One thing that’s often lost in genealogy research is why families move. It’s relatively easy to find a family’s change of address using the Census or City Directories. And you may even find that the houses where your family once lived are still standing. What you can rarely figure out, unless it has been passed down orally, is why the family pulled up stakes and moved from one location to another.
The moves made by my mother’s Simmers clan are a case in point. While staying in Westchester County for a wedding, I did a drive-by tour of the houses where she lived while growing up. From 1932 through at least 1940, the family resided at 81 Cayuga Road in Yonkers, an easy commute to County Refrigeration, the White Plains-based dealership that my grandfather Hugh Simmers owned. The three-bedroom, three-bath home is worth about $630,000 today, according to Zillow estimates.
One factor holding down the home’s value — it’s inexpensive for Westchester County — is its location only four blocks from the heavily trafficked Bronx River Parkway. That said, the stately Tudor is nestled in a quiet neighborhood of pleasantly upscale homes. The home was built in 1932, according to Zillow, the same year my mother was born. My mother’s family were probably the home’s first owners.
By the time my mother was 10, however, the family had moved to 15 Moreland Street. Though the family didn’t move very far, the new home sits within the city limits of Bronxville, one of the wealthiest in Westchester. The Simmers may have moved so that their children would be educated in better schools. The 2,486-square-foot Moreland home had one fewer bathroom than the Cayuga home. Zillow estimates that the Cayuga house is worth $766,976 today, so it was probably a trade-up move for the Simmers family back then.
The family lived at 15 Moreland Street until at least April 1948. That was when the family returned from a vacation and my grandfather died. My mother was 15 at the time. That event may have precipitated the move to an apartment at 133 Pondfield Road, where the family was living by 1952. My grandmother Mabel lived there for a long time after her children left home.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of spending the night at my grandmother’s apartment. She would cook boiled eggs — served in an egg cup — and squeeze fresh orange juice in the morning. She kept family artifacts in the closets. I remember finding my grandfather’s accordion in a closet more than a decade after he died. My family often ate holiday roasts in the apartment, with a big grandfather clock anchoring the dining room. It was forbidden to open the oven door while the Yorkshire pudding was baking. The Yorkshire pudding I make today isn’t nearly as good.