I fell down the genealogy rabbit hole a few weeks ago. Anyone who has been involved with this type of research can tell you that once you start, sometimes you find yourself in place that you hadn’t meant to be. It all started at the Vermont Quilt Show over the summer. They had an exhibit called “For Fellowship, Love and Farewell” which was curated by Debra Grana and Sharon Waddell. One of the quilts drew my eye because it had a local connection to the Woodlawn Reformed Church in Schenectady. As my eyes roamed over the signature quilt, I noticed the name “Dorothy Rose”. I pointed it out to my companion laughing that it was my grandmother’s name. My grandparents lived in the Capital Region, but never to my knowledge in Schenectady.
Then I noticed to the right side, “RE Brenenstuhl”. Brenenstuhl was another family name and not a common one. Could this be my grandmother? The program said it was made in 1915. I did the mental math – my mother’s date of birth and calculated back. Roughly the right time period, she was alive then.
So my next step was the internet. If it was my grandmother she must have been young and the handwriting didn’t look super young. It’s large, but not really juvenile. A little research confirmed the church history that it was created in 1915. My grandmother was 4. Either she didn’t sign it herself, or it was another Dorothy Rose.
From there I accessed Ancestry.com. I found two Dorothy Roses in the Capital Region in that time period. Probably the other I thought.
I worked my way through census records until I hit something useful – the 1915 NY census. Fred and his wife Carrie were listed as living with their 4 year old daughter Dorothy – in Schenectady on Sanford street. A search of Google maps showed that was only 3 blocks from the church! My probability factor just went up a heck of a lot! A telephone book entry from the time period said 2 Sanford Street (now, somehow appropriately the Woodlawn Branch of the Schenectady County Public Library.)
So now I was on a mission. After plowing through a couple census records, what’s a few more? Along the way I learned that my great-grandparents took in boarders (not uncommon), and cared for one of their nieces. They also briefly lived less than a mile from where I live now in the suburbs. Using the family names on properties from the census and the names of the roads in one of the developments I’ve got a fairly good guess of where they lived.
Now I’ve got more questions. I’m trying chase down some of the other names on the block to see if there are other family members. Some of the names match with “Aunt” names I heard my mother use. And I’m wishing I had thought to get a good high-res picture to see if my great-grandparents are somewhere else on the quilt. (Which begs the questions, if they are, why aren’t they with Dorothy and if they aren’t on the quilt, why not?)
Lynn Makrin, over at This Quilting Mama, has a better picture of the whole quilt in her post “Red, White … More Red & White.” She has graciously agreed for me to link over to her post so you can see more of the quilt. In her photo, you can see “Dorothy” near the top center.
A little serendipity at the quilt show and I’ve got a dozen questions to ask a grandmother I hardly knew.