Guide: Surrogate Court Records

courthouses-seventh-monroeI uploaded a chapter to the Genealogical Guide on Surrogate Court Records. The local office has about 75% of the files on their computer. You can take a USB flash drive and download the entire contents of a file. One estate file for a possible ancestor of mine is 185 pages.

I also tried to explain how to find some of the records online at FamilySearch. They filmed record volumes not entire estate files. That makes it complicated to find a person’s records. It is a three step process looking in an alphabetical index, a secondary index and then finally record volumes.One downside is that wills in the Will Books are transcriptions while if you can go to the Surrogate Court office what you download off their computer is an original will with a person’s signature.

Strand Theater – 100 years

ad-1916-08-17The Strand Theater in Brockport opened Aug. 19th 1916. The building that houses the theater was built in 1907 as stores. Then in 1908 the Lyric Theater opened on the first floor. It was in 1916 that the Strand replaced the Lyric as it appears that the Lyric merged with another theater (The Globe) in Brockport. It has had the same name since then. In 1946 the theater was completely re-furbished inside and out with an art moderne design by architect Michael J. DeAngelis. In recent years the theater was split into 3 screens.

A larger ad in the Brockport Republic of Aug. 17, 1916 says that:

The Strand Theater will open on Saturday evening August 19th, 7:30 P. M., with a week of Paramount Pictures. We feel that in giving the people of Brockport and vicinity the best in Motion pictures that the Strand will become a popular and permanent place of amusement.
There will be a new feature at the Strand every night. Nothing but the best, and most refined attractions will be booked. There will be Matinee performances for ladies and children, which will include the same beautiful attractions as in the evening. The famous Bray Cartoons. Pictographs, Burton Holmes Travel pictures, Pathe Weekly (two absolutely new weekly’s a week showing the news of the world in pictures from 5 to 10 days after the happenings) and many other clever features to delight the young and old. Our reel of fashions “A day with Betty Young” will be of special attraction to ladies.

Mary Pickford was known as “America’s Sweetheart.” Her co-star in “Cinderella” was Owen Moore who she was married to at that time. In 1919, Mary, along with D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks formed United Artists pictures. She would marry Douglas Fairbanks in 1920.

Programs for the next week were:

  • Monday – Marguerite Clark in “The Pretty Sister of Jose.” Also Paramount Pictographs.
  • Tuesday – Sessue Hayakawa in “The Typhoon.” Also Pathe Weekly.
  • Wednesday – Edgar Selwyn in “The Arab.” Also Bray Cartoons.
  • Thursday – John mason in “Jim the Penman.” Also Burton Holmes Travel Pictures.
  • Friday – Marguerite Clark in “The Pretty Sister of Jose.”
Strand Theater in 2015.

Strand Theater in 2015.

Oscar V. Babcock

babcock-oscar-1The postcard, above.,started me on a search to see if I could find out who the performer was. I used the description “Death Trap Loop” to search on online newspaper websites. That quickly lead to the name of Oscar V. Babcock. Further investigation in newspapers told me that he performed his bicycle act at Ontario Beach Park for a week beginning July 15th 1907. The first part of his act was to climb the 60 foot tower and ride his nickel-plated bicycle down the ramp and around the loop. The second part of his act was to come down the ramp and jump 40 feet across to a platform. That second part at times was called “flying the flume” or “jump the gap.”

babcock-oscar-2Oscar started out as a bicycle racer. A newspaper reference has him participating in a 6 day race in New York City in 1898. The next year he was racing in Washington, DC. Oscar started his bicycle loop act in 1904. He only got into trouble once. In 1906 he was at Madison Square Garden and the loop moved. He ended up crashing on the floor but suffered only minor injuries. In 1910 there is a newspaper notice that Oscar was going to fly a biplane at Long Island. Sometime about 1917 Oscar used his same set-up and traversed the loop with an Indian motorcycle. He came back to Ontario Beach Park on July 4th 1917. Did he run the loop with with both his bicycle and a motorcycle? I couldn’t find any evidence that he had the motorcycle for that visit. In 1921 he also took his act to Havana, Cuba and in 1922 he went to Honolulu, Hawaii to open a new amusement park. Oscar did the bicycle loop all over the US  and parts of Canada until at least 1935.

Oscar in Minnesota in 1935.

Oscar in Minnesota in 1935.

There was a full page advertisement in the March 10, 1910 issue of Billboard magazine offering his act to parks and fairs around the US. In that ad he says that “(I) costume my act elaborately.” In fact, he dressed in a silver colored suit to match his bicycle. Also in the ad, he says “I carry six tons of apparatus. This is the biggest, most sensational and flashiest act in the world.” The picture at the bottom of this blog post is of Oscar about 1910.

Billboard - 1910

Oscar Varley Babcock was born on July 30, 1875 in New York City to Oscar and Harriet (Crofton) Babcock. Oscar married Mabelle Spindler (born May 13, 1880) on Feb. 26, 1907 in Boston, Mass. Mabelle died Jan. 25, 1919 in Winthrop, Mass. as one of the victims of the influence epidemic of that time. Oscar married a second time on June 7, 1924 in Warren County, Illinois to Ella Emergene Johnson. Oscar never had any children. Emergene died in 1953 and Oscar died in 1957 and is buried in Monmouth Cemetery, Monmouth, Illinois.

Oscar about 1910.

