Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

One of the World’s Queerest Hobbies and Janet Wethy Foley

 (Image credit: Gastonia Daily Gazette –
 Gastonia, North Carolina –

Before the computer and internet days there was a lady born in Buffalo New York in 1887 named, Lutie WETHY.  As a single lady, she and her sister , Marjorie, [sometimes Margaret,] moved to Washington, DC., during World War I, to work for the U.S. Government, and they are found there still on the 1920 census. 

Lutie married Thomas J. FOLEY in 1925 and afterward most often used her likely middle name of “Janet” Wethy FOLEY.  Janet was the given name of her Scottish maternal grandmother, Janet DUNCAN, who had resided with the WETHY family for some years.

Janet Wethy FOLEY became a very active genealogical sleuth, tracking down old church records in attics and places that surely would have been lost forever if she and her husband had not rescued and transcribed the data.  Janet collected items of interest from old family bibles, cemetery records and graveyard visits and in 1934 started a magazine style publication named, “Early Settlers of Western New York,” which after issue No. five became, “Early Settlers of New York State.”


Vol. 4 of  serial set “Early Settlers of Western New York” contains the following:

“Akron is only our post office address.  We do not live there.  Our home is on Route # 5, the main highway across New York State from Albany to Buffalo, 25 miles east of Buffalo and 15 miles west of Batavia.
The Copper Tea Kettle”

Janet and Tom operated this property, “The Copper Kettle”. as a “Tourist Camp” meaning they had cabins for travelers and are so listed on the 1930 census.  The house in the postcard photo shown below is now gone and has been replaced by a brick home.  I talked to one local resident of Pembroke and they recalled that remains of the cabins could be seen just a few years ago.

As I was searching census records on these people I found Janet listed as “Lutie W. Foley” on the 1930 census in Pembroke, Genesee co., NY., and while reading the page was slightly annoyed by the backwards flourish script of the enumerator which took a few seconds to try to decipher, and then found myself grinning openly when I read that Lutie Wethy Foley was the 1930 census enumerator!


Janet was also a constant speaker and lecturer at many different social groups, historical societies, DAR meetings, village and town celebrations and there are many newspaper announcements that are easily located in various digitized newspaper websites online.

The following are just a few of the dozens of newspaper announcements that I read in preparing this article.

1898 -  personal announcement
“Mrs. [Janet] George M. DUNCAN and granddaughter, Lutie WETHY, of Buffalo, are the guests of friends in this city.” -

(Lockport Daily Journal, Thurs. 04 AUG 1898 –


1929 – obit excerpt (Janet’s mother.)

“Margaret. Widow of Frank E. WETHY, died July 8, 1929 in Hamburg.  Mother of; Mrs. [Lutie/Janet] Thomas J. FOLEY, Mrs. [Viola] Thomas W. DOUGAN, Mrs. [Gladys] John W. NEWTON, Mrs. [Marjorie/Margaret] Harry C. SHAFER, Frank H. WETHY and Mrs. [Catherine/Kathryn] Thomas H. WILLIAMS.  Services will be at her late residence 197 Union St., Hamburg, burial in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo.”  -

(Hamburg Erie Co. Independent [nd] –


1934 – Settlers of Western New York – Serial newspaper articles
[three column article]…  Our Aim:

“This column is being published to help American families to learn about their forefathers.  Is it helpful to you?  Have you looked in vain for your family name?
There is just one way that the editor can help you.  Tell him what you want.  Send a question.  No one can tell how far this paper will go, nor who will read it.  Someone may know the answer and solve your problem.
Searching family records requires time and money, but is so worth while.  Just now your own paper offers you a valuable service at no expense.  Take advantage while you may.
Address all communications, enclosing a stamped envelope for reply, to Mrs. T. J. FOLEY, care of this paper…”-

(Perry NY Record, 10 MAY 1934 –


1935 Society column

“Deo-on-go-wa Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution will be entertained tomorrow at the Children’s Home at 311 East Main street by Miss Martha FERRY …  Mrs. George W. BABCOCK, the Regent, will preside at the meeting and the address of the day will be given by Miss Janet Wethy FOLEY of Akron, editor of “Early Settlers of New York.”

