Cattaraugus County, New York

Cattaraugus County, New York, is where three lines on my father’s paternal side intersect in the early 1800’s:  the Dows, the Prices, and the Goodenoughs.  Below are the members of my family I’m researching there:

Families in Cattaraugus County, New York
Families in Cattaraugus County, New York

Revolutionary War Patriot Thomas Dow moved from Vermont to Cattaraugus with his wife Mary Barker late in life, to join several of their children already there.  Their daughter Elsie Barker Dow married William Henry Price in Cattaraugus County on Christmas Day in 1816.

William Price moved to Cattaraugus, along with several of his siblings, from Cortland County, New York.  They had all been born in Morris County, New Jersey, where their father had served in the Revolutionary War, and then the entire family migrated to upstate New York.  William Price was a prominent resident of Cattaraugus County, serving as Justice of the Peace, Coroner, and Associate Judge, as well as being elected the first Supervisor of the Town of Freedom.  He signed the minutes of the first town meeting.

William and Elsie’s daughter Malvina was born in 1820 in Cattaraugus County, and married Darwin Erasmus Goodenough in 1838.  Darwin’s parents David and Hannah, along with several of his siblings, had moved from Lewis County, New York to Cattaraugus County around 1835.  Darwin and Malvina left the area for Wisconsin in the late 1840’s.

On my first day in Cattaraugus, I easily located David and Hannah Goodenough’s graves in the Delevan Cemetery.  It felt really good to pay my respects.

Gravestone of David Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York
Gravestone of David Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York


Gravestone of Hannah Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York
Gravestone of Hannah Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York

It’s a shame that Hannah’s gravestone seems to have been cut off at the top so that her name is no longer present.

There were actually five Goodenough gravestones, all in a row:  David and Hannah, and three of their children.  Adoniram Judson Goodenough and Hannah Keene Goodenough were both single, and the third stone was for a married daughter, Dinah Goodenough Sage, and her infant child, who both died in childbirth.  Dinah was only 29 and left behind two very young sons.

The next day, I found Thomas and Mary Dow’s graves in the Arcade Rural Cemetery in neighboring Wyoming County.  William Price is buried there as well, but I wasn’t able to locate a gravestone.  Elsie was 52 years old when William died in 1844; she remarried and is buried in East Aurora, New York with her second husband.  I’ll have to visit her grave on another trip.

Gravestone of Thomas and Mary Dow, Arcade Rural Cemetery, Arcade, New York
Gravestone of Thomas and Mary Dow, Arcade Rural Cemetery, Arcade, New York

As you can see, Thomas and Mary Dow’s stones are illegible, and you would have no idea that a Revolutionary War soldier is buried here.  I’m going to remedy that.  Thomas Dow’s stone should be clearly marked as a Patriot and I will make sure it happens.

I also visited the Cattaraugus County Historical Museum, which had wonderful resources for genealogists, and very helpful people.  I asked if they knew where the records might be for the Town of Freedom.  They didn’t know, but referred me to the historian for the Town of Freedom, who I called the next morning.

My visit with this delightful woman, Lorna Spencer, was one of the two highlights of my trip.  Lorna is in her late 80’s, and a plethora of knowledge about the history of the area.  Among many other things, she helped me to pronounce some names which I was sure had been lost to history… can you say “Adoniram Judson”??  This was the name of a gr-gr-gr-uncle of mine, the single son of David Goodenough, one of the gravestones in the Delevan Cemetery.  I was pronouncing it ALL wrong.  The emphasis is on the long I sound in the middle syllable. I had no idea that it was the name of a Baptist minister of the time, who had gone to preach in Burma – apparently many families named their children after him.

Lorna was interested in more information on the Goodenoughs buried in the Delevan Cemetery.  I was really glad to provide it so that my family is not forgotten.  Now the folks taking care of the cemetery will have the information to pass on to others who might inquire, and Hannah will have a name!

The other highlight was my visit to the Cattaraugus County Courthouse.  I first went to the Office of the Surrogate Court, which has all of the original probates from the formation of the County, available for public inspection.  I was able to view the original probate file for my ancestor William Price – papers which my gr gr gr grandmother Elsie Price had touched and signed in 1844.  I literally had goose bumps while touching it.

I also saw, touched, and photographed the original probates (1860’s) for the two single children of David and Hannah in the cemetery, Adoniram and Hannah.  We often hear that the probate files of the unmarried siblings of our ancestors are an amazing resource.  Well, I can vouch for that.  Both files were filled with information about all their nieces and nephews, their married names, and their residences at the time.  But the piece de resistance and the highlight of those files: one contained a promissory note signed by my direct ancestor, their father, David Goodenough.  Any time you can see your ancestor’s actual signature is a real treat!!

But that was not the highlight of the day. After looking at the probates in the Surrogate Court, I was in the County Clerk’s office looking at Miscellaneous Records and Mortgages.  Across the room at the back was a clerk working at one  of the surfaces – I don’t even know what to call it – it’s where the big books are stored underneath, and you pull them up and put them on the surface to read them.