Oscar about 1910.

Walking to School

kidswalkingcartoonIn parts of the US some students have already returned for another school year. In the old days almost all kids walked to school. There is an old joke about an old man who says something like; “When I was a kid, I had to walk 10 miles to school and it was uphill both ways.” That brings up the question as to how far kids in the early 1900s have to walk to school.

In rural areas there would be one or two rooms schools in those settled areas that we sometimes call hamlets. It was possible that a few kids rode a horse to school or the parents could have taken them to school in the family wagon but most kids would have walked. I think that most kids would not walk more than 2 miles to school. A few kids might walk as far as 5 miles if their family farm was really rural. I know where my mother lived and went to school in the 1920s and it was only a mile.

The cities were more complicated especially as the city’s population grew. Grammar schools were erected so that the students didn’t have to walk very far. I doubt very many students had to walk over 2 miles. High school students had to go farther. Maybe as much as five miles. Growth of trolley systems, first horse cars and later electric trolleys, made longer distances easier to travel.

I thought that I had walked a long distance to my elementary school. Then I searched on Google maps and I found that it was only a half a mile. We lived on a busy street that didn’t have any sidewalks so I took an odd route to school. I would go through our back lot which was all weeds. Then cross a railroad and not at a official crossing. It wasn’t a big problem because there were only 2 trains a day. Next to the railroad tracks was the empty remains of the Chemung Canal which I had to go down into and back up the other side. Then through someone else’s back lot to a street where I met friends that I could walk with to the school.

From the 1940s to 1960s there was a movement to centralize school districts. That did away with most of the small schoolhouses. The meant that the schools ended up having to bus their students many miles. I suspect that there are students that now spend more time on the bus than their grandparents spent walking to school.

Top Songs of 1966 – #21

Lil_redThe next song that ended up on the top of the record charts in 1966 was “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Sam, whose real name is Domingo Samudio, got his start singing in a school radio broadcast when in second grade. He formed the Pharaohs in 1961. The group didn’t have a hit record so they disbanded in 1962. Then in 1963, Sam got some new members and named the group Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. In 1965 “Wooly Bully” was the band’s first hit. It reached #2 on the record charts.

“Lil’ Red Riding Hood” was the number one song on the Cash Box record chart for the week of July 31 – Aug. 6, 1966. On the Billboard Hot 100 chart it only reached #2.

After 1966 the group had a string of novelty songs that never went very far up the charts.

Old News – Robbery

Was there a professional criminal traveling around western Monroe County in 1916? This robbery makes it seems as though there was.

Also look at the prices of homes in Brockport. I think that for those days the prices were rather high. The house for rent seems a better deal at $2.50 per week.


Thursday, Aug. 10, 1916


Thief Familiar With Vault, Which Was Loose From Safe


No trace as yet has been found of the sneak thief that visited the Brennan & Adams Hardware store on Tuesday noon. Shortly after the employees of the store had left for the noon hour. Mr. Brennan who was working on the books, counted the money and looked over the cash to see if it would be necessary to make a deposit that day, and then returned the box to the safe. This part of the safe was a steel vault about ten inches long which locked with a combination and fitted in to the center of the safe. Ordinarily this box cannot be removed from the safe but at the time of the fire, it had been taken from the safe and removed to safety.

A short time after counting the money, a customer entered the store and Mr. Brennan went with him by elevator to the second floor of the building where they selected a rope and returned to the ground floor. the whole transaction occupied only about three minutes and it must have been during that time that the robbery occurred. From that time on until one o’clock when Mr, Brennan missed the vault, he was in close proximity of the safe which is located about midway between the front entrance and the door. Doors leading from the workroom to the alley stood wide open and it is possible that the thief entered by the rear of the store, or perhaps came in by the back door. But how anyone could have carried out such a bulksome parcel without detection is a puzzle to Mr. Brennan.

The box contained an accommodation of papers covering the past twenty five or thirty years. There were also many notes and checks which have. no value to anyone but the firm of Brennan & Adams and although they have record of them, they will be put to the inconvenience of securing duplicates. However, if the person or persons who took the box would but return it containing the papers, by express, freight r messenger or would even leave it where it might be found, they would be welcome to the money, according to Mr. Brennan’s statement.

The store of Upton & Brown in Spencerport had a similar experience on Monday when a thief broke into the store while Mr. Upton was out at luncheon. They secured about $115, in this case, however. A chisel was used to pry open a secret compartment where the cash was kept. None of he checks were taken. The money drawer was not disturbed as this would have brought the thief in front of the window.

Both robberies would seem to be either the work of professionals or serious well acquainted with the stores. In the case of the Brennan & Adams deal, it would seem peculiar that anyone not acquainted with the store should have discovered that the vault was loose in the foundation and could have been extracted without opening the door.

Guide: Some Chapters Written

Monroe-CountyI uploaded 9 chapters to the revised Genealogical Guide to Monroe County. A couple of the chapters ended up being major re-writes. A lot of genealogy sources have been put on the web in the last ten years since I wrote the last last paper edition.

This online edition has the chapters as PDF files that you can view online or if you want you can save them to your computer. Then those chapters have online links to websites and web pages discussed in the chapter.

I have read each chapter over at least three times but I know that even then there might be some spelling mistakes. If you find any please email me. Also email me if any of the links don’t work. Sometimes links are “dynamic” and change every time a new person views a web page.