A Complete Family Branch Can Still Excite

My great-grandmother was born Edythe Peck. She was a proud member of the Peck family from Flushing, New York. Let me emphasize proud. The Pecks came to this country in 1637. I’ve known about that part of my genealogy since I was child. I learned about Deacon William Peck of New Haven and the many descendants that followed him. However, the five-generation family tree which resides in my family’s Bible, starts with my third-great-grandparents, James Milnor Peck and his wife, Anna Leverich. (Incidentally, these two slips of paper, one tree for each of my parents, were the starting point to my research. That work is now approaching two decades. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come from two pieces of sketch paper.)

When I began my research nearly twenty years ago, my starting point was Edythe. Her family was most well-known to my family and well-documented that it was the most logical place to learn what genealogical research looks like and how to do it. Back in 1998, I was in college and genealogy existed online, as forums and self-made sites with family trees. It was the Wild West of bloodlines. What was true? What was not? It was all very frustrating and exciting. Nevertheless, putting together the Peck family tree was a treat because it was such an easy task. Fortunately, I believe that most of what I discovered then is accurate.

Years later, the Peck line remained a stagnant segment of my research. Occasionally, I would find a tidbit that reminded me it was there. A trip to Flushing, either to St. George’s Church or to Flushing Cemetery immediately reminds you that the Peck tree is most settled. Peck graves litter Flushing, whether on Main Street or the surrounding area. Books and newspapers from bygone eras go into great detail about their lives. Queens Library even holds a copy of the sermon that was spoken when J. Milnor Peck died tragically in the 1880s. Once in a while, you find little gems that make you smile and say, “I never thought I’d see or discover that.”

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Home of J. Milnor and Anna Peck. Photo: P.L. Sperr, 12 Mar 1932 (NYPL).

For me, that discovery took the form of a photograph held by the New York Public Library, a place where I have done research. NYPL’s website, Old NYC, maps where all of the old photos they have were taken. It was a photograph of James Milnor and Anna’s home, which he built. That was his business and to see an actual photo, instead of a drawing, brings a whole new dimension to my family’s connection to Flushing.

After Anna died, the house was given to her daughter, Sarah and her husband Frank A. Collins. The house survived until 1940, when it was razed. Today, the area around St. George’s Church, where my family lived, is a mall and a parking lot. I suppose that sounds depressing but if it’s a worthwhile business venture, the Peck would’ve lent their support to it. If it involved building residential space, J. Milnor would’ve been all over it, probably leading the way. A house is just a house after all. It’s the stories that go with the house that matter.

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