In Other Lines: Barbara Scott

The NYG&B’s member magazine, the New York Researcher, publishes a column where our members tell their stories. This column in our summer 2022 issue is a shortened version of Barbara Scott’s full story.  

In Other Lines 

Barbara Scott | Villa Park, Illinois | Member since 2005 

What is your earliest genealogical recollection?  

Second grade—my mom got a mysterious phone call informing her that her (paternal) grandfather had died. It was a cold January day, and I at the front window looking at the snow, listening. I thought, “How come I don’t know my mom’s grandpa?” Wanting answers, I pestered my mom and grandma. I was told my grandpa had a fight with his father and brother, and they hadn’t talked to each other since before I was born. I wanted to know more. I asked my grandma and grandpa who their parents and grandparents were. Grandma showed me family pictures she kept in an old purse. My grandpa’s side of the family remained largely unknown until I finally found and met my great-uncle in 2000.  

How did you get started in genealogy? Or who sparked your interest in genealogy? 

My “official” genealogical research began in graduate school at Michigan State University. My great-grandfather (mom’s maternal side) was born in New York and raised on a farm near Albion, MI. I located the farm on a plat map and found the family in census records. I found a potential distant relative in an Albion-area phone book. We met for a drive through Riverside Cemetery, in Albion. I learned a lot from that visit, and my new-found relative gave me my first real dose of genealogical material.

The State of Michigan Library in Lansing has a very good genealogical section, and that was where I learned about actual research, not just pestering Grandma. Grandma got sick and tired of me looking at the old pictures and asking so many questions. She finally put the pictures away and told me not to look at them anymore. “What do you care about all that old stuff?” she asked. “They’re all dead and eaten with worms.” My sister, who is a scientist but not particularly interested in genealogy, perked up and said, “Worms, where’s the worms? I want to see worms!” I was undeterred! 

Tell me about your career? 

I taught instrumental music in Elmhurst, Illinois—strings and orchestra in grades 4-8, plus beginning band. I directed a middle school full orchestra (strings with added woodwinds, brass, and percussion) of approximately 85 students. Since my 2016 retirement, I’ve done some substitute teaching, but only band and orchestra.  

What are your other-than-genealogy interests? 

In addition to collecting ancestors, I have life-long collection of Barbie Dolls. Being born in 1959, the same year as Barbie, Uncle Fred, gave me my first Barbie Doll when I was three. It was blonde-haired with a ponytail. Grandma was horrified! “Fred!” she said, “What do you give a little kid an ugly thing like that for?” I was crazy about that “ugly thing.”  

I love cats—you could say that I collect them. There are four of them sitting nearby as I write this: Kate, Cubby, Tango, and Gizmo. And I am a do-it-yourselfer. I spent most of March updating the kitchen, and now my green thumbs are installing raised beds for blueberries and raspberries.  

Climbing over the fence in a small cemetery. It was on private property, and I had the owner’s permission. 

What’s an interesting family story? 

“Genie-ology – A Message in a Bottle.” As I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, I did not know my maternal grandfather’s family while I was growing up. Except for Grandpa and one of his cousins, I knew no one on that side of the family. This cousin had a sister who went to Denmark to research the family in the 1950’s. After a visit with Grandpa’s cousin about 1982, and talking about genealogy with her, I was given all the information that came from Denmark: charts, notes, and photos.

What a gift that was. Included in this information was an address for my grandpa’s brother, who had since moved from the Chicago suburbs to northwest Illinois. In 2000 (my mom and grandparents were gone I set out to find my estranged great-uncle. Finding an obituary for his wife, Florence, I next found her on the top level in the mausoleum. My great-uncle was still living, but he’d moved to Arizona, and the cemetery had no current contact information for him. What to do? There was a vase holder next to Florence’s name and dates. It was too high for me to reach. I went to the store across the road and purchased a small ladder. I emptied my water bottle, wrote a note including my contact information, rolled it up and stuck it in the bottle, replaced the cap, and climbed the ladder to leave the water bottle in the vase holder.

