Friday, October 31, 2008

Traveling Back in Time

October brought the opportunity for me to take a long weekend with a wonderful friend to assist her in her genealogical endeavors. Georgia and I worked together professionally for 5 years before she retired at the end of the last school year. We hit it off right away at a professional meeting in 2004 (for school librarians) when I mentioned that I was a member of NYGBS. She perked up and said, "Me too!" We started to compare notes and discovered that while her family originates in upstate New York, I am researching my husband's line and he originates from Brooklyn, NY. Same state, very different methodologies! Big city vs. rural counties. Nevertheless, that forged a bond that we have nurtured with research trips to the National Archives, National Genealogical Association Annual Conference in Richmond, VA (2007) and NIGR 2005 as well as lots of hours sitting at our laptops in each other's homes!

This October, I accompanied Georgia to Steuben, Erie, Wyoming and Cattaraugus counties in upstate New York. Our final destination was Akron, Erie County, NY to visit and stay with Georgia's 1st cousin, Donna. Donna had family photos that we were to scan and some family stories that Georgia wanted to record.

Our trip began on Thursday morning, October 9 (Yom Kippur school holiday). Before getting to Akron, we spent the night in quaint Hammondsport, Keuka Lake (one of the Finger Lakes). We were able to get in some quality wine tasting and a little shopping! One of the wineries we visited
was named Bully Hill. It was picturesque, set high on a hill overlooking Keuka Lake.

Although the main purpose of this trip was to research
Georgia's maternal line in Wyoming County, we decided to head to nearby Bath, on Friday morning, before heading North to "cousin" Donna's home. Bath is the county seat of Steuben County and we easily found the library and Historical Society. We found the people quite friendly and helpful and I think Georgia will definitely make a return trip to continue unearthing the treasures that this group has to offer.

One neat "find" was the Steuben County Courthouse. The Historical Society directed Georgia to
go there to research the Wills and Probates. We fully expected to walk in and give the clerk a name or two only to have her disappear in the back before reappearing and giving us what we requested. Well, no!!! We actually got to handle the original documents in a really old room filled with musty files and old wooden cabinetry. I felt like the papers were speaking out to us to come and read them and find long lost secrets to the past! While we didn't find a lot of new
information for Georgia, this visit was worth the trip in itself!

We finally made it to Donna's home on Friday evening and she was a most gracious hostess. A recent widow, she was glad for our company and the opportunity to reconnect with her cousin. We plotted our Saturday before heading to bed and I think Donna and Georgia stayed up late reminiscing.

Saturday was spent taking a short drive to Wyoming County to visit the former homes of Donna
& Georgia's grandparents, churches that they may have been members and their gravesites. The day was fruitful and we took many photos and did a few
gravestone rubbings and had a lot of fun driving around and trying to navigate from Georgia's memories! We finally got to eat some Beef on Wek that we had been hearing about and then stopped at Kutter's Cheese Factory to pick up wine and cheese for a little snack upon our return to Donna's.

Sunday morning was our departure day and Georgia finally connected with another cousin in West Valley, Cattaraugus County.

Jim Kemp and his wife entertained us for a few hours that afternoon, dragging out family photos and revisiting childhood family reunions. They were very hospitable and it was too short a visit, but we needed to make it back to Maryland as Monday was a work day for me.

Although this research trip was not a direct benefit to my family research, I certainly enjoyed seeing a friend realize some of her genealogy wish list and it got me reinvigorated to start up on my own lines when I got back home again. This was a first-time visit to this part of New York and I am quite anxious to return to explore it with my husband. The villages and their stereotypical town square with the obligatory gazebo, white, wood-framed churches and the plethora of U.S. flags flying proudly made me feel as if I stumble upon the set of Andy Griffith's Mayberry, RFD!!!

Even though time is marching forward, it is possible to travel back in time!

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