Friday, April 27, 2012
Combining maps, biographies, real estate ads to find the house of Elias Alley
I always like to start from what is known or what can be known, and to move from there to make logical connections. Often very little is known, so researchers have to creatively milk that tiny bit of information for all it is worth.
In tackling the question of where Elias Alley (born 1738 in New Rochelle, New York) lived in Dutchess County in the late 1700's, I looked first to the family history as written up in Settlers of the Beekman Patent by Frank J. Doherty. A very good description of Alley's property is given. It was located in an area close to Todd Hill Road and Sprout Creek. I looked these places up on a few maps online, and found some good images of Todd Hill Road. I could see the area that would have been owned by Alley. There is even a road called "Alley Road."
I did an online search for "Alley" at Todd Hill Road, and came up with a beautiful set of pictures of the Alley home, which happens to be for sale. The architecture is shown inside and out in the advertisement, and there is a good historical description as well, with a reference to Doherty's work on the family.
This isn't the first time that I have had such luck. A number of very old homes are for sale around the U.S., and because they are pricy, they get lots of space on a realtor's website, with photos and descriptions. You just have to catch a chance to view the images during the sale time.
The next step--to identify where the neighbors lived and which ones might be related. Since Alley moved away before the 1790 census, leaving son John in charge, according to Doherty, finding John in the census might be the logical next step, but of course it is not as easy as that. Either it wasn't John listed as head of household, or he is not clearly indexed-- more questions than answers there!