Saturday, April 30, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Weather

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2011) that invite genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants. This is week 18: Weather. Do you have any memorable weather memories from your childhood? How did your family cope and pass the time with adverse weather? When faced with bad weather in the present day, what do you do when you’re stuck at home?

About the Blizzard of 1978 from "A savage blizzard packing hurricane force winds dumped up to four feet of snow on many parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut between the 6th and 7th of February 1978. Not only did the deep snows paralyze highway traffic, but because of the mountainous waves it created during record high tides hundreds of people were sent fleeing from their coastal homes, their houses reduced to rubble. Fifty-four died and highways and neighbor streets alike were left clogged with abandoned, snow-covered vehicles. It was many days before community life returned to normal."

I lived in Dedham, a town just southwest of Boston. I was in seventh grade, and saw the snow when it started to fall outside my classroom window on the morning of Monday, February 6. I remember that we got out of school early that day, but don't remember what time. My dad worked in Boston and my mother called him at work that morning and insisted he come home early because this was going to be a bad snowstorm. Luckily, Dad listened to her and left work early enough to drive home. Many didn't and either were stuck in their cars or were stuck in their downtown offices for days. May 13, 2011 edit: actually, Mother tells me that she had to call him several times that morning. He finally left Boston between noon and 1 pm, coming out to Dedham by way of the Jamaicaway. If he had come out of Boston by way of the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 128, he would have been stuck.
The four of us in front of our house after the Blizzard of 1978
I had three younger brothers and we enjoyed our unexpected vacation! When the snow finally stopped, by Wednesday morning, the front of the house had such large snowbanks that we couldn't open the front door; we had to go out the back door! Of course, as kids, we thought this was quite an adventure. We loved playing in the snow, building snow forts and snowmen. Being an era before video games and computers, we played lots of board games after coming inside from playing in the snow.

Route 128, Dedham, MA, February 1978
Because our street was a loop (dead end) off a dead end street, the plows didn't get to our street for days. Later that week, on an outing to get groceries, we walked over one of the bridges over Route 128/Route 95 on the Dedham / Westwood line and looked down on the highway where cars had all gotten stuck in the snow because there had been an accident a couple of miles south and the cars backed up all the way back to Needham and got buried in the snow as the snow fell faster than the cars could move.

This image, left, is the most memorable part of this storm for me. My dad likely took all these pictures.

Route 128, Dedham, MA, February 1978
Most cars were abandoned and, according to, it took more than a week and help from the National Guard to dig them all out. These photos were taken from Route 1A on the Dedham / Westwood line looking down on Route 128 southbound. It must have been several days after the storm, as the snow on the tops of the cars is mostly melted.
 Thank you Amy Coffin for suggesting this idea for a blog post.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When at first you don't succeed, try, try again

As I said in my previous post, I was excited to look for my ancestors in the 1930 census when it was released in 2002. I first looked for my dad, who would have been five and a half years old, with his parents, Charles and Elizabeth Pyle. Charles and Elizabeth were married in 1919 and were listed in New York City in the 1920 census (under Charles Pyles). Now, I wasn't sure if they would be in New York City or in Morris County, New Jersey in 1930, so I had a bit of looking to do. I did find them in a Morris County directory in 1929, so began to focus there. I searched on and off for several years, but couldn't find them. At one point, I was working my way through the 1930 Morris County, New Jersey census, enumeration district by enumeration district, page by page, on the microfilm machine, but I didn't find them, as I never got all the way through the many townships in the area.

A couple of years ago, I went to my local public library and explored both and HeritageQuest in search of this family in 1930. I tried various searching tricks to see how they might have been mis-indexed, and sure enough, by searching for Elizabeth [no last name], born in 1897 (+/- 1 year), in Morris County, New Jersey, I had success. The individuals were indexed incorrectly, as Ryle, Charles McAlpin (head), McAlpin, Elizabeth (wife), and Ryle, Chaeles McAlpin (son).

