Thursday, March 8, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole or Digging Deeper

I've fallen into a very large research rabbit hole and have no wish to climb out. It will take something powerfully persuasive - leeches or snakes in the puddles at my feet or promises of sunshine and warm desert breezes waiting me above ground - to lure me out.

Several weeks ago I spent days searching early and mid 20th c. copies of the Binghamton (NY) Press at Old Fulton NY Post Cards for mention of my family. It was time well spent. Yesterday I returned to search for information about one of my grandmother's dearest friends. I discovered that she lived next door to a probably-related family from my grandmother's village when she was a girl which explained when and how they met.

Then I got distracted, as is my want, by other articles. One recorded the gruesome accidental death of a boarder living at the house next door. I wondered about the house. Who else had lived there? What else happened?

One of the joys of using the Old Fulton NY Post Cards site is that searches are limited only by one's imagination. I have searched by surname, by cemetery name, by church name, and yesterday, by street address. I could search by disease (several stories about typhoid appeared on the pages I reviewed), by business name, by keywords like prohibition or socialist. I have clipped hundreds of pages with information I want to abstract; information that will give me a much richer picture of the community where my grandparents lived in the 1920s, '30s and 40s.

But what really sent me falling all the way down that hole was when I realized I could search by name or street address in the U.S. Cities Directories (Beta) database at I'll be mining this database until those leeches push or breezes pull me out.

Big find #1 was when my grandfather changed his surname from Papp to Popp. I knew it wasn't at Ellis Island, but didn't know how or when it happened. Now I do. Below are the index listings from for my grandparents in the Binghamton, NY directories from 1923 when they married to 1940.

Anna Papp 1923 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1924 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1925 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1926 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1928 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1929 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1930 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1931 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna Papp 1932 Binghamton, New York Stephen Papp
Anna POPP 1934 Binghamton, New York Stephen POPP
Anna Popp 1935 Binghamton, New York Stephen Popp
Anna Popp 1939 Binghamton, New York Stephen Popp
Anna Popp 1940 Binghamton, New York Stephen Popp

Do you know what happened on 2 January 1934? My grandfather became  a United States citizen - under the surname Popp. It's amazing what makes me happy. This has been a very, very good day.

Photo Credit: AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by NashvilleCorps


  1. How amazing -- what does that do for us and dad who was born in 1929? He was born to parents named PAPP, has anyone ever seen his birth certificate?

    You are a wonder and I am so grateful that you are inclined to do this digging. Not only do I benefit from your findings, I relish reading your posts each week. I'm on a high today too, knowing what you are finding out about our past.

  2. No wonder you dropped in a hole, and what a Popp of a hole it is! CLAP CLAP CLAP

  3. Old Fulton NY Postcards...yeah, I get lost in that site, too...

    Glad you hit upon that inventive search strategy for the city directories. What a wonderful find!

  4. That is a significant find -- and one your relatives should DEFINITELY be rejoicing about. Once again -- what great research.

  5. Isn't it fun to see what you find down those rabbit holes? They always entice me too. I can't wait to try searching by address on the Ancestry city directory database to pinpoint when my family moved to another city. Oh no, wait, I see another rabbit...

  6. What a great find! I may give your strategy a try and see if I can track a surname change through city directories. I would love to know why my father's family changed the spelling of their name. Thanks for sharing a great idea!

  7. Congratulations on your rabbitting research! Fantastic results here.

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  9. Thanks for all the comments and feedback. It's been a fun topic of discussion within our family the last week.

    Judy Russell at The Legal Genealogist has the last word.  I think she hits the nail on the head with her point about immigrants wanting to follow the laws, rules and regs in America.


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