Sunday, May 5, 2013

Old Map, Current Map, Homestead

Since first seeing this 1909 photo of my ancestor Dixon Bartley's home, I've wanted to know if it still existed and where it was located in Butler County, Pennsylvania.  I have an 1874 map of Butler County property owners and discovered two locations in Parker Township with "D. Bartley" as property owner.  The map names towns, railroads, creeks, school houses, a saloon, and oil wells; but no streets are named. 

A few weeks ago ProQuest offered free access to their Historic Map Works™ database during Library Week, 2013.  ProQuest is often available at public libraries but Historic Map Works was new to me.  I spent an evening searching for maps of the places where my ancestors lived, finally narrowing my search to Dixon's property. 

The map of Parker Township, Butler County, PA, below, is one I already had.  It is nearly identical to the one at Historic Map Works™ (except theirs is pink).  You can see "D. Bartley" twice on the road that borders and splits from the railroad track south of Martinsburg.  I wanted to know the name of that road.  I'm comfortable with modern maps but I really need road and street names to get around.

At Historic Map Works™ I was able to overlay the old map onto a current one.  The view, below, is at 100% opacity.  I couldn't see the current map behind the old map. 

I played with the opacity until finally, at 16%, I was able to see the old map with property owners' names and road locations and the new map with streets names.  The map overlay does not exactly align both maps but layers them so that the roads on both maps can be seen parallel to each other. 
Seeing both maps together, I realized that if Dixon's house existed on one of the two properties and if it were still standing, it would likely be on Bruin Road between Daubenspeck Road on the east and Snake Road on the west; or west of Snake Road.  By knowing the names of streets I hoped I might be able to locate the house.  I switched to the satellite view but didn't find it helpful.

I decided to begin searching at the Butler County Auditor's office on their Webmap Viewer to see if they showed photos of homes.  Even though I didn't know an address I hoped that the website would provide addresses.  It gave only property parcel numbers.  It was hard to tell much from the aerial view and the markings on the map.  Tired and exasperated, I went to bed.

I couldn't get Dixon's house on Bruin Road off my mind.  Now that I knew an approximate location I wanted to know if it still existed and what it looked like if it did.  The next day I decided to try a different approach.  I went to Google Maps and typed in Bruin Road, Petrolia, PA.  I love Google Maps street view because I can stop anywhere along the way and pan the camera 360°.  The little man in the box at lower right of the screen indicates where I am on the street and which direction I'm headed.  The views of homes are not high quality but I can get an idea what they look like.

Once there, I moved to street view and traveled along Bruin Road, a rural two-lane road.  I was looking for houses between Snake Road and Daubenspeck Road.  I knew from the photo of Dixon's home that there was a hill behind his house.  As I was traveling east along the road I noticed that the terrain on the right (south) was low and on the left (north) was hilly.  I began paying closer attention to the buildings on the left.   You see the home on the left in the photo below?  Is it?  Could it be?
Courtesy of Google Earth

I arrived at what I believe is Dixon Bartley's old home.  I was elated.  I tried to get closer for a clearer image but it was not possible.  What do you think?  The same house or not?
Image on right courtesy of Google Earth
It looks as much like Dixon's home as any I've seen though it looks somewhat the worse for wear.  The wide front steps are gone, replaced by a banister across the upper porch, and the detail on the porch posts on either side of the old steps is gone.  The steps on the left side of the house look like they may be gone, too.  The railing between the dormer windows is gone.  And that long, beautiful walkway is gone.  But the structure looks very much the same though not quite so loved.  This photo was taken in May, 2009.  The home may or may not still be there. 