Miss FOLEY has selected as her subject, “Early Settlers of Western New York.” -”

(Batavia NY Times 12 DEC 1935 -


From a 1937 full page newspaper story comes this gem:


“World’s Queerest Hobbies -

Americans lead in Collection of Oddities Gathered from All Parts of the Globe – One Man Likes Miniature Spoons. While Woman Prizes Elephant Covers… [several different types of 'queer hobbies', then:]

Did you ever hear of a ‘cemetery browser’?  Well, Janet Wethy FOLEY, of Akron, NY, is one.  Her hobby is spending a large part of her time tracking down unidentified tombstones.  In the course of her meanderings she finds some queer-reading epitaphs.  For instance, in Granville, NY, one of them reads:
‘In memory of Widow B___
Who met her death with no surprise, Jan 3, 1795.  Aged 65 years.
N.B – Her son Caleb, by a tender regard, has caused this stone to be erected here”.

Mrs FOLEY admitted another strange-sounding hobby; searching ancient birth and death certificates in old buildings, trunks and churches.  It is of course, a form of genealogical research, but it brings richer rewards, she insists, than using the usual method of research: library study.

Mrs. FOLEY is proud of the fact that she has been ‘ancestor hunting’ for twenty years.  She explains: ‘Looking for ancestral trees is one of the most fascinating hobbies that one ever enjoyed.  The hunt invites you with the promise that you will find many surprises, many famous folks that you did not know belonged to you.’

‘The sad truth is that most families either do not maintain thorough records of their forefathers or they keep none at all’.

Mrs. FOLEY is exceedingly adept at finding old maps of cemeteries and in deciphering them.  She has two interesting specimens.  One, more than 100 years old, was made of paper and pasted on an old piece of calico.  Through the years even the calico got frayed and wore out almost completely.

The lesson told of this map is obvious, Mrs. FOLEY says.  It proves that maps bearing the names of people who buy lots in cemeteries ought to be made on something far more durable than paper.”  [other queer hobbies...]

(Gastonia Daily Gazette, April 12, 1937 –


1939 – Newspaper Article excerpt
“October D.A.R. Meeting -

The October meeting ot the Enoch Crosby Chapter, D.A.R., was held Monday, Oct. 9…
Mrs Janet Wethy FOLEY of Akron, NY, who with her husband, Thos. J. FOLEY, compiles and edits the monthly magazine, “Early Settlers of New York State, Their ancestors and Descendants,” spoke briefly but earnestly on the invaluable advantage and incentive of displaying an ancestral chart where a child may see it constantly and become unconsciously influenced by this standard…”

 (Putnam County Republican, Carmel, NY – 14 OCT 1939 - 


1940 – Newspaper Article

“Traces History of Old Families -

A member of an old Western New York family whose hobby has become a life work was in Niagara Falls yesterday afternoon in conjunction with the meeting here of the National Society of New England Women.  Mrs. Janet Wethy FOLEY, of Akron, NY., who makes a business of searching old New York state church records and looking up ancestors for those who want to know something about their families, was on hand at the registration desk in the mezzanine of the Hotel Niagara to give information to interested members.

Mrs. FOLEY, who with her husband, Thomas J. FOLEY, has been engaged in this unusual occupation for the past six years, compiles a monthly magazine embodying the results of their researches.  These are distributed to libraries and to interested individuals.  It all started, Mrs. FOLEY explained, when she wanted to find something about her own ancestors and discovered that vital statistics were non-existent in this state before 1880.  That led to a search of church records and since then she and her husband have gone into such study professionally.

Many records which would otherwise be lost beyond all recall have been unearthed in the process.,  Mrs. FOLEY declared.  In her magazine, these names are printed as they are found in the baptismal, marriage and funeral records of the churches, many of which have been out of formal existence for many years.  Most valuable feature of their studies, she said, has been to inspire custodians of such records to improve and preserve these valuable files and to search out others.

‘We have found records under the eaves of old farmhouses, records of churches which have not had any congregations for many years,’ Mrs. FOLEY said.  ‘Some of these are crumbling to pieces but we have managed to piece them together and make some sense out of the faded writing.’

Asked why she had not added photography to her method of study, Mrs. FOLEY admitted that it was chiefly because neither she, nor her husband knew much about cameras.

‘Besides it is so hard to read many of the names that I don’t see how it would be much help,’ she said.  They will continue to copy the records in long hand.” 

(The Niagara Falls Gazette – 23 MAY 1940 -


1941 –Appointed First Genesee County Historian – January 31,

“The Board of Supervisors of Genesee County appointed the first County Historian, Mrs. Janet Wethy Foley.”

