Research can go well beyond a single line on a census record. If the recorder was accurate, or at least somewhat mostly accurate, you can find a lot of information beyond that single line of data.
As part of my ongoing research of learning about my ancestors, I got curious to see exactly how and where they lived. Going back to the various census records, I started recording the household addresses and then looking them up in Google Maps. While Dayton has grown and changed a lot over the past 100+ years, some things are surprisingly still the same.
Some of my ancestors’ houses are now part of the Dayton Convention Center parking garage. Another house is where the twin towers apartment building sits and one address shows me a picture of an over pass on 35.
However, there are still a few gems still standing. Through research and detailed obituaries, my 2nd great grandfather, John and Elizabeth (Westendorf) Weckesser purchased this particular house in St. Anne’s Hill District in 1914 and was later occupied by their daughter, Viola, until she passed away in 1952.
John was employed as a tailor and Viola was a listed as a seamstress her entire life (as recorded in the census records).
Furthering my curiosity of this house that exists and appears to be in good living condition, I went kind of a stalkerish route and looked up the owners on the county property record search.
Around Christmas 2015, I was able to contact the previous owner who’s about my age online. I actually sent a letter old school postal services to the current owner. They were both excited to hear of my family that had a past in this house.
It was the previous owner who mentioned an antique sewing machine in the basement and the current owner who confirmed it was still there.
The lady was excited to receive such a letter because for that year, the house was going to be featured on the St. Anne’s Hill historical walking tour that the neighborhood has each year. She was excited that the house was going to be included but was unprepared as she didn’t know too much of the history of the house. My letter and the story that I could provide of the house solved her problem.
In a few short email exchanges, she confirmed that the sewing machine was still in the basement, sent me some pictures from the walking tour and a blog post that was written by a guest on the walking tour about how moving this all was. Read her blog by clicking here. It’s a very interesting read!
Every summer, I travel back to Ohio to visit family and friends. With this trip, I decided to step out of my comfort zone a little and take my aunt to this house to get the sewing machine back into the family as the current owner is happy to be a part of this story. I’m not only getting a family artifact out of this adventure, I’m showing my aunt a piece of her history as well.
So as we speak, the sewing machine, that hasn’t seen daylight in over 50 years, is waiting to be put on a truck to ship out to my house in Colorado. I can’t sew but I want to make it work and look nice.
All for digging deeper from one line on a census record.
Stay tuned for updates to the sewing machine!