Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finding Grandma's House

My cousin posted on Facebook a picture with our great grandparents, our grandmother and her brother standing in front of a house. The photo was taken in 1908 of their home. She asked me if I knew if the house was still standing.

I actually didn't know but I do remember going to visit my great uncle who was living in the house at that time. Although I was still in grade school the last time I saw the house, I have  memories of several visits there.

As a part of building my family history, I had purchased a 1888 plat map book of the county in which the house stood and a book of burials in the same county. My father took me a few times to see the cemetery with his grandparents and great grandparents graves. At that time the cemetery surrounded the church. In the book of burials, I found the names of my father's family listed at that cemetery but not that of my great uncle. In perusing the book, I discovered that my great uncle was not buried in the cemetery with his parents and grandparents, but elsewhere.

Several years ago my sister and I went to a family reunion on my mother's side. When we moved, she was too little to remember anything about the house, so I thought that it would be fun to visit the cemetery where our father's grandparents and great grandparents are buried. Sadly, the church was demolished and a larger, modern church built near the graveyard.

Since we were in the area, I decided to visit the cemetery where my grandmother's brother was buried too. Little did I realize then that the house was very nearby. Nearly a decade later, I had more tools and information at hand to help me see if I could find the house.

My great uncle and great aunt had no children. When my grandmother's brother died in an auto accident, his wife inherited the house and property. The cemetery in which my great uncle is buried is situated on a portion of the farm. After her death, she left the property and cemetery to her church.

Using Google Maps, I located the cemetery. The satellite view wasn't very revealing. Luckily I found there was a street view of the cemetery and church. Since the cemetery was on the corner of two streets, I was able to navigate along both streets until I found a house that vaguely looked like my grandmother's family home.

The house was obscured by trees and the resolution of the photo was not sufficient enough to allow zooming without the image being blurred. So the next step was to use Google Earth. Again with trees in the way, it was difficult to make a positive identification. That is when I took out the 1888 plat book. Between the image from Google Earth and the plat map, I was pretty certain that I had found the house.

I remember my father turning from the highway onto a long dirt driveway. I could see such a lane in both Google Maps and Google Earth. From Google Maps, I obtained an approximate street address, and was able to pinpoint the address on a contemporary zoning map of the township in which the property was situate.

Zillow had an entry for that address. According to Zillow, the house was built in 1890 and included about 5 acres of land. My great grandparents built their house about that time on a 160-acre parcel. The houses around it, according to Zillow, were built much later. The roof line that I viewed in Google Earth was identical with the exception of what appeared to be an addition at the back of the house.

When I last visited the house, it did not have indoor plumbing. It had a pot bellied stove in the parlor and a wood burning stove in the kitchen. There was a pump in front of the house for water, and outhouse in the back near the barn. The house did have electricity and an old fashioned crank phone. My cousin asked me if the house had indoor plumbing now. Zillow says the house has one bathroom.

I guess the answer is yes! It is probably in the addition that I could see on Google Earth.

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