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I love the rush of receiving new information on a line that had been stalled!
Last week, I connected with a cousin from my Maternal Grandfather’s PHELPS line. Our common ancestor is my 3rd great-grandfather James Phelps. James was born about 1844 in England. He married Hannah HARTLAND in New York City in 1872 and they raised their family in Bergen and Essex Counties, New Jersey.
The “new” cousins reported that James’ parents were Joseph and Hannah Tyler Phelps, who settled in Philadelphia upon their arrival from England with their many children. I am most appreciative of this new information, as I know nothing of his family other than his father’s name was Joseph. However, without seeing what records my cousins used to ascertain this information, how could I be confident that our James belonged to this Philadelphia family?
Patience might be a virtue, but it certainly is not one of mine. I (literally) could not wait to renew my research on this line and have been working enthusiastically on trying to prove this relation.
I reviewed all my previous research on James to see if there was anything that would link him to this family. The earliest record I have for James is his 1872 marriage record which does not state his parents’ names. Census records show the family in New Jersey, with James working in a lock factory and as a metal pattern maker (this is a “key” piece of information!) James’ death certificate only lists his birthplace as England, his father’s name as Joseph and his mother’s name as Unknown. His obituary contains the same limited information, and does not mention any siblings.
Conflicting census records state James’ year of immigration as 1847 and 1865. My earlier attempts at locating his arrival (focusing on New York ports) were unsuccessful. By extending the search to Philadelphia, I located an 1852 arrival of a James PHILLIPS, age 6, with his mother Hannah and siblings. The father Joseph Phelps had arrived in 1851. Census records show this group in Suffolk, England in 1841; Warwickshire in 1851 and Philadelphia in 1860. But is this “my” James?
The Philadelphia City Directories for 1861 through 1868 lists both Joseph and James Phelps at the same address and with the same occupation of Lock Smith. Advertisements in the same publications extends their scope of work to Silver Plater. By 1870, Joseph is still listed in the city directories, but James is not. During the same time frame that this James Phelps leaves Philadelphia, my James Phelps is getting married in New York City. I think this is looking good!
I imagine the first thing most people did when discovering satellite images on Google maps was to check out their own house. They might have been surprised that such a clear aerial picture of their homestead is available, or bit freaked out by it. For most genealogists, I think the second thing they did was look for an ancestral home; I know I did. Did you? If not, what are you waiting for?!
Google maps – or one of the several other similiar sites – is a great way to “visit” your relatives’ homes without leaving your kitchen. With just a few clicks, you can peruse the old village and zoom right in on the house. You might also be lucky enough to have a “Street View” of the area, which brings you right down to street level, and allows you to take a simulated sight-seeing drive through the neighborhood.
To find these satellite images, go to Google Maps and type in the address. When the map appears, click on the icon in the upper right corner that says “Satellite.” Continue to zoom in for a street view. It takes very little practice to learn how to move the image around the way you want it and to travel down the street.
I have personally visited and taken pictures of many of these homes, but for the sake of demonstrating the current topic, here are a few examples of my relatives’ homes as shown on Google maps:
It’s not only domestic addresses that are available. You can tour villages throughout Europe just as easily. Here is one example from Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England; the approximate location of the 1861 home of my Fourth Great-Grandparents Thomas and Maryann (GRUBY) HARTLAND. Their daughter Hannah married James PHELPS in NYC in 1872.
Of course there are a couple of caveats to searching your family’s past addresses. First, house numbers do change over the years. What was #6 and 23 Carroll Street previously is now #24. The best way to determine the current address is to do a house history/ deed search on the property. If you haven’t done that, I’ll have a blog post with instructions soon.
Also, addresses are not always in the exact location that the mapping system places it in. Similar to your GPS device, it will take you close, but might be a couple of houses off.
There is certainly the possibility that your ancestor’s home no longer exists. In the photo above of O’Donnell Street, you can tell by looking at neighboring buildings, that this is not the original structure. (But my cousin Mona and I still stop in during our research trips to Baltimore for some seafood quesadillas.) My great-grandparents home in Carteret was the victim of “Urban Renewal” in the 1960’s. And in many cases, the entire area might yield little if any resemblance to the neighborhood that once was.
Even if the house you are looking for is not there, or if you can’t pinpoint the exact location, these satelitte images are a great way to get the lay of the land. You can see the topography of the area, how close it is to natural features like rivers or lakes, or far it is from a city center.
If you are getting cabin fever from being in the house this winter, take this opportunity to do some touring right on your laptop. And just imagine how much you are saving on airfare!