Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sanborn Maps

The Cameron County (PA) Historical Society posted a link to online map of Emporium, PA on their Facebook page. It is part of the Sanborn Fire Insurance map series at Penn State's Digital Map Drawer. 

So, first, I was excited to discover my Gaskills were apparently partners with the Whittemores in a lumber mill there. It must have been my great-grandfather, Everett, who moved to Emporium from Tioga County NY at the same time as family friend, Norman Whittemore. I'd never known about the lumber mill, so that was pretty interesting.

Second, a commenter posted that the Sanborn maps exist for most towns and cities in the US and Canada. So I found the Wiki entry and in the external links section is a listing by state. Can't wait to explore these.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


When I started my family research in 2010, the information I had from my grandmother indicated my GG grandfather's name was Albert Murray and his wife was Mary. I bumbled through free sources for awhile and, using censuses, eventually uncovered that their names were actually (probably) Erastus and Christina.

I felt quite excited to have uncovered this information and spent some time wondering how my great-grandfather ( his name actually was Albert) had forgotten his parents' names. He'd been sent to an orphange at a young age, but there werre hints he had stayed in touch with older siblings, so it seemed curious. As much as I wanted to figure it out, I finally came to terms with the fact that I'd never know.

Sometimes making assumptions is just what you need to do in order to have that breakthrough that leads you to the information you seek. But sometimes--okay, most of the time--it pays to follow good research practices first.

You see, I assumed my grandmother got the names from either her husband or her mother-in-law and that the only way they'd have the names is if my great-grandfather had told them. That is, I assumed the error was my great-grandfather's.

Just recently, because of a decision to apply to a lineage society, I began the process of collecting all the vital records needed. I "knew" when my great-grandfather, Albert, died--I had family records and I had his obituary. But, nevertheless, I requested a death certificate from the state. I wanted as many official records as possible because one of the weak links in this line is proof that Albert's parents were Erastus and Christina. (I have a preponderance of circumstantial evidence, but I'm not certain what will be accepted.)

Albert's death certificate arrived today.  Clearly as can be, it says his father was Erastus Murray.  So, apparently at the time of his death, he and his wife knew who his father was--the information was garbled by someone else at a later date.  I could look at this pessimistically and say I would have saved myself a lot of time by requesting it two years ago. On the other hand, because I didn't have this proof, I undertook a lot of research I might have otherwise skipped. I have a more thorough picture of this family because of the research.

Of course, there's still one problem. His mother's name on the death certificate. Not very clear, but when I enlarged it to post here, I saw the faintest trace of a C before the stroke of an h...I do think it says Christina. [Updated:  After comparing other letters of known words on the document, I now think it is Marieta.]

What do you think?

UPDATED 4/21/14 has added Pennsylvania death certificates and I was able to get a much better copy.

The name Martha seemed pulled out of thin air. It took me a few days to figure out where the name came from. I finally connected the dots. It was his foster mother's name!