A couple days later my great-uncle emailed me. His friend had come to put some flowers at Florence’s crypt and found my note. I was thrilled we connected!! We knew each other for a quality-filled three years before he passed away. I learned so much about my family from him. The 1950s rift didn’t matter between us. He was so much like my grandpa; they had the same build, the same features, the same hair (or lack thereof), the same voice, and the same mannerisms. Priceless.  

Have you held a family reunion? 

Well, sort of. I have some second cousins who live in Michigan. This is the family of my grandma’s sister. My mom was an only child, and she was close to her cousins. My grandma, known as “Aunt Marie” to everyone, was the center of the family. She was in close touch with her nieces and nephews, even though my grandma’s siblings were not always in touch with each other. I grew up knowing my second cousins quite well. 

My second cousins now have children and grandchildren of their own, and some of the younger generations are quite interested in their family history.  

About two years ago, my second cousins and I loaded up a caravan of vehicles and headed to Albion, MI to visit the ancestors who resided there from 1870 to 1906. I put together a notebook for the kids showing how we are all related and included photos of our ancestors, the outside of the house and farm, and pictures from the cemetery. My great-great-grandfather’s home is still standing. The present owner of the house was mowing the lawn when our entourage arrived. She was most congenial and interested in the reason for our visit.

Our family left this home in 1906, and the current owners purchased it in the 1970s. There were only two other owners in the interim. The current owner didn’t know her home’s history prior to 1906—she now has the notebook, too. Then magic happened! We were invited in to meet her mother and see the house. Oh my! I had to catch my breath. The interior wood was all original. The plaster walls. The tall doors. The addition on the back where running water was brought in.  

We continued to Riverside Cemetery. Our oldest ancestor from the Michigan line was my great-great-grandfather, William Whitcher (b. 1832 Genesee County, New York–1906, in the home we just visited). The youngest family member on our field trip was born in 2015, 183 years and seven generations of family history!  

Tell us about your experience searching the 1950 United States census and the NYG&B scavenger hunt? 

The scavenger hunt was fascinating. At first, I had to become familiar with the format and layout of the 1950 census. I practiced looking up immediate family and friends whose 1950 addresses were known. The Enumeration District finder at Ancestry converted the street address into the ED, and each ED was easy to search. I just scanned the street names and addresses until I got close, then focused on the names. Eventually I learned how to better navigate the artificial intelligence index.

For example, I didn’t just look for a single name, but looked for the names of spouses and children on to make sure I had the right family. Calculating a person’s age was also helpful in deciding between people with similarly misspelled names. There are many misspellings. Be creative and keep an open mind. Lots of people named “Mary” are indexed as “Many.” 

I used a combination of genealogy sites such as Ancestry and FamilySearch to research the people in the scavenger hunt. I also looked for biographical information outside of genealogy sites to help determine where a particular person might be living in 1950. I even found some hints in real estate records. Some of the sports and entertainment figures have been harder to find. This is probably due to variances in using stage names, married names, or maiden names. Sometimes people were in the same location as they were in the 1940 census. Those was easy to find; just use an address converter to get the 1950 ED, and if you were lucky, they were still there. 

 The first night that I worked on the scavenger hunt yielded 5 names. I found them in about three hours. My second submission included seven more names that I found working on and off over the course of several days. My most recent three names took a lot longer to find, and I still have ten to go. This project has been fun and informative. I’ve learned a lot more about some of the people with ties to New York.  

What brought you to the NYG&B? 

Grandma told me that her father’s family came from Albany, NY. Working my way back took me through Albion and Jackson, MI, and then to Batavia, Genesee County, NY. The next generation took me across New York, with stops in Penn Yan and Watkins Glen. Finally, I arrived in Albany where I learned that I am descended from the Knowlton and Rexford families, for whom Rexford, NY is named. Edward Rexford was my fifth great-grandfather.

The historical marker that I donated to the Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga County, marking the location of the old Rexford Cemetery, near Rexford.