1930 U.S. Federal Census, Harding, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: 1373: Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 25; image: 740.0. Record for Ryle Chaeles McAlpin [sic: Charles McAlpin Pyle].
Lines 11-16 show my grandparents' household. They were on New Mendham Road in Harding Township and owned their own home, valued at $75,000. They owned a radio and had three servants (two Irish, one Scottish) living with them, a cook, a waitress, and a (child's) nurse. I remember my grandmother, who died in 1983, and I believe she had a hired cook her entire life, as she never learned to cook herself. Charles, age 37, was born in New Jersey, and both of his parents were born in New York. His occupation is "broker" in the industry "stocks". Elizabeth, age 31 (actually she was 32) is listed as being born in Illinois with both of her parents being born in Illinois, however, I know that her mother (my great-grandmother) was born in Kentucky (hence the Kentucky in the name of my blog). My father, Charles, is listed as five years old. (He would turn six in just a couple of months) and was born in New York.

This is a photograph of young Charles (Charlie) Pyle, taken in the mid 1920's, most likely in New Jersey. There is certainly family resemblance to be found in his five children and his six grandsons.

This photograph was made into a post card, and on the back of the post card is written:

Charles P- Jr. from his doting Grandmother

I recognize the handwriting as that of Frances Adelaide McAlpin Pyle (Charles Pyle Sr.'s mother) from several letters that she wrote during the 1920's and 1930's.

I know this is getting long, but one more photo of young Charlie:
on the back reads: C McA. P Jr. 1928

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mystery Monday: Why can't I find Grandfather in 1930 census?

I've been researching my family long enough that I remember when the 1920 census was made public in 1992, and I was especially excited when the 1930 census was released in 2002, because I better understood the significance of it. This was back when census research required using microfilm machines, and if I left my local NARA facility with nine or ten successful finds after three hours, I was thrilled!

My maternal grandparents did not marry until September 1931, so I looked for each of them separately, hoping that they were still living with their parents. Success: one of the first 1930 census records I found was for my maternal grandmother, living with her parents and two of her sisters. They lived in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania at 836 North Highland Avenue.
1930 U.S. Federal Census, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1975; Page: 23B; Enumeration District: 169; image: 246.0. Record for Percy E Hunter.

Lines 91-96 show this family. Percy E. Hunter, age 57, wife Marguerite, age 54, and daughters, Mary L., 26, Margaret L., 24, and Helen L. 23, (my grandmother). This census enumeration sheet shows that he owned his own home, which was worth $65,000, and that he owned a radio. They married when he was 24 and she was 21. They and their parents were all born in Pennsylvania. (In fact, three of my grandmother's eight great-grandparents were born in Pennsylvania, with the other five born in Scotland (3) or Ireland (2).) Percy was "President" of "Bridge Co." (More about that in a later blog posting.) The family also had a servant enumerated with them, a 29-year-old woman, Frances Kuzalecki, from "Yugo-Slavia", whose native language was Croatian. She arrived in 1923 and was still a resident alien.

I have not been able to find my maternal grandfather in 1930. And, although his parents (my maternal grandfather's parents) had been in New Trier, Cook County, Illinois in 1900, 1910, and 1920, I found them in Michigan City, La Porte, Indiana at the Sheridan Beach Hotel, Lake Ave. in the 1930 census.
1930 U.S. Federal Census, Michigan City, La Porte, Indiana; Roll: 603; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 17; image: 1061.0. Record for Lowell Copeland.

Lines 37-39 show Lowell Copeland, age 67, wife Ethel M., age 54, and daughter Ruth L, age 22. They married when he was 37 and she was 24. This census shows that it was unknown if they owned or rented, and did not indicate an "R" for owning a radio. There is also no indication of what my great-grandfather did for a living, but perhaps at age 67, he was retired. Lowell and his parents were born in Maine. Ethel was born in Illinois, and her parents were born in Massachusetts. Ruth, who was my grandfather's youngest sister, was born in Illinois. (Their middle child, Elizabeth, known as Betty, was married and living in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband, who was a professor at Princeton University.)

