SNGF: Satisfying Genea-Moment

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings has asked us genealogy bloggers to talk about a satisfying genealogy research moment for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. I’m happy to report on my latest, which happened today!

I’ve been meaning to look into the history of the building in which I’m living — a huge Victorian mansion in Easton, Md., that has been divided into apartments. My landlord had mentioned that it was built in the 1880s, and that’s all I really knew.

I started with Sanborn maps of the area and was able to find the home on a 1919 map, along with its original house number and the house number at that time (which is still different from today’s). This is really valuable information to have when looking for a street address in other resources like the census, which was my next stop.

Now, usually one starts searching the census with a name, but I didn’t have that yet. Sanborn maps don’t typically show who owned a property. I know something about the history of the area though, so I plugged in a family name I knew would have been in Easton in the early 1900s. After locating the page where that family was listed, I started paging through until I reached the neighborhood where my house is located. Easton is a small town — this technique probably would not have worked for most other locales.

I live on one of the main drags in Easton, so there were still lots of listings to sift through. I also wasn’t having much luck finding the particular house numbers I’d seen listed in the Sanborn maps. Still, I made notes on which families seemed to be located nearby and then tried to find them in the subsequent census — my hope was that in the next census, the house I was looking for would appear close to the same names.

Or so I thought. I had begun my search in the 1910 census and then moved on to the 1920 one. No luck. I was getting pretty frustrated after repeating the technique in the 1930 census, especially with the quantity of un-numbered house listings that were on my street. Was the census taker being lazy or what?

Then my eyes latched onto a name: Wilson Tyler. BINGO. Tyler’s Lane is the name of the alley that runs behind my house — the biggest house in either direction for a block or more. In retrospect, I could and probably should have started there, but there are equally large houses on the other side of the alley — I didn’t want to make too many assumptions as I dove into this project.

The 1930 census has information on the approximate value of the dwellings recorded as well — the listing for the Tyler home was $20,000 — far more than those surrounding it. (I still need to figure out what that is in today’s dollars.)

So now I’m relatively certain I have the right name. I went back to the previous censuses (censi?) and discovered that there were actually two different spellings — Tyler and Tylor.

Then, I went to your friend and mine, Google. There, I turned up the fact that Wilson Tylor was the editor of the Easton Gazette (now the Easton Star-Democrat) in his day — big news indeed! I felt that would ensure there would be plenty of material by and about him — I wasn’t disappointed.

A quick search of the catalog at my local library brought up two books, including The Tylors of Talbot and Caroline County. I wasted no time high-tailing it to the Maryland Room at my library.

A picture at the front of the book — a group shot from the silver anniversary of the Tylors — teased me with the possibility it may have been taken on the front stoop of my house. The photo was cropped close around the group, but the posts holding up the front porch roof above their heads had the same design as those at my house;  the latticework under what was then a porch extending across the entire front of the house looked an awful lot like that under a side porch on my building. (I had my laptop with me and had pulled up a picture I took of the house earlier this year.)

I beamed when I opened the book to page 74 and there was my building in all its original glory the year it was built, 1888, with some of the Tylor kids posed in front of it. The text on the page said that the house cost slightly less than $5,000(!) at that time.

The book I found also gave names of those who rented rooms from the Tylors over the years and details how it once served as a boarding house for nursing students working at the hospital across the street (it’s still a popular rental spot for travelling and other nurses working at the hospital).

So, mystery solved! I’m excited to know more about the history behind where I’m living. Turns out that the books I found at the library are written by a relative of the Tylors. He’s still researching and planning to write another book on his family’s history — I may look him up and drop him a note.

ADDENDUM (10-11): I’m saddened to discover that Laurence G. Claggett, the Tylor relative and historian/author of The Tylors of Talbot and Caroline County that I mention above, died only last month. According to the Easton Star-Dem, he passed away Sept. 1.