27 November 2007

Hooked on maps: Online resources

Ancestry's new Historic Land Ownership Records database proved very interesting.

As Tracing the Tribe's regular readers know, my grandparents Sidney (Shayeh) and Bertha (Chaye Feiga Bank) Fink owned a large bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake, Bethel Township, Sullivan County, New York, about 10 miles from Monticello.

As I checked through the database, I saw that the only map covering White Lake and Bethel Township was from 1875, long before my grandparents' land purchase. As I tried to figure out the road (it would become 17B) from Monticello to White Lake (where the Lapidus Bungalow Colony and the movie theatre were focal points in my day), I saw the right turn around the lake through Kauneonga, bearing left to West Shore Road.

I immediately recognized one owner's name - Driscoll. The family had still owned the farm behind our property in the 1950s-60s. And I remembered that fateful day when a herd of cows - from Driscoll's farm - escaped through a broken fence, across the baseball field and through the colony, scaring New York mothers as these "wild animals" wandered calmly, grazing.

Another name - W. Steen - was on a house approximately where my grandparents' "big house" was located. I had never heard that name mentioned. But across the road was property belonging to the Van Orden family, an old Sullivan County family.

A visit to the Bethel Township website seemed like a good idea, and I learned that Bethel would celebrate its centennial in 2009. At the Sullivan County Historical Society website, I read the brief Bethel history by town historian Marion Vassmer, whose family I remembered from the old days.

I did remember large empty fields, which would become the White Lake Homes development in the 1960s - and a "haunted house" - on the Van Orden property, and the small Mud Lake (on the early map) had become Amber Lake in my time. We were admonished never to go near that place, allegedly because of the poisonous water moccasin snakes. I never saw one, but I also never went to find out - just the thought of snakes kept me far away.

Following many links I found, I discovered TopoZone, a detailed (complete with houses) map of the area, showing both my grandparents' property (sold long ago) across the road from the subdivision. Comparing early and contemporary maps allowed me to pinpoint locations. Topo Zone offers a variety of resolutions and views that can be very useful.

I don't know the history of my grandfather's land purchase. Perhaps he bought his large piece of land directly from the Driscolls or from the Steen family, or had it already changed hands before his time? It's something to research further.

Max Yasgur's farm - the future site of Woodstock - up the road a bit wasn't there as Max hadn't arrived yet.

Enjoying this game of following the links, even though I had a number of pressing projects to address, I went downstate to Brooklyn, where my grandparents lived before moving permanently to Florida.

The most recent atlas listed at Ancestry was for 1929. I went first to Index 1 to see if I could find their East Flabush home on East 52nd Street, between Avenue D and Clarendon, a few blocks from Utica Avenue. I went first to Index 1, where a quick look showed I needed Index 2.

In the map that came up, I quickly located the names Utica Avenue and Avenue D on the Section 15 Flatbush map, but realized that East 52nd was in Section 24, the Canarsie map.

Unfortunately, section 24 is in Volume 4, and that's not yet online.

I questioned Suzanne Russo Adams of Ancestry's Professional Desk who referred me to Historic Map Works which is a great site for those enamoured of maps, and it is where Ancestry obtains their maps. If volume 4 were listed, I was told, it would eventually be in the database.

Full of hope, I clicked on the map site. Unfortunately, volumes 3 and 4 aren't listed. There were other maps that might have contained useful information for this quest, but the particular pages needed were also missing from the online series.

Oh well.

As I always tell those searching for information online: If it isn't there today, check tomorrow, next week or next month. While this particular map is not essential, it would have been nice to see and piece of the big picture to add to the file.

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