My mother thinks that her father would have been in New York at this time, but I have had no success in finding him. I have looked in for Lowell Townsend Copeland, born in Illinois in 1901 (actually he was born December 21, 1900) in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania with no luck. I have tried L.T. Copeland, Lowell Copeland, and Townsend Copeland. I've tried using "Copland" as the last name, as well as "*land" and even Toby as the given name, as that was his nickname. Any suggestions welcome.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Glen Alpin, Harding Township, New Jersey

My father spent his very early years in Morris County, New Jersey. Last summer, my husband, my two teenage sons and I visited two homes in Harding Township which have much significance for my paternal grandfather, his parents and his maternal grandparents. One, Glen Alpin, has been purchased by the local historical society and renovated. The other, Hurstmont, is next door, and was for sale for many months. It is in poor condition, but it has been purchased and will be renovated. I have kept in touch with a member of the local historical society who gave us a tour of the houses last summer.

Glen Alpin, August 2010
My great great-grandfather, David Hunter McAlpin, born in 1816 in Dutchess County, New York, was very successful in the tobacco industry, as well as in real estate in New York City, making enough money to purchase a house in the country (which he renamed Glen Alpin) in 1885. He spent additional money fixing up this house. As you can see from the photo at left, taken by my husband last August, this is in the process of being beautifully restored by a non-profit group, The Glen Alpin Conservancy. When my great great-grandfather, David Hunter McAlpin, died on February 8, 1901, he left Glen Alpin to his son, Charles Williston McAlpin. Charles owned the house until 1940, when he sold it to Doris Mercer, also known as Princess Farid-es-Sultaneh. The next owner owned Glen Alpin from 1965 - 2000. By 2005, the Harding Township Historical Society had arranged for the purchase and renovation of Glen Alpin. Charles Williston McAlpin (1865-1942), brother of Frances Adelaide McAlpin, was married to Sara Carter Pyle (1863-1949), sister of James Tolman Pyle. They had no children.

Hurstmont, August 2010
David H. McAlpin had nine children. His only daughter, Frances Adelaide McAlpin, married James Tolman Pyle (of Pyle's Pearline Soap fame) in 1884. David gave them one of the parcels of land adjoining Glen Alpin in 1886. They had a large stone house built. James Tolman Pyle and Frances Adelaide McAlpin had six children, the fifth of whom was my grandfather. In 1902-1903, my great-grandparents had the house substantially renovated. It was after these renovations that they named the home Hurstmont. My grandfather, born in 1893, in Morristown, spent his childhood at this home both before and after these renovations, and at their home in New York City. Some years after the death of James Tolman Pyle on February 8, 1912, his widow, Adelaide Pyle, sold Hurstmont to William Jenks (1872-1955), who renamed it Mount Kemble Manor. He had to sell the house in the 1940's because he couldn't afford to keep it up. The next owners owned it until 1982 when it was sold to an owner who wasn't able to keep it up, and it fell into disrepair. A great many people, descendants and historical preservationists, are pleased that someone has purchased the home (in March 2011) and will be renovating it.

The area where the former McAlpin and Pyle houses currently sit was originally part of Morris Township, 1740-1866, when the southern part was set off as Passaic Township, 1866-1922. In 1922, the northern part of Passaic Township was set off as Harding Township. There were Pyles and McAlpins in the Morris County area for quite a number of years, but it is only in researching my family genealogy that I have learned as much as I have and have had the opportunity to connect and meet some of my second cousins on this side!

See an aerial view of the home here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why I'm Blogging

I have been researching my genealogy on and off for over 20 years and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about research methods, although I haven't necessarily used them. (For example, I know that I need to explore using land records and probate records to break through some of my brick walls.)  I keep telling various family members that I will write up a little something to tell them about a particular branch of our family or research success that I've had, but I never seem to get around to it.

I recently started looking at the variety of genealogy blogs out there and thought that this might be a great way to share some of what I've found. I hope to find additional cousins, and share with family members and others some of the interesting research I've done over past years and going forward.