Saturday, November 24, 2007

Finding out exactly where they lived

One of the tasks I like to pursue is to try to find out exactly where my ancestors lived at moments of time. To do this, you need maps that show houses or farms or shops. One question I've always had is "do the maps that show houses show every building, or just selected buildings?"

I noticed that is featuring their "Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000" collection of maps, which includes maps with homes or farms shown on them. I picked Killingly in Windham County, Connecticut because I thought I knew where my Henry A. White family lived and where my Jonathan Oatley lived in East Killingly. Ancestry has an 1869 map of Killingly, and an inset map of East Killingly showing much more detail.

I chose the 1870 census to compare to the 1869 map. When I input Henry White, I found him on the census on page 115 of (Post Office) West Killingly, not East Killingly. I looked on the map for a West Killingly and didn't find it. So I checked for Jonathan Oatley, and found him on the census - he was on page 122 of (Post Office) West Killingly. Strange - they both should be in East Killingly. I decided to check the neighbors, and in the process found out several things -

1) There are a lot more houses enumerated in the census than there are on the maps. There were at most three or four houses that showed on the map that were enumerated on the same census page, and some census pages had no houses shown on the map.

2) The census taker did not write the family information down in the exact order of house location. I don't know what method they used, but it wasn't house to neighbor house in every case. Did they make rough notes from their walk-abouts, and then fill out the census form later from the notes?

3) The census taker erred in this location - the Post Office had to be East Killingly because all of the people on the 1869 map in East Killingly are on the West Killingly PO census list. I wonder how many other errors there are for Post Office or town name?

As an example of comparing houses on the map with a census page, on page 122 of this census (NARA Film M593, Roll 116, page 445, Image 323), the houses on the page are headed by:

# 725 Joseph Oatly (on the map) - household includes Jonathan Oatly
# 726 Elliot Burton (on the map)
# 727 Franklin Burton
# 728 Harris O. Burton
# 729 Ruel Cole
# 730 John Russell 2nd (on map)
# 731 David D. Chase
# 732 Elisha Soule
# 733 Lydia Mitchell (probably the Mrs. Mitchell on the map)
# 734 Alfred E. Adams

So there are four houses from this page on the map. But I don't know if the houses were enumerated in order, do I? About all I can be sure of is that not every person on the census is shown on the map.

My Henry A. White was not on the map, but his brother John White, who was listed just below Henry on page 115, was shown - right there on the road towards Killingly Center on the north side of the road, just three houses from Dr. E.A. Hill (page 116) and five houses from Rev. Daniel Williams (page 116). So I think I know about where Henry A. White lived in 1870 - between Dr. Hill and John White. On the map, it measures about 20 rods between John White and Dr. Hill - about 330 feet - essentially the length of a football field.

My Jonathan Oatley was age 79, and living with his eldest surviving son, Joseph H. Oatley in East Killingly in the 1870 census. J. Oatley's house is shown on the 1869 map about 18 rods south of the main east-west road through East Killingly, on the east side of the road that leads toward Foster RI to the east. Wm. Oatley's house is also shown two houses closer to the main east-west road.
My best guess is that Jonathan Oatley is living in the house he built or bought back in the 1830's when he first came to Killingly to pastor the Baptist Church. Now I know where it was in 1869.

I was surprised to find both of these families in "town" - I thought that they both lived to the north of the East Killingly center on the road toward East Putnam near the border with Rhode Island. They may have lived there earlier, but there maps are not available for the earlier period.

I learned the three things listed above from this exercise, and also learned the probably location of the White and Oatley homes in the 1870 time period.

I wonder if these houses are still there? I will try to find out - it's another good reason to go to New England on vacation again!

Have you tried to find the locations of your ancestor's homes using these maps? Did you find them? I'm going to go look for more later.

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