Monday, January 27, 2014

How I spent my summer vacation

We went to Amsterdam, New York to buy a painting.  This even sounds strange to me and those who know me best. 

I have always been drawn to Amsterdam, New York.  You can see it in a valley from the NY State Thruway, driving between Rochester and Albany.  My sister had the same draw.  We knew our great-grandfather was from there, and we remember him as "Big Grandpa", as our only living great-grandfather when we were babies.  My sister and brother-in-law were returning home from vacation, and decided to stop in Amsterdam, where they discovered Amsterdam Castle and more importantly, the Book Hound, a treasure trove of old books.  Anyone who knows my family knows about the draw books have...

Family Sherlock on Willow Street in Amsterdam

We arranged to have a family weekend there, booking rooms at Amsterdam Castle, and meeting up at the Book Hound.  I did some research prior to the trip, and this was the precursor to becoming a professional genealogist.  I found that this part of our family immigrated from Augsburg, Germany to Amsterdam, New York in the late 1880's.  So, we drove around the city looking to see if any addresses our ancestors were listed at still existed.  They did not.  We also had an ill-fated search for graves in an abandoned cemetery, where the warning of deer ticks came too late.   Despite the lack of new genealogical discoveries, we found the people in Amsterdam to be incredibly helpful and friendly.  While looking for someplace to eat lunch, we asked at the Lucky Mini Mart, and the proprietor was so concerned that he offered to make us sandwiches!  After a stop for cookies and directions at the Dolci bakery, we had lunch at Shorty's Southside Tavern, where my teenaged nephew claimed the bacon cheeseburger the best he had ever eaten, and I agreed!  The family atmosphere at Parillo's Armory Grill at dinner also appealed to our Sicilian heritage.

A little over a year later, I had started my genealogy business, and was researching further into my own family.  I have been captivated with the story of my Swiss great-great grandmother, who immigrated to Amsterdam, New York also.  The Book Hound posted a photo of a painting for sale by a local artist, Brian Jacobs.  The subject, a Victorian woman tying her hair back, could have been my ancestor.  I had to have it.  

So, my husband and I drove out there for my birthday.  This time we stayed at Halcyon Farm, the most peaceful place I have ever been.  There were fireflies galore outside at night and spring peepers singing.  We did purchase the painting at the Book Hound, in addition to other memorabilia and books, and had a nice conversation with Dan, the owner.  Unfortunately Brian, the artist, was away that weekend, but I hope to meet him in person next time we are in Amsterdam.  We again bought cookies at the Dolci bakery, where the owners feel like family, and we ate dinner at Parillo's Armory Grill again.  We visited Riverlink Park that evening, also.  We do plan on returning so we can hike around Halcyon Farm.

Amsterdam is in the midst of a renewal, and although it has been depressed by the shutting down on industries, it is a surprisingly welcoming place for tourists, whether they are genealogists or local historians or not.

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