(Genesee County, New York 20th Century-In-Review and Family Histories)


1944 – Founding Member of the New York State Association of County Historians
“Form New State Historians Group

Albany, NY – Local historians are invited to join the recently formed New York State Association of County Historians, State Historian Albert R. COREY announced.  Membership is open to all county and city historians and to town and village historians upon recommendation of their respective county historians.

The officers are…[one of the elected members of the Executive Council] Mrs. Janet W. FOLEY, of Genesee county…

The objects of the association are to increase the efficiency and improve the status of its members; to encourage the collection of records of all kinds; to assist the State Historian in compiling an index of historical materials in the state; to aid in research and publication; to assist and cooperate with county and town clerks and all other local officers in the performance of their duties and in the care and safety of the public records; to cooperate with local schools, libraries and museums in their history and social studies programs; to assist in preserving historic sites; to cooperate with others in historical and commemorative exercises and to work closely with local historical societies…”

(Niagara Falls Gazette, Mon Oct 16, 1944 –



(Undated newspaper DAR photo clipping at Genesee County History Department -
Janet Wethy foley is third from right)

Her lineal connection to Isaac McWETHY is:
Lutie Janet WETHY (1887-1962) married 1925, Thomas James FOLEY (1894-1949)
Frank Eugene WETHY (1865-1926) married Margaret J. DUNCAN (1863-1929)
Martin Van Buren WETHY (1836-1913) married Sally Jane MORRIS (1838-1933)
Martin McWETHY (1808-1878) married Priscilla WARREN
Silas McWITHEY (1775-1845)
Isaac McWITHEY/McWETHEY of Granville, Washington Co., NY., married Polly MILLER.

Janet and Tom’s Marriage Record:
No: 2011
Groom:  Thomas J. FOLEY                                                             Bride: Lutie L. WETHY
34 Lyth Ave.                                                                                        34 Lyth Ave.
Occupation: Stockman                                                                     Occupation: Tea Room
White – age 31                                                                                     White – age 38
First marriage                                                                                      First marriage
Birthplace: Boston, Mass.                                                               Birthplace: Buffalo, NY
Father: Thomas, b. Boston, Mass.                                               Father: Frank, born Warsaw, NY
Mother: Mary CONLEY, b. Boston, Mass.                             Mother: Margaret DUNCAN, b. Buffalo, NY
(Note: No dates of birth shown.)
Date of license: June 18, 1925
Date of Marriage: June 20, 1925
Place of Marriage: Buffalo, NY., Official: Lucius E. Ford, minister
Witness: Marjorie J. SCHAEFER, Salamanca, NY.

(Data from Photocopy of Marriage Record from City of Buffalo, City Hall, Buffalo Vital Records.)


1949 – obit:
“Thomas J. FOLEY

East Pembroke, March 7, – Thomas J. FOLEY, 55, of East Pembroke, died at 11:10 o’clock Saturday morning (March 5, 1949) at St. Jerome’s Hospital in Batavia where he had been a patient for a month.
Mr. FOLEY was born on December 18, 1893 in Melrose, Mass., a son of  the late Mr. and Mrs. Thomas FOLEY.
He spent his life in genealogical research and had recently been associated with the Farrel, Birmingham Company in Buffalo.
Surviving is his wife, Mrs. Janet Wethy FOLEY, the County Historian.
Friends may call at the Bernhardt Funeral Home at Akron until noon tomorrow.  Funeral services will be at 2:00 o’clock tomorrow afternoon at the First Baptist Church of Akron.  The Rev. G. Charles Weaver, Thd,, pastor of the Methodist church at Batavia, assisted by the Rev Taylor Light of the Akron Baptist church and the Rev. Hugh Winton of the East Pembroke Baptist church, will officiate.  Interment will be in the Wethy family plot in Forest Lawn cemetery in Buffalo.”

(Batavia Daily News – 06 MAR 1949 – microfilm at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY.)


1962 obit – Janet Wethy Foley

“Mrs. Thomas J. FOLEY, 74, of 100 Summit St., widow of Thomas J. FOLEY, died Monday evening (Jan 8, 1962) at Buffalo General Hospital after an illness of several months.

Mrs. FOLEY was born in Buffalo, the daughter of the late Frank E. and Margaret J. DUNCAN WETHY.  She was a member of the First Baptist Church.

