Like in Real Estate: Location, Location, Location is Key. Finding My Bio – People Part 1

As an adopted person growing up there a few things, very few things you know about your self.  For me I knew:

onondaga county
  1. I was born at St. Mary’s Hospital on Court Street. – My dad was a Pediatrician and he worked at St. Mary’s Hospital.  And people told me that they remember the day I was born and my parents took me home.
  2. I knew my birth day but not the time of day I was born or how much I weighed or if I came out naturally or not.
  3. My parents (adoptive) were my mom and dad.
  4. We lived in Syracuse, New York

This is all I knew about where I came from until I was 55 years old.  At 55 my mother passed away and both my brother and I got our court name change documents from when were adopted. My parents had kept them in the safe deposit box.

I then knew that my  legal name for a 15 months before I  became Sarah Needham was Mary Susan Roy.  I didn’t know if it was a name my bio mom gave me and was a bio family name or if it was a name the nuns gave me or if it was a name that was made up by my bio mom.

I googled the last name but it really didn’t turn up anything.  I held on to the document until I was 58 years old when I started my “official” search for my bio family.

It wasn’t until I did DNA testing did I find that my people came most recently from Watertown and Lowville, NY.

lowville antique map

As I did my research I was able to determine that my bio mom and bio dad met  in Watertown, NY. I hypothesized they both frequented a popular social establishment.

I knew my bio mom went there due to a local news paper article.

They both lived within about 4 miles of each other in 1956. His parents lived at the same location since the 1920’s and I had my bio mom’s address in 1956 also from that same news paper article.  In addition two of her Aunts  who she visited a lot also lived closed by.

A more public example of Location, Location, Location is the most recent episode of Finding Your Roots Season 5 Episode 1 Grand Parents and other strangers. It recounts the comic Andy Samberg mother’s story about finding her parents. She was also adopted and did not know who they were. I won’t spoil the ending here but location plays a key part. Here is the link

Location and geography is a key factor in building your genealogy tree.  As you go back in history people did not travel like they do today.  They met and married and had children in very small geographic areas.

It doesn’t mean that someone you found in California is not who you are looking for.  For example my Great Aunt who lived in Watertown and married her 1st husband in Watertown, after he died she re-married and moved to Ohio and took her children with her. I had another Aunt who moved with her children from Watertown to California.

But first start close to home and then branch out to additional areas. In my case I used newspaper articles and census data as well as Polk directories.  But you may want to also use military, immigration, birth, marriage records, death records and even DNA matches’ trees.

Remember not all information you find is accurate.  Be sure to have more than 1 source before hypothesizing any conclusions.  Not all paths in your search will lead to your answers you will hit brick walls and dead ends.  Keep searching.

Some searching ideas are Maps, Land records, City Directories, Newspapers, follow family groups, travel and migration routes, Jurisdictions.

Various types of maps are: Fire Insurance Maps, Real Estate Maps, Census Maps, Voter and Tax Maps, Atlas, Road and Waterways.

You can go to Libraries, such as the Library of Congress, Universities, & Web Sites.

Also American Ancestors has a very good Webinar by Alice Kane Using Maps in Your Family Research that I found helpful with a great more detail than here.

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