Friday, December 4, 2009

Visiting Your Ancestor’s Town; What You May Discover

When the time comes and you have the chance to walk the ground where your ancestors walked, there are many emotions and thoughts that go through your mind. In coming, to Texas, I was here less than 24 hours when I traveled to Taylor, Texas to see where my grandfather was born, and where my ancestors lived their lives. Now most normal people would have gotten a map of the town and scouted out where they were going. Not me. After getting the general directions of how to get to Taylor, I was on my way. Seeing the sign of the Taylor City Limits and population my first thought was, I wonder what my grandparents would think of a town the size of 13,000 plus? I didn’t know where I was going or how to get to the old part of Taylor, but I kept driving, and as I entered the town all I could do was talk to myself, “I am really here.” The pictures I had seen of early years were nothing like it was today. It made me wondered what my ancestors thought of today’s technology advancements. Of cars being the main form of transportation rather than horse and buggies? What about the cotton industry? It seems no longer the thriving industry it once was. So much had changed since they were there over 100 years ago.

I didn’t know what to expect entering town, except this was not it. Taylor was once a thriving town and hubbub of Williamson County, but I did not get that feeling driving through town this day. It seemed in many ways it was a town forgotten. Driving into town, there were few businesses. One I chuckled at was a business that had water and jugs. There has got to be a story there! Then there is the chicken place, a couple gas stations, and a hotel until you reach the stop light at the end of the street. Not knowing which way to turn, I took the easy way out and turned right. Not knowing the town and looking somewhat deserted, I found a spot to make a U-turn and went the opposite direction. Ahhhhh, here is the town. It looked nothing like pictures I had seen from a website on the history of Taylor. I guess it could have been some of the same buildings, but no longer the same businesses, but the buildings were somewhat old.

Making my way down Main Street, the street signs on the left began to catch my attention. There was a 3rd Street, 4th Street, 5th Street, and then it dawned on me! Prior to coming to Texas, I had found a house For Sale in Taylor and had Googled it. I was curious as to where the house was compared to where my grandfather and his family had lived in the 1910 Census, which was somewhere on Howard Street. In looking at the map I Howard Street was only a couple of blocks from where the house was for sale, and I had to find 6th Street to find the other two points I knew in Taylor.

Going up 6th Street, I knew I was in the right area when I saw Murphy Park. Driving along and reading street names, I slammed on my brakes suddenly. There on the street sign it said, “DOAK” Street.

In my research, I had learned there was a Dr. A. V Doak who was a very prominent citizen in Taylor and also the first doctor of Taylor. From what I was told, Dr. Doak delivered my grandfather and so therefore, my grandfather Vernon Doak Moore was named after the doctor who delivered him, Dr. A. V. Doak. Now how many people can go through the town where their ancestors were and find a street name with their name on it? Okay, I guess a lot of us can and it is too dang cool!!!! Going a little further I found Howard Street, and that is where the eyes started to fill with tears. I did not know if I would find anything as spectacular as I had just found with DOAK Street, but I cruised down Howard Street. You could tell it was an older section of town because of the old beautiful Victorian homes. All I could think of is I wonder which one was theirs?

Since that initial trip to Taylor, I have returned several times and traveled down Howard Street. According to the census I believe their address was 494 Howard Street, that address no long exists. It will take more research of City directories, and county records, to see where they actually lived. And I still believe that in time, pictures will turn up of my Moore Family and others from Taylor, Williamson County, Texas. For now until those pictures appear and find their way to me, I will share with you some pictures I have taken in Taylor, Texas.

I might add I have the luxury of visiting Taylor whenever I feel the need to, but often times we o not have that luxury. If you are making plans on visiting the area where your ancestors once walked and lived, have a game plan. Here is what I would do, next time I go to check out my ancestor’s town.

1) Check the census of when they lived in the area, and see if you can find a street name of where they lived. Google the street name and see if it is still in the town.
2) Make a visit to the public library and see what kind of archives and history is available for your town. When I visited, there were town census, and microfilm copies of the newspaper.
3) In addition to the public library of your town, check out the libraries in other cities and town in the county. Here in Williamson County, the main Genealogical records at kept at the Round Rock library. However, visiting the Georgetown library, I found a very knowledgeable county historian.
4) Is there a History Museum for the town or county? Most have them and may have some beneficial information for you. Talk to someone there, and find out about the history, town and county advancements etc.
5) Is there a Genealogical Society for the area? One thing the genealogical society is doing for Williamson County, TX is putting all the cemetery records in FindAGrave with directions and GPS markings to help researchers in their search for ancestor’s graves. Contact the Genealogical Society and see if they can offer any hints or ideas that will help enhance your research and trip.
6) Find out in advance where to locate any county records you may be in search of. Are you looking for land records? Vital records? Court records? In Williamson County, TX they are all located in one area. This is a trip of a life time, treat it as such. Do your research and plan it out to make the most of your trip.
7) Connect with local genealogists or historians in the area that have the inside track of where to find records, and maybe take in some sight seeing on the side A good way to do this is the county boards on or again finding a local genealogical society.
8) Make a checklist. Places to go, records you are looking for and most importantly, your CAMERA! Record and document not only your trip, but also the records you are gathering. If you have never taken classes on how to use your camera for genealogy I highly recommend a class.

Okay here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure. These were taken in Granger, Texas, which is where my ancestors lived as well. Loved this town, not much there, but some of the old buildings are still standing! And do you know what a "Washateria" is?

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