Mrs. FOLEY was prominent in activities of the Holland Purchase Historical Society, of which she was past president.  She also was active in Deo-on-go-wa Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.  For several years she led DAR-sponsored programs for new citizens during naturalization court sessions.  She also conducted bus tours to points of historical interest.

Services will be at 2 pm Thursday at the First Baptist church, conducted by the Rev. Carl J. Spieker, associate pastor.  Interment will be in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo.  Friends may call at the H.E. Turner & Co., Inc. mortuary.”

(Batavia Daily News – 09 JAN  1962 – microfilm at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY.)



Lutie Janet (WETHY) FOLEY – 1887 – 1962

Funerals -

“Friends of the Late Mrs. Thomas J. FOLEY of 100 Summit St., widow of Thomas J. FOLEY, may call at the H.E. Turner & Co., Inc. Mortuary until noon Thursday.

Services will be conducted by the Rev. Carl J. Spieker, associate pastor of the First Baptist Church, of which Mrs. FOLEY was a member at 2 pm Thursday at the church.  Interment will be in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Born in Buffalo, Mrs. FOLEY received her education at Miss Nardin’s academy, Public School 17 and Masten Park High School in that city.  She was a past Regent Daughter of the American Revolution, past president of the Holland Purchase Historical Society, former Genesee County Historian and a member of the Genesee Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, the YWCA and its newcomer Club, the Federation of Women’s Republican Clubs of New York State, the State Button Society and was active in other charitable organizations.

Surviving are four sisters, Mrs. Viola F. DOUGAN of Hamburg, Mrs. Gladys W. NEWTON and Mrs. Marjorie J. SCHAFER, both of Springbrook, and Mrs. Katharyn W. WILSON of Auburndale, Mass., a brother, Frank H. WETHY of Hamburg, and nieces and nephews.”

(Batavia Daily News – 09 JAN  1962 – microfilm at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY.)


“The funeral of Mrs. Thomas J. FOLEY of 100 Summit St., was at 2 pm, Thursday at the First Baptist Church…

Floral tributes included those from the YWCA Newcomers Club, Deo-on-gowa Chapter, DAR, First Baptist Church, Philathea Class of the East Pembroke Baptist Church and the Holland Purchase Historical Society.

Relatives and friends attended from Hamburg, Springbrook, Auburndale, Mass, Rochester, Buffalo, East Pembroke and Batavia.”

(Batavia Daily News – 13 JAN  1962 – microfilm at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY.)



Wethy Family Plot, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY., Section 26, Lot# 42.
Janet Wethy FOLEY and Thomas James FOLEY Gravestones – Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.



Lutie Janet's Parents Gravestones – Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.


So fellow readers of the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog, you may feel comfort in knowing that your queer hobby has grown slightly since the 1930′s.

This article is my tribute to a relatively unsung hero of genealogists everywhere that have ancestors from New York State.

Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy

Various census used for this article:
1880 Federal census Buffalo, Erie Co., NY
1892 NYS census, Buffalo, Ward 24
1900 Federal census Buffalo, Erie Co., NY
1915 NYS census, Buffalo, Ward 17
1920 Federal census Washington, DC
1930 Federal census Pembroke, Genesee Co., NY

U.S. City Directories:
Buffalo and Washington, DC.

Editorial comment on “Early Settlers of New York State”

There are hundreds of articles in “Early Settlers of New York State” that will provide clues to your ancestors from areas all around New York State.  It appears as though Janet and Tom must have taken research trips all throughout the western parts of the state as well as the Mohawk Valley region and many parts up and down the Hudson River Valley.  Unfortunately the original source documents are not described as to location and condition, but you as a genealogical researcher ought to be able to track them down for your own citations.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of topics covered; West Bloomfield, Ontario county, Tombstones Oakfield, Obituary records by surname, personal newspaper items of long ago, Merchant records, Old bible records, marriage records.  Church records, Bottenkill/Greenwich, Washington Co., NY., Granville, Washington co., NY., Pittstown, Rensselaer County, Bethlehem, Albany co.  Church records, Bennington, VT., Baptist church records, Goodwill, Orange Co., Church records, Troy, NY., Yates county, Hudson, Columbia Co., Watertown, NY., Claverack, Columbia Co., and on and on…

Readers that might want to purchase “Early Settlers of New York State” will