Dixon passed away in April, 1900.  He divided his property like this:
  • Thomas Bartley received 53 acres of land known as the James Dickson farm.
  • Alvira (Elvira) Gerner received forty acres of the old homestead on which she then resided.
  • Edward Boyed (probably Boyd) received 43 acres which was known as his mother Jane Bartley's share off the East end of the old homestead subject to the reserves in Fred Gerner's & Ace Steel's deeds, for roads & limestone. 
  • Lavina Steel received 40 acres off the old homestead.
  • Gilmore Bartley heirs, Ross Bartley, Clara Bartley & Edward Bartley, received 100 acres joining Henry Daubenspeck, Thomas B. Smith on the South, the widow Walley on the West, Elexander Thompson on the north, Henry Daubenspeck & other on the East. 
  • Bell Steel & heirs received 50 acres in Fairview & Parker Township known as part of Thom Graig farm. 
  • Dixon's executor was to sell 41 acres lying West of Edward Boyed's share, the money to be applied to paying Sula Bartley (widow of Dixon's son, Washington) & funeral expenses, the balance if any left & residue of the old homestead was to go to Dixson Steel.  [Did he mean Dixon Bartley or Ace Steel?]
  • No division was to be made of the above property during Dixon's lifetime. 
It would be interesting to trace the ownership of the property from Dixon to now.  While I still don't have a street address, I think it would be fairly easy to find Dixon's home -- if I could only persuade my husband to go on a road trip....

I'm linking this post to The 2nd Annual Genealogy Blog Potluck Picnic at My Descendant's Ancestors.  Thanks for creating and hosting, Elizabeth.


Copyright © 2010-2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Nothing like a ride through the hills of Pennsylvania! Sounds like a plan!

  2. Bravo! Your procedure was right on! I haven't tried overlaying maps yet...haven't figured it out yet, but will definitely look into it. I have used street view to locate family homes, though. I would assuredly go for the road trip.

  3. YES and a big fat YES - it's the house. Usually I "drive" down some Google street only to discover my ancestor's home is a vacant lot, a new apartment building, or an industrial park.

  4. Wow! That would be so fun to take a road trip. I think it looks like the same house.

  5. Now that is cool!! It does look like the same house, even down to the barn or whatever the other building is off to the left of the main house. Great work Nancy!

    Isn't it amazing that we can go on virtual road trips using Google Maps? I love it!

    1. Nancy,

      I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

      Have a great weekend!

  6. Such great detective work! I really love the original photo. Looks like it might have been taking during a family reunion or a Sunday get together. Great find!

  7. Thanks, Heather. There's some new excitement about this house. My brother and his wife drove over to Bruin and found it a day or two after I posted the photos. I'll be sharing some of my sister-in-law's photos soon.

    Yes, that old photo is fabulous. I wish, wish, wish I had a good copy of the original. A cousin photographed a scanned copy. I'm sure the original shows lots more detail than we can see in the copy I have.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Heather.

  8. This is a great piece of detective work. It's such fun finding ancestral family homes in a modern day Google Earth view. I do think you found the right house!

    1. Thanks, Linda. It was a fun surprise to be able to find the home. I still want to travel and see it in person, maybe contact the owner and see if we could have a tour inside.

  9. Oh how I love Google Earth! Looks like the same house to me. I hope you get to travel to see it in person someday.

    1. Me, too, Andrea! Google Earth is both helpful and fun. I hope to visit that house one of these days, too. Thanks!

  10. I am so glad you located the house! Those online map tools are really handy in locating buildings.

    I just love Google Street View. My Portuguese relatives all lived on one street in Oakland, CA. With street view I was able to map out each house. It was awesome!

    Hope you get your road trip!

    1. Oh, yes, I'm pleased to have found the house. Google Street View is amazing. How fun that you found all the houses of your relatives in Oakland. It's amazing, really!

  11. Hello Nancy! I live in Pittsburgh, near enough to this area for a day trip. I am married to the grandson of William Warren Bartley II, Bartley Troyan. I will plan a trip up this spring to see if I can get you some more detailed photos until you are able to maybe make the trip yourself. I am so glad I came across this post!! That was a great find you made.

    1. Hi, Alyssa. It's great to "meet" another Bartley descendant. Thank you so much for offering to visit the home and take photos. That would be awesome and I would be grateful!

      Rereading this post makes me want to go myself. I've always had in mind to contact the current owners to see if they would give me a tour of the inside. I know it wouldn't be the same but the structure would certainly be similar.

      Thanks again for thinking about visiting and taking photos!


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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