Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 83

Another beautiful day on the east coast with clear skies and bright sun as the country remembered 9/11. The local community was out in force at the park with police, fire trucks and families of all ages gathering.

I left Tom and Carol's about 9:30 making my way to Costco for replacement sunglasses and then on to Westfield, NJ, mom's childhood town. Westfield is charming. The downtown maintains the old store fronts while incorporating upscale shops. The neighborhoods are kid friendly with lovely homes - a great place to grow up. 713 Prospect Street is nicely maintained with colorful flowers out front. 540 Elm Street is a bit more overgrown. The vegetation makes taking a great photograph a challenge. I did knock on the door to ask permission to photograph the house but no one was home so I took pictures anyway.

While in Westfield, I stopped at Barnes and Noble to find a book with old area photographs. The store no longer carried the book but one in Edgewater did. I figured it couldn't be too far so I plugged the address into Fiona and we were off. The traffic wasn't heavy but the route was complicated. Fiona fired directions like a drill sergeant with a machine gun. Off exits onto thruways, under bypasses and onto ramps. I really don't like high bridges with low railings and nothing between you and the ground 70 feet below. But over we went moving ever closer to - Newark. The skyline from the top of bridges is lovely - but I really DON'T like those high bridges. Meanwhile, we are getting close to the Lincoln Tunnel exit. I figure I made a mistake, got off at ann exit, and Fiona whipped me into shape. Back towards the Lincoln tunnel I went. Now I don't know where Edgewater is but the Lincoln tunnel and NYC is not in the plan just for a book. Abandon ship! Turn off Fiona. Take any exit. And now I am GOING OVER ONE OF THOSE BRIDGES I REALLY HATE with a great view (ha!) of some river and the cranes and docks of Newark but I am headed west away from the Lincoln tunnel.

Of course without Fiona, I am on some two lane industrial road with trucks, large barricades, pots holes - hey, look at the cool cemetery - if I could just get through that construction site and the pigeons.... Well, maybe next time.

I finally pull into the parking lot at an Asian market and breathe. Fiona comes to life and I plug in the address of the Somerset County Historical Society. Wow - it will take an hour and 15 minutes to get there. 30 minutes later the exit for Westfield whizzes by. Hmmm - maybe I should have made a different choice about 2 hours ago. Finally, at 1:30 I arrive at a restored 1723 home in back of an industrial park next to a swamp (forgive me, marsh). I sign in at the front desk (unmanned) and go upstairs to great the 3 individuals who didn't even know I had come in. Collectively, their ages are more than 200 years but they are excited to see me as it breaks up their four hour stint (this is a twice a month effort). I let them know I am looking for Suttons and Coxes. They pull out books, read pamphlets, locate vertical files. Information is coming at me faster than I can photograph the pages. There is no time to read. Bottom line, I had 3 researchers working on our family for two hours. It was great. We now have moved those two lines from the mid-1700s to 1600 England sorting out cousins, brothers, and property. Interesting points:
  • Philip Cox Sr. and Jr. were buried on their property with other family members. The mini-cemetery became forgotten in a field and their gravestones used as door stops and paving stones. About 30 years ago, the county purchased the old farm area and ignored historical information to create a new roadway extension. Philip Cox, Jr., was one of the township's first Road Commissioners, and is now buried beneath a road and the tombstones are amongst the missing.
  • There were two branches of the Sutton family living in Somerset County at the same time. Thanks to some detailed research, we can sort them out and know which ones were our ancestors who moved to PA and Ohio. Interestingly, Suttons were Quakers who moved from Puritan-based Massachusetts in the 1600s and then disagreed on religion. One branch became Presbyterian, one became Baptist. I'm not sure which we are - not enough time to read all the documents.

As the library closed, I thanked the wonderful elders and headed back to Red Bank. Tom, bless his heart, helped me download the 100+ photos I had taken of the historical documents, clean them and then print them so I can piece together the family lines without having 16 files up on the computer screen.

I'll let you know if I find out anything new tomorrow.

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