sense of direction, and today was no different. I popped over a hillside, and as I was admiring the open view in front of me...I looked up on a hilltop a few miles over and yelled out loud, "I SEE YOU!" There was the white picket fence that surrounded "my" cemetery!

(The white picket fence for my cemetery is visible just above the one green grassy area in this photo.)


Stopping at cemetery #1, taking the few photographs that I needed, and then I was quickly on my way to my next stop which was only down the road a few miles...or rather, down...then up....then down...then back up...turn the corner...and up a little more. There was my cemetery. I've written about this place, I won't bore you with the same details. But I do have two sets of 5th great-grandparents buried up there, and it's my favorite place in the world to go and sit, and have a good-ol'-fashioned talkin' to with them. (No, I do NOT make a habit of talking to dead people, just a few beloved ancestors.)

Time was ticking away, and I still hadn't made it to the library! But I decided to make one more stop. Stony Brook State Park. I'd never been there, it's a smaller park as far as state parks go, and why not take a few extra blissful quiet moments enjoying a little hike... Enough sight-seeing, I had research to do! I finally made it to the Dansville library and was able to spend a few hours looking at newspapers from the early 19th century, finding references to my family and the activites of their lifetime.

Before leaving Dansville, there was one more thing that I wanted to do, and I asked the librarian if she could give me directions to the old Dansville Sanitorium. I'd heard about this massive building built on the hillside, long ago abandoned, but I wanted to see it myself...

(Can you see it peeking through the trees?...)

(Peeking out over the tops of the trees...)

** NOTE: I said "SanitOrium" not "SanitArium". No, I was not researching my future after the monkey children drive me batty. For those who may be interested, you can read the interesting history of this building here (and see it in it's original glory), and you can also enjoy some add'l photos of it's current state here. (Personally, I chose to obey the "No Trespassing" and didn't wander up past the roped off trail. Even I was a bit creeped out by the sight of this old building.)

So ends my genealogy field trip for this year. I love looking back on weekends like this one and it just makes me smile to think on.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Genealogy Field Trip - Day 2

Today, it was time to get dusty and dirty in courthouse records. But, I was ready and stocked with my genealogy staples of Mt. Dew and Oreos...

My first stop was the county clerk...the upstairs office where all of the old records are kept. It's also the office where one can obtain gun permits for Steuben County, so if nothing else it makes for an interesting parade of people in and out of the office.

In front of me were stacks of index books. Stacks and stacks of index books. Dating from 1796. Oy. I had my work cut out for me today. By the time I was finished with the index books I had 54 property deeds to look up that listed a Hulbert ancestor as the "grantee" or "grantor". Immediately I decided there was just no way that I was going to have the time to look up all 54 of these. I opted instead to focus on my direct ancestors, or those who I had not known much about until now.

The last time I was in this office, I distinctly remember photocopying a land deed for an ancestor. However, today I noticed bright pink signs posted everywhere that the deed books were NOT to be photocopied. What I could do instead was proceed to pull up a microfilm of each item and print a copy that way. I did not have time for that, my eyes would not agree with it, and the microfilm reader was not sitting at a desk or table...but on top of a filing cabinet. A 4-drawer filing cabinet that my 5'1" body was not going to stand in front of and look up all 54 land deeds.

A bit disappointing to not leave with exactly what I wanted...so instead I took notes, a few photographs of the actual deeds and made a mental note to look for someone who would be able to spend the time to pull these images for me.

All was not lost though. My day ended with a trip out of town to a little restaurant that I heard was THE place to eat for Mexican food.


Again, today was a good day...For so many reasons that I can't even begin to describe here. But there were moments where I could just lie my head back and give a contented sigh. I love days like this. They're the ones that just stay with you forever.

Genealogy Field Trip - Day 1

At 8 o'clock on Thursday morning I set off for some much needed "me" time. I wanted to arrive at about 10:00 in Bath, NY and get right to work in the county historian's office.

The drive was fabulous as always - not that the weather was that great, it was actually snowing as I began to drive through the rolling hills of the souther tier. But I love this part of my state. If it weren't for the fact that it's so far.....out there...away from civilization as I know it, I'd consider living there. But such as it is...it's my place to get away and try to "get in touch" with family roots.

The day was productive. The county historian had records that I had not had access to before, so new information was found - things I had no idea about. So it was an exciting day, even if it (like always) led me to an entire new set of questions.

After an early dinner, I decided to check out the Bath National Cemetery. After all, I was done with my scheduled plan for the day, so why not? I knew that I had no ancestors buried there, but I'm always up for a drive through a cemetery. Just ask my kids - all 3 of them have been "trained" well to point out each & every cemetery that we may come across in our day-to-day travels.

I followed the signs and the road curved to the left until I came upon a brick gateway. Crossing a small stream via an old iron bridge, before me loomed the entire VA complex - hospital, admin, nursing care facility, etc...all brick buildings, all of them very reminiscent of Civil War era architecture.

Following the signs for the cemetery, I drove through the one-way streets, noting one particular gentleman as he crossed the street in front of me. Dressed simply in sweats, no coat to cover him on this chilly April day, and on his head, a camouflage Army cap. I wondered about this man as I drove along. I wanted to know his story and what had brought him here. Regrettably, that story will be left untold.

Eventually I turned a corner and found the brick pillar announcing that I had found the entrance to the cemetery -

My "normal" tradition upon traveling through a cemetery is to just go where I'm led. Sometimes I'm drawn to the small graves of infants. Sometimes I'm drawn to the large, ornate headstones. Today, I just drove...

How could I narrow down to a few select stones to photograph and transcribe? Here were thousands of men and women that had done more, fought more, and braved more than I probably ever would in my own life. Every single one of them deserved to be remembered and preserved. So I continued to drive along in silence, a bit taken back by the rows and rows of stones surrounding me.

As I left, I knew I'd return here again - maybe even before I leave this area to return home.

Yes, Day 1 of my field trip was a very good day.