Follow Friday: Historic Map Works

One of the all-time best inventions of the human mind, in my humble opinion, is the map.  Whether ink to paper or pixels to screen, maps represent reality as seen from the cartographer’s point of view.  Beyond the accurate recording of topography and societal infrastructure, map makers convey all sorts of information, depending on who has paid their salary!  Display all the gas wells in Allegany County! List all the businesses of the Whitesville!  Differentiate between a dirt road, a tiny local road and the main state road.

One of my favorite sites lets me explore the world according to my ancestors. Historic Map Works lets you browse United States, World or Antiquarian maps by searching with a Keyword, Family Name or Address.  I wanted to know what a map could tell me about my ancestors, Ira and Serena Sayles, in the 1860s when I know they lived in three separate towns in south central New York.

Using the keywords ALLEGANY COUNTY NEW YORK my query returned a treasure: The Atlas of Allegany County, published by D. G. Beers and Company in 1869. Each page of the atlas has been digitised, and can be opened for expanded viewing.

 

 

 

 

This page of Alfred Center shows my great-great-grandmother’s home, The Gothic. According to records this house was sold and the proceeds used to purchase a farm in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, shortly after the publication of this atlas.

Interestingly, I also found Serena Sayle’s name on a property in the township of Independence and her husband’s name, Ira, on a property in Rushford, where he was the principal of Rushford Academy.

 

 

 

With a subscription to Historic Map Works I can download and print these maps out, further exploring Ira and Serena’s world; who did they live next to, what stores might they have shopped in, how far did they travel in going about their daily lives? All these details, from a map.

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The Whites of Whitesville: Tombstone Tuesday

Not long ago I took a genealogy field trip from my home in northeastern Pennsylvania to Allegany County, New York, following the Appalachian ridges to the hills of my ancestors, great-great-grands Ira and Serena White Sayles.  A wonderful thing happened on the way back south – I found Serena’s hometown, Whitesville.

Settled in 1821 by Samuel S. and Nancy Teater White

What I Found Between the Hills

In a preparatory internet session I had found an index for the Whitesville Rural Cemetery, which had not included my third great-grandparents, Samuel S. and Nancy Teater White, Serena’s parents and founders of this hamlet.  So on my way into town, I just drove by the gates of the meticulously maintained grounds.  At the other end of Main Street I parked and snapped a photograph of the beautiful town signage, returned to the car and promptly went right back down Main Street the way I had just come.  Why?  A nudging from the past?

I drove into the cemetery, about thirty yards, and parked.  The tombstones were old here, lichen and moss gently adorning the rock, and my sense was that I had reached the burial grounds of my ancestors.  I stepped out of my car again, camera slung over my shoulder, and pointed it at a neutral object to get a light meter read on the gray, overcast fall day.  Turning, I approached a magnificent stone:

Samuel S. White, deceased September 4, 1860, Aged 63 years, 10 months and 17 days

Nancy White, deceased January 25, 1863, Aged 68 years, 4 months and 5 days

Hands clasping, one male, one female. Surrounded by wreath of flowers and the words Our Father above and Our Mother below.

I found my peeps!

Or maybe, they found me.

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