I met my friend, and distant cousin, Isabel, while researching near Rexford and Clifton Park. Isabel is historically minded and very interested in genealogy and historical preservation. With her help, an historical marker was erected at the former site of the old Rexford Cemetery. Isabel did the legwork with the officials at the Town of Clifton Park, and I did much of the family research. Off we went to the casting company and designed the sign which was erected in 2016 and matches the historical marker at the Rexford house down the road.  

Another New York connection was helping Sue, an employee and friend of Isabel, to find her biological family. Sue was adopted at birth. She had biological relatives who lived in Milwaukee, WI, which is about an hour and a half drive from my home. I went to the cemetery and located a headstone, one of the round ones, that had rolled off its base. Many headstones in the surrounding area had photographs on them. I was determined to roll that stone over, hoping to find a photo. After a lot of pushing, there it was! The first picture that Sue had of one of her ancestors.  

New York has been good to me in my genealogical pursuits. Honest research and hard work are what brought me to the NYG&B. I appreciate what is offered, and I try not to let my membership lapse. 

Have you always had an interest/a passion in genealogy (or history? or research?) How does being a member continue to fuel that passion? 

I’ve had a passion for family history since I was a child. My serious research began in 1980. The NYG&B is continually adding resources and information to the website. I can go back and check for updates, and often find something new. Now is a great time to do genealogy research with more and more resources coming online. Whenever I get a hankering to see what’s new, I can turn to the NYG&B website for a “genealogy fix.”  

What is the most surprising thing you have ever found in your research/studies/etc.? 

This is another New York research story that brought me in contact with a whole branch of my family tree. I was at a dead-end on my great-grandfather’s line, so I took another approach and set out to research his cousins. Afterall, they had the same grandparents and family lines. This trip took me to Manhattan, where most of his cousins lived as adults. I took the Metro North (Harlem) line to the Mount Pleasant stop and took my well-organized list of questions into the cemetery office. The receptionist was kind and helpful.

She found a cemetery worker to drive me up to the family mausoleum. He had a key and let me go inside. Sure enough, some of my great-grandfather’s “missing” cousins were in fact in the mausoleum, their urns lined up neatly along the windowsill and on top of Aunt Jane’s crypt. I reported my findings back at the office. The receptionist took down the information then went and got another file. Sure enough, there was a family tree sketch in the file, and it perfectly matched the information that I provided. Convinced that I was related to the folks in the mausoleum, she gave me the contact information for the person who was listed as the next of kin in the file. I thought long and hard about how best to contact Jackie. I wrote her a letter explaining how I thought we are related and enclosed copies of some of the photos from my great-great-grandmother’s photo album.

Jackie called me. She was delighted! Not only are we related, but she has some of the same photos as I included with my letter. My great-great-grandmother and her great-grandmother were sisters! This makes Jackie my mom’s third cousin. She invited me to her home and shared several suitcases of family information with me. Oh boy! I was like a kid in a candy store. Between the two of us we filled in many leaves on the family tree. Interestingly, Jackie and I were both told as kids that our family was descended from Ethan Allen. I have not found that to be true, but given that we both heard the same story, we now know which line it came from. What I did find was that a distant relative served in the Revolutionary War with Ethan Allen, but I have nothing to show that they were related.  

What are the best things about being a NYG&B member? 


The NYG&B has so many resources. Now that so much information is available online, it isn’t necessary to fly to New York to find answers.  

The NYG&B is an active group. Collections are constantly updated with more and more information. The webinars and presentations are excellent. I particularly appreciate the addition of the New York State death index and the recent addition of some NYC vital records. 

The NYG&B publications are excellent. I have found my family in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. I trust the information published in this scholarly journal.  

The NYG&B provides many resources for furthering research in New York. State and county publications are available for purchase. Research tips are provided online through a library of articles and guides. The webinar library, the Online Collections, blogs, and the annual Family History Conference all provide valuable research opportunities.  

The website is excellent. It is easy to go back and see what information and records have been added. I’ll often find new information that was posted since my last visit. I’d recommend that anyone with New York roots spend some time researching the NYG&B collections online.