Monday, October 28, 2019

Street Smarts

It isn't often that, in researching our own family's history, we run into a street name, or a building name, and discover it was named after our own ancestor. I know I have never had that experience, myself, but in working on a recent research project, I've encountered a surname which got me wondering: whose name was it which was used in naming a certain street, anyhow?

Let me give you the set up, before I launch into my story—a story which, incidentally, currently does not have an ending. True to form in keeping with my reputation of being the genealogical guinea pig, I am taking you through this research story as I go through my paces. I may—or may not—find the answer to my research quest at the end of this journey.

The project I'm currently working on is part of our local genealogical society's program to recognize people who settled in our county at least one hundred years ago. Of course, we have more than one designation for recognition, of which this hundred year category is the least restrictive. The program reaches back to the date in which our county was first established—which, being part of a state such as California, isn't all that far back in time.

I've been looking at the ancestral lines of one particular applicant to this First Families program, someone who has two grandparents whose names are fairly well known in the city in which I currently live. However, as the point of the project is to ascertain the earliest date at which an applicant's family line settled in our county, I needed to stretch the timeline back farther than the lifespans of these two grandparents.

That's when I stumbled upon a realization: this pedigree isn't going to contain just two surnames of interest in our county; there are likely several more.

As with all genealogical research, stretching out to check collateral lines, and reading obituaries and other newsy notes, became the order of the day with this applicant's project. In the process, I stumbled upon an information-rich obituary of an ancestor in one line of that extended family. The details were too fascinating for me to just set aside, but the information needed more reliable support than just what was mentioned in an obituary. I needed to find additional references.

That's when I went looking for more supporting documentation. In the midst of that process, I ran across a surname which was significant in another town in our county. Could this person be part of the family of that name? Someone in that family was surely the one for whom a major road in that city had been named.

That got my curiosity. I've never really researched the history of how a road receives its name, though I've run across stories linked to my own family research, and been tempted to give it a try. While some aspects of research for this project bring us through the usual paces—documentation of birth, marriage, and death to make sure we are talking about the right person—ascertaining the link between the surname and the specific individual honored by the naming of a street (or a building) takes further research.

Tomorrow, I'll lay the groundwork for this story and introduce the individual and his family. We'll take it from there after that point, to see what nexus, if any, there is between this individual, a founder of the city, and the naming of one of its major streets.

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