Friday, June 20, 2014

Montrose Station, New York

The James Baisley family owned land near Montrose Station Road and near what was called Crugers Station in the late nineteenth century. Both places were stations on the Hudson Line of the Hudson River Railroad, later known as the New York Central Railroad, until they were abandoned in 1996 and replaced by a new station at Cortlandt.
The Erie canal had opened in 1825 which helped in the transport of goods across the state, but because the locks were very slow, stagecoaches would pile up causing the goods to be delayed. It was in response to this that the first railroad in New York was built in 1826. It was called the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad and went to the capital city of Albany.
A family photo of Montrose Station, c. 1940s
Because the towns along the Hudson River used the river heavily for transporting goods, they didn't see a need for a railroad until ice starting preventing travel in the winter. The Hudson River Railroad was formed and opened a line in 1851 in order to further extend the railroad. But it was only when Cornelius Vanderbilt purchased the railroad and merged it with other railroads he owned in 1869 that it became the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, and was later renamed the New York Central Railroad in 1914.
In 1861 Abraham Lincoln rode the Hudson River Railroad and stopped in Peekskill, one of the villages near Montrose and Crugers, on his way to his inauguration. I'm sure my Baisley ancestors were among the many people who lined the streets of Peekskill and along the Hudson River Railroad to see their future president. I found an obituary of a great-uncle mentioning the incident and an article describing how another great-uncle was injured when he fell out of a train at Montrose Station.
Unfortunately it appears that incidents on the Hudson River Railroad were not uncommon. There is a tragic story about an accident at the bridge near Montrose in the 11 June 1872 edition of The Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle. You never know what you will find while browsing old newspapers.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Not Quite a Billion Graves

This week since the weather was just right for photographing headstones, I decided to check both Find A Grave and BillionGraves for local cemeteries that needed photos. I had both apps but hadn't used either of them yet. The cemetery in my town was mostly taken care of in Find A Grave, but much to my surprise, it wasn't even listed in BillionGraves. So I added it and then went out to take pictures. Even though Find A Grave had many headstone photos, I thought it was worth while to add them to the other site. You can never have too much redundancy in genealogy. You never know when a site will disappear with all that data.
In less than two hours, I managed to photograph 265 headstones using the BillionGraves app, and that was only the first row of graves in the cemetery. Obviously, it is going to take me quite a while to photograph the 6000+ graves there.
I wasn't the only weirdo walking through the cemetery taking pictures. A woman with her niece was also taking pictures for the photo requests on Find A Grave. She wasn't local but her niece was; and she was the only one in her family interested in genealogy, just like me in my family. We compared notes and shared tips with one another. Anytime you see someone walking with a camera from grave to grave in a cemetery it is likely a genealogist. We are the only ones who think cemeteries are a social meeting place.
When I'm taking the pictures, I can't help but think about the people named on the headstones. So many seem to be forgotten and the graves uncared for. I like to take a moment at each grave just to remember that each person beneath the headstone had a life story. Infant and children's graves always sadden me as I think about the families and how grief stricken they must have been at their loss. So many of the older stones were very legible but some newer ones were worn away with names unreadable. A visual lesson in the wear patterns of the different types of stones.
I found a headstone for a Civil War veteran from Company A, 183rd Pennsylvania volunteer infantry. I added the link to the information I found on his page in BillionGraves, hoping it will be useful for a fellow genealogist. One of the more unusual names I came across was Return H. Deming and his wife, Mary. A quick search for him on, and I learned his wife's maiden name was Conover and that they both were from Ohio; they were living in Illinois in 1880 and had moved to Washington territory by 1887. Today's technology makes finding this information so much easier than when I first started researching.
The BillionGraves app was very easy to use. From the dashboard, just click "take photos" and start taking pictures. When you are done, at the click of a button, they will automatically upload to the site and be ready for transcribing. The biggest complaint I have with the app is the lack of editing tools. I had several photos which needed to be rotated. The BillionGraves site allows you to rotate them for viewing, but the rotation won't stay. This means everyone who views the photo will need to rotate it or I need to save it to my computer, edit it, and then upload it again to BillionGraves. Not something I want to do for a hundred or more photos. I'd rather spend the time transcribing them.
I don't know if I'll get photos for all 6000+ headstones taken and added to BillionGraves, but I hope the ones I do add will help someone find out more about their family history.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Photographs of the Unknowns

Sometimes you never know where something as simple as a photograph will lead you. Among old photographs given to me by my father is the one pictured above. There are no markings on the back, which is solidly tannish-brown in color. The photo itself is actually a thin piece of paper adhered to a thick sturdy gray frame. I have no idea who these people are; there is no one still living in my family who knows who they are. The only clue may lie in the provenance of the photos. They belonged to my father's only sister, his half-sister, who was twenty-two years older than he was.

During birthdays and holidays, my aunts and uncles and cousins would often gather together to celebrate. These celebrations would often wind down with a slide presentation of family photos and even some of the old photographs would make a showing. I suspect the photographs of the unkowns may have been from Aunt Edna's family because everytime I asked about who they were, she would quickly respond that they were "old family friends" and change the subject.  For some reason, no one in our family was supposed to know that my Aunt Edna was only our half-aunt; it was very hush-hush. Even later when I learned my grandmother had been a young widow and was remarried to my grandfather, it didn't make sense why it was never talked about. Even my father learned that his sister was his half-sister accidentally. He was about 8 years old and snooping through his parents' things looking for something when he found his sister's birth certificate hidden away. He had noticed there was a different last name—Outhouse, not Pastoor— but he didn't think much about it, and it was never discussed. It wasn't until I was about twelve or thirteen and became interested in learning about family history that the family "secret" was revealed, but only to me. I don't recall thinking it was much of a bombshell. Aunt Edna was my favorite relative and learning she was only "half" related didn't change anything.

Well, I guess almost anything. That revelation opened up a door to learning about her family history. I learned that there had been extensive research done on the Outhouse family, and that her family—and mine, since we shared a relative on her mother's side—could be traced back to The Netherlands, into the 1600s. But the real bombshell was learning that my grandmother, Edna (Baisley) Pastoor,  was not only my Aunt Edna's mother, but that they were also third cousins! Aunt Edna's 2nd great-grandparents were James Outhouse and Esther "Hetty" Tompins through her father, Lester Outhouse. But Aunt Edna was also related to them through her mother whose 2nd great-grandparents were also James Outhouse and Hetty Tompkins.

Learning this, it doesn't take much imagining to think that these old photographs may have something to do with the Outhouse family and were probably taken around Peekskill, Westchester county, New York. So I'm posting them here just in case some long-lost cousins recognize them. Please, if you know any of these people, contact me or post a comment below! I'd love to finally put a name to the faces and learn more about their lives. If nothing else, these photos have taught me the importance of sharing our photos and passing along our family stories to the next generation. Otherwise, how long before our faces become the faces of the unknown?