Well, it got to the end of the day, and the clerk was gone.  I was over in that area, looking for early mortgage books.  I got down on my knees in the area where the clerk had been, so I could read the titles of the books underneath there more easily, and I saw several very old books. Naturally, I took a look.

Here is the first page of one of the books:

Book of County Officers, Cattaraugus County Courthouse, New York
Book of County Officers, Cattaraugus County Courthouse, New York

If you are a genealogy researcher, you will understand how magnificent this is.  This is the original book of officers from when the county was formed in 1817, and my ancestor William Price is listed there – he’s at the bottom of the page.  He was sworn in as Assistant Justice, and Justice of the Peace, on 18 June 1817, almost 200 years ago.  AND, I believe that’s his original signature, which means he touched this piece of paper!

Looking further through the book, I found William Price over a half dozen more times, taking the oath of the County Coroner, Justice of the Peace, and Assistant Justice in subsequent years.

I really have no words to express how incredible this whole experience was!  All I can say is that I’m definitely coming back to Cattaraugus County to see Lorna, but also to continue my research on these families!

Land Has a Heart

I’m a really big believer in the use of land records in genealogy research.  Land records have helped me solve some of my toughest genealogical problems.  One time, I was able to get back several generations with the information in a single deed.  At the very least, land records help to locate our ancestors in a specific place and time.

My research into the land records of Washington County last week was especially personal and emotional.  For my entire life, I’ve heard the stories of the Fourth of July gatherings at my mother’s grandparents’ farm.  All of the aunts, uncles and cousins were there.  These were some of her most precious memories.  Below is a description in my mother’s own words:

Homework Assignment written by Mary Payne Furlong, age 17, 1 October 1948
Homework Assignment written by Mary Payne Furlong, age 17, 1 October 1948

In October of 1948, my mother was still heavily grieving, and you can hear it in her words.  She had lost both of her grandparents in the previous eleven months.

Below is a visual – my mother is on the far right, her sister Arden is to her left, and then her brother Jimmy.  The other two children are cousins.

Playing at Grandfather’s farm, Fourth of July, about 1940

So finding out when and how my mother’s grandparents acquired the farm where my mother spent so many happy summers in her childhood was really a very personal mission.  My great-great grandparents were James Furlong and Mary Ball.  Their son, James William Furlong, married Mary Payne; these were my mother’s grandparents and two of her most favorite people of all time.

Mary Payne and James William Furlong, 50th Wedding Anniversary, 18 November 1941
Mary Payne and James William Furlong, 50th Wedding Anniversary, 18 November 1941

As I‘ve mentioned before, many years ago I obtained some land records from Washington County using the “grab and go” method.  I had no citations for these records, nor did I know if they were all or only part of the collection of deeds for James Furlong and James William Furlong.  Reminiscent of Thomas MacEntee’s “Genealogy Do-Over”, I needed to go back and re-do everything the correct way.  Which I did, and I now have about twenty five deeds scanned on my computer.

What now?  Well, I have to abstract all the deeds, and organize them before I can start analyzing them.  I will read each deed several times, and then summarize the basic information into a deed abstract.  Then I’ll make a table listing the transactions in chronological order, to see if I can trace the path of the land parcels through time.  That will take many hours.

Deed Abstract, Walker to Furlong, 1883
Deed Abstract, Walker to Furlong, 1883

I’ve created a template that I use to abstract deeds, to make sure I don’t forget to note some critical piece of information.  I’m happy to send anyone a Word version of it if you’re interested – just send me a private message on the Contact page of the blog.

I’ve heard people say that for every hour spent doing on-site research, we should plan on five hours of documentation and analysis of the records retrieved.  I really think that’s true.  I spent a full day last week, about 5-6 hours, doing research in land records at the Washington County Register of Deeds Office.  But since I haven’t yet spent the 25-30 hours it will take to process and analyze it all, I don’t have any firm conclusions yet.  I do, however, have a few observations to report.

After a cursory review, the land records indicate that James Furlong, the coal mining immigrant from Wales who came to Washington County with his wife and two small children right around the end of the Civil War, was able to purchase four acres of land in 1874, and then another ten acres in 1883.  James died in 1896 and then his wife, Mary, in 1901, but the land wasn’t distributed to the heirs until 1906.  This was because James’ will stipulated that the executors “hold the property intact” until the youngest child turned 21, which happened in 1906.

Below is the top of one of the 1883 deeds and the subject of the above abstract:

Deed, Walker to Furlong, 1883
Deed, Walker to Furlong, 1883

And, I was able to see that the ten acres which James Furlong purchased in 1883 was the land which ended up with his son, James William Furlong, the same land that my mother loved.  There’s more work to be done to get the whole story, but I’m happy to know this much for now!

How I Spend My Time

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a week since I last posted – time is flying!  I have many posts half written but I haven’t actually completed any or posted them because I don’t have time.

How can that possibly be?  I’m retired, for pete’s sake!

First, let me just say that all is well – I’m happy, healthy and safe.  I’m having a fabulous time researching my ancestors in this area, and I’ll write a separate post (s) about those experiences.  Here’s a picture of the campground where I am this week:


The trip here was an easy three hour ride, and for the first time, I felt like I could relax enough to find a classic rock station and sing along.  A really big improvement over the white knuckles of the first few times!

But – back to being busy.  You would think that being retired, I could just spend all day every day doing exactly what I want to do.  Not true, perhaps especially because I’m living in an RV.  I still have to do the daily tasks that we all have to do, like cooking, cleaning, food shopping, laundry, and bill paying. But everything seems to take longer in an RV.  I’m not complaining at all, but here are some observations.

When I’m cooking, it seems there’s never enough storage and counter space, so I’m always juggling washing dishes with food preparation.  Sometimes it takes longer to find something, either because it’s buried underneath 50 other things, or because I can’t remember where I put it and I have to dig for it in several places.  It all takes more time.

As for laundry, I have learned that Quarters are King.  At my first campsite, it cost $6.50 to do one load, wash and dry – that’s a lot of quarters!  So quarters are in demand, and they can be hard to come by.  In one town, I stopped at a bank to buy a roll of quarters, and they said they only provide them to customers.  Well, I’m a customer of two different banks, and neither had a branch within 100 miles.  So I’ve had to start scheming about how I’m going to accumulate quarters.  When I’m buying something with cash, I plan it so that my change can include several quarters to add to my stash.  Accumulation of quarters is a THING.  It takes time.

For a lot of reasons, I prefer to shower in the bath house at the campground.   The shower in my rig will be absolutely fine if I need to use it, but the water volume and pressure is just not the same.  But it takes longer to go to the bath house, and there are always unexpected glitches.  When I first used the shower at the campground I’m in now, I walked all the way there and then had to come back for – you guessed it – QUARTERS!!

Food shopping has to be done more frequently because I have to buy in small quantities.  And, I have to figure out where the grocery store is in each new place.

I have to say that cleaning is a dream.  It takes me about 10 minutes.  I have a little bit of linoleum floor, a little bit of carpet, and then there’s the teeny bathroom.

To get mail, I use a mail forwarding service in Florida.  They throw away obvious junk mail, and then scan the envelopes so you can view them.  You can choose to have them sent to you, held there, or shredded.  It’s a fabulous service.  I have to consider where I’m going to be so I can time the next mailing.  So far, it’s worked well.  The campgrounds don’t mind receiving my mail, and it’s always arrived in time before I have to move on.  But it does take time to coordinate – longer than just checking the mail when it’s delivered to your home every day.

I spend time fiddling with the TV.  I had a new digital antenna put on the roof, which means I can get “over-the-air” stations.  But there’s a process to go through at each new campground, which involves pointing the antenna in the correct direction and then programming the TV to find the strong stations.  It often takes several attempts.

One thing that takes a LOT of time is trip planning.  Finding the right route, finding the right stops on the route, and finding the right campground in the right location – it can take half a day.  With the RV, I need to be careful that my route doesn’t take me somewhere scary, like under a low bridge, or up a steep hill.  I try to stay on the interstates as much as possible, and I use a GPS which is specifically designed for RV’s.

So I research on Google maps to get the big picture, then check the GPS to see if the route is good for the RV.  Once the route is settled, I estimate when and where I’ll need to stop along the way.  I don’t want to just pull off the highway and look for a gas station.  Not all gas stations will work for an RV towing a car – there’s not enough turn around space, or perhaps not enough height.  So I locate gas stations along the route, and look at them on Google Earth so I know exactly what my approach will be, as well as my exit.

Did you know that I can’t go in reverse in the rig while it’s towing the car?  Eric has taught me to always know my escape route.  That’s constantly on my mind when I’m driving, and that’s why I research all the stops in advance.

In addition to researching the route, I research campgrounds. If any of you are a researcher like me, then you know what’s involved with identifying the place, reading all of the online reviews, examining maps to determine proximity to your destination, and then contacting the campground to check on pricing and availability.  It’s really a process!  And if I’m moving to a new place each week, which I’ve been doing this fall, it takes a lot of time to nail down all the stops.   On top of the planning, I’m spending one day a week packing up, driving, and setting up at the next place.

And I have to keep good records of RV expenses, miles driven, the cost of gas, etc.

Aside from the activities of daily life,  RV-specific tasks, and travel planning, I’m working on genealogy, which involves online and onsite research, processing the information I find (for example, abstracting deeds), doing an online workshop with an advanced genealogy group which involves homework, and doing genealogy work for clients.  I’m also working on a couple of tax returns which are due shortly, and getting caught up with my personal bookkeeping.  And, of course, maintaining this blog!

I’m still learning how to do this new life and how to schedule my days.  Amazingly, I feel like I’m trying to do too much.  I need to find that happy middle ground where I’m doing enough to have fun with it, and not so much that I feel stressed.  One thing I’ve certainly recognized is that I can easily spend the entire day on the computer, just like when I was working.  This is something that needs to change.

It’s all part of the learning and adjustment process!