Very much an overlooked source is a family surname that is used in a family’s hometown for naming of a street, a park, a building, a bridge, a school, a river, or lake.
There had to be a reason why a specific place, structure, natural item has your family name. True, it may have been named for a person NOT related to your family. However, a good chance it was named if it is in the family hometown.
A good way to start to investigate is reviewing a street map of the hometown. If it is Chicago or any large city, you need to look more in the city’s district or neighborhood that an ancestor lived in – narrow the search. If you had an ancestor of importance in that town or city’s history, the name could appear anywhere in the city.
Also don’t be surprised if you find the surname on a couple different places. If could be for related members of the same family or just one person. How the naming was done can vary. If the ancestor owned the creek or land they could have used their own name. What is even more interesting is when the town or county government selected the surname to name something in the town. There had to be some reason.
Once you have a location in the hometown with your ancestor’s name (usually it is just the surname, but it could be the full name or just a first name), then contact the local museum for any information. You can try also the city and county government, as well as the public library and local genealogical society, have them check why the surname was selected.
Here are some examples from Stuart, Florida of well-known individuals over the decades and what was named in their honor.
There is Britt Road / Britt Court and Britt Terrace Named for Thomas Jefferson Britt who was born in April 1865 in Florida. He and wife, Elizabeth G. lived in Stuart in its ‘pioneer’ days and at one time, Britt was a bridgetender. In the 1920s and ‘30s he had a home and fruit grove on what was called Britt Road. Thomas Britt died in June 1939 in Martin County.
Domini Ave was named for the Domini Family from Atlanta, GA who built the first house on the outskirts of Stuart in the early 1900s. Their property (the house was torn down in the 1960s) is the site of the expanded hospital property.
Flora Belle Lane was named for the two daughters of Reuben and Margaret Frazier, Flora and Meda Belle. One of the main streets in Stuart, now known Colorado Avenue, was at one time called Belle Flora, also named for the Frazier girls.
Jeannette Drive was named for Jeannette Rhodes whose father, Sam, was a builder in the area.
Kindred Street was named for local grocer, Henry A. Kindred, a successful businessman who owned and operated a grocery store located on that street. He died in May 1969 in Stuart.
Kitching Avenue / Kitching Circle and Kitching Creek The Kitchings represented a large family, many of whom would eventually live in Stuart. The businessmen, Broster (1838-1915), Walter (1846-1932), Sylvanus (1848-1927), Stanley (1974-1961), Cleveland (1886-1958), Reginald (1892-1975) and other Kitching family members, which included the women, were prominent citizens of the community. Walter owned the first permanent individual general store in town.
McPherson Street was named for the Robert and Charles W. McPherson families, early pioneers of Stuart. Robert and family came to Stuart in 1891; Charles arrived in August 1897.
Parker Elementary School The full name is J. D. Parker Elementary School, built and dedicated in 1961, for one of the first doctors in Stuart, a kind and gentle man admired by all the community. Julian David Parker was born November 23, 1895 in Georgia and moved to Stuart soon after completing medical schooling in 1924. He was responsible for the delivery of thousands of babies in Martin County.
Pressel Building was named for Lester A. Pressel who was born in May 1887 in Detroit, Michigan. He was owner of a meat market in Detroit and moved to Stuart in the late 1930s. The one-story Pressel building (tan with green trim) with frontage on both Flagler Avenue and Osceola Street was constructed by Lester Pressel in 1940.
Sewall’s Point Community / Henry Sewall Way and Port Sewall was named for Henry E. Sewall, born August 22, 1848, a former ship captain, early area pioneer, settler and land developer. He died August 1, 1925.
Photos: Britt RD on map; Domini Ave sign; Pressell Building in the business district and the entrance sign to Sewall’s Point neighborhood.
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