Jul 29, 2013

Where Your Ancestors Lived - Pictures

I have always wished I could go back in time to visit my ancestors.  Not only to talk to to them but also to see where they lived and what their homes looked like.

I am lucky to have a few pictures of my Bird ancestors home, including the inside of their house.  The picture above includes my Great Grandmother Bird, Great, Great, Grandfather Bird and two cousins inside their house at 31 Early Street in Morristown, New Jersey.  I love this picture because I actually have two of the items in the picture in my house. Lucky for me this family lived in the same house for close to 90 years and were pack rats!  The large picture on the wall of the little girl (my Grandmother) above the man with the large mustache currently hangs in my dining room.  The large vase on the end of the mantle on the fireplace is in my china closet.  This gives me a real connection to these ancestors as well as a historical record because this house was torn down in the late 1960's to make way for a hospital.

I was thrilled to recently come across some pictures my Father took while on a trip to New Jersey back in the late 1980's.  He went through the pictures with his sister and wrote on the backs which relatives had lived in houses they could identify.  So now I can see where a few other New Jersey ancestors lived also.

Here are some of the pictures I recently found.  This is the house where my great grandfather James Rennick lived in Morristown, New Jersey.  He worked as a horse and grounds caretaker for a wealthy family in the area.

This is the home of Carrie Woodhull Fox, a cousin to my great grandmother Bird.  She was windowed at age 30 when her only child was 2 months old, then her only child died 9 months later.  She never remarried or had any more children.  I suspect this may have been her parents home because she moved back in with them after the death of her husband and child according to census data.

 This house is where another cousin of great grandmother Bird lived.  Her name was Fannie Howell Bennett.  Her husband was a doctor and his office was also located in this house.

I realize it is not the norm to find a stack of pictures of your ancestor's homes.  Here are some tips for locating pictures related to your own ancestors.
1.  Find Where They Lived
You can get the town name and sometimes the exact address from numerous sources.  Records to search include the census, birth and death records, wills, city directories, draft registrations, and the SSN Death Database.
2.  Google Search
Doing a search on names or even just the town they lived in can produce pictures.  I found a picture of a home on Long Island of a Woodhull ancestor who lived in the early 1800's through a Google Search.
3.  Local Historical Societies
Many times Historical Societies have pictures on line which can include individual homes as well as pictures and the history of the local area in general.
4.  Family Members
Check with other family members.  You never know what pictures or information they may have.  My father never would have been able to identify as many homes as he did without his sister's help.
5.  Local Property Tax Websites
Allegheny County in PA has a property tax site that includes photos of almost all homes on the tax list, so I am sure many other states/counties do also.  If you ancestor's home is still standing you could find a picture or at least see what is currently located on the street which they lived.  I found pictures of many homes this way.
6.  Libraries
Libraries usually contain a wealth of pictures on specific areas.

Seeing the houses, inside or out gives you a glimpse into your ancestor's life that you can't get from records.   Even just seeing pictures of the area they lived in can you give a better feel for what their lives were like.  Now if I could just go to all these places and walk around inside the houses I would be happy!

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