Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A slow summer...and a trip to Oyster Bay

So it's been slow going on the genealogy front lately. Maybe I've currently run out strands to follow. Maybe the sweltering heat is making me lazy and unmotivated. But it's been rough.

I haven't done much research over the past couple of months, but on another front that's slightly related to genealogy because it has to do with local Long Island history, my dad and I took a trip up to the Brookville/Oyster Bay area a couple of weeks ago. I was doing research for another project I'm working on and it's been interesting research because the founding families of the Town of Oyster Bay, which is north of the Town of Hempstead, where my ancestors settled, aren't the same families as the ones who founded Hempstead, but they're so close to each other that their histories can't help but bleed into each other. My dad and I stopped at a small local cemetery on Northern Boulevard in, I think, Upper Brookville, where I was looking for particular plots related to a 19th century double murder that happened there, and I saw all the names I knew from the research I had done, but there some of your Hempstead area staples as well, like the Remsens and the Seamans.

What was particularly interesting were how many Dutch names were in that cemetery, and of course it makes sense because it was Dutch territory. You don't get as many Dutch names in Hempstead because it was an English settlement, but this whole area, all of Kings and Queens and Nassau Counties belonged to the Dutch.

Other notes of interest, pertaining more to local history than to genealogy...

- Driving through that area of the North Shore, the so-called "Gold Coast" is amazing. All the old mansions and estates and even the newer mansions that have been built - it's kinda like being in another world. My jaw hurt from being agape for so long.

- One family name that was also prominent in that cemetery was Van Velsor, a family in the Oyster Bay/Huntington arena. That's a name that you should know if you're an American history buff because all those Van Velsors in that tiny, rundown cemetery were probably cousins of the famous American poet Walt Whitman, whose mother's maiden name was...Van Velsor.

So, visit cemeteries. They're full of useful information, full of surprising information, and just as genealogy is a way to remember and pay tribute to the people who came before us, taking a stroll through a cemetery is another way to honor and remember our families, as well as those families who no longer have anyone to remember them.

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