Tip 13: Stop by an ancestral home. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.
Research on your ancestors in census reports or city directories may provide you with a location or street address of the house or apartment building where they once lived.
A personal visit to an ancestor’s one-time home is a unique Genealogy Road Trip experience — and can sometimes yield additional family history details if you are traveling with a loved one familiar with the residence.
Here are a few examples of family history stories an ancestral home can reveal:
My father’s birthplace. On a family history road trip to Dolgeville, Herkimer County, New York with my dad, we stopped by a house where his paternal grandparents once lived. He had a black-and-white photo of the house from that time — with beautiful snow ball bushes out front and bamboo shades shielding the wide front porch from the sun’s heat.
“That’s the house I was born in,” Dad said matter-of-factly as we stood on the sidewalk looking at the house. “My grandmother was a midwife, so when my mother came due she came here to have me.” This was all news to me — and I might never have heard the story of we hadn’t visited the house where he spent time with his grandparents as a boy.
My great grandmother’s sewing room. My mom’s maternal grandmother sewed gloves at home for one of the many factories that once thrived in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York — Mom’s hometown. On a visit, we parked outside her grandmother’s house. As we were looking at the residence, the woman whose family lived there came out to ask if she could help us.
“My grandmother used to live here and we were just taking a look,” Mom explained.
“Oh, I thought you might be real estate agents,” the woman said with a laugh. “Would you like to come inside?” This hospitable invitation was more than either Mom or I expected.
Once inside, I will never forget the expression of pleasure on Mom’s face as she described where her grandmother’s sewing table sat — and how Mom and her sister, my Aunt Rita, would bring her the leather glove kits from the factory and pick up the finished gloves to run them back. It was a nostalgic step into history for Mom, made possible by a house visit.
A word of caution on photographs. If you take photos of homes where your ancestors once lived, be mindful that someone else lives there now and they are entitled to privacy. Taking photos for your own reference and holding them in your private files is one thing. However, before publishing house photos or a street address, on a blog or in other media, you may want to seek permission and/or do some research to be sure there are no legal issues to consider. Alternatively, use a historic photo of the house from your family files that was taken at the time your ancestors lived there.
Up next, Tip 14: Visits to churches and cemeteries. Please stop back.
© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.