Monday, April 8, 2013

Cousins in New York

We did something crazy last week - we collected a rental car in the middle of Manhattan in New York and had to negotiate our way out of the city. People in search of ancestors do silly things.

After negotiating our way down a busy 7th Avenue from Times Square we found 261 West 20th Street, the home of Mr Geniaus' 2xGreat-Uncle, John Gowans between about 1872 and 1882. John's wife and daughter lived at this address up until 1902.
Gowans home - 261 West 20th Street, New York
Our next stop was in Brooklyn and was the reason why we got a rental car to travel south rather than taking a train or 'plane. We wanted to visit John's grave in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Through the Brooklyn tunnel we went, down a couple of freeways, around a block or two and we found ourselves at Green-Wood. The first entrance we tried was closed for repairs.

First try at accessing Green-Wood Cemetery
After negotiating a few one-way streets we found ourselves at the imposing main entrance to this cemetery which is a National Historic Monument that is the final resting place for over half a million former New Yorkers. The gateman who welcomed us was incredibly helpful, he gave us maps, guidance and answered our questions with a smile. What a wonderful ambassador he was for the institution; how welcome we felt. He directed us to a computer where we entered the names of the deceased we were seeking; after doing this we were rewarded with printed maps with an x making the exact location of each grave we were seeking.

Inside the impressive main entrance of Green-Wood

A drive around the perimeter of this beautifully maintained cemetery brought us near the location of the Gowans grave. With our map in hand we located the Gowans grave within a few minutes. Of course we got a surprise. The monument was rather grand (although much smaller than some of the others at Green-Wood); as expected we found that John, his wife Anna Regina Bouton and their son James Gowans were interred in  the plot. We discovered that Anna's parents were also interred n the grave but  that Ida Rust (Anna's sister) who was also buried there was not mentioned on the monument.

Mr Geniaus at the Gowans grave


The information etched on the monument has given me extra clues as I continue the hunt to find Gowans cousins in the US.

My next stop was to find the grave of a Gowans niece, Agnes Korwan, who was mentioned in Anna Bouton's probate record that I had found earlier in the week at the New York Surrogate's Court. This grave was more modest than the Gowans one but it gave me approximate dates of birth and death to follow up.

Korwan grave

At our next stop we were looking for the grave of a Gowans Great-niece, Edna Germer, who was also mentioned in the probate document. Unfortunately we could not locate this grave as I imagine there was no headstone.  We then went back to the cemetery office to seek more information about the graves, their inhabitants and to see if we could find any clues to assist us. We did find another Germer grave near the site of Edna's resting spot; I need to find out if these people are relations.
Not the Germer grave I was seeking
The woman who dealt with us in the cemetery office was the complete opposite of the man in the gatehouse. She was as cold, uninterested and unhelpful. After our interaction with this woman we left the cemetery office  feeling rather flat. We had travelled half way around the world to seek information and all she would give us was the email address of a researcher which was not what we needed; we needed advice on how to access the information in the cemetery records and were quite prepared to pay for this help and information. This woman who did not listen to us and did not try to ascertain what we wanted also gave us the 'phone number of the Municipal Archives that we had already visited; I doubt that these archives would give us answers to the questions we had. This woman was an exceptionally poor representative of a most impressive site.

We were most impressed by the standard of maintenance that was evident throughout Green-Wood Cemetery, the gardens and monuments were in good order. The management are to be congratulated on their attention to this historic site.

One of the lakes at Green-Wood

View of Lady Liberty from Green-Wood


3 comments:

Kylie Willison said...

If only we treated our cemeteries the way the Americans treat theirs. Wow what impressive gates and the view of the Statue of Liberty is wonderful.

caiteile.com said...

WONDERFUL!!! and beautiful photos. Congratulations on such great finds Jill and thanks for sharing.

Kathleen Moore said...

I'm excited to see the photos of Green-Wood cemetery! I have some ancestors buried there and would love to visit. I've been told by volunteers that there is no headstone for my ancestors, but I think a visit would still be nice!

I'm glad you were able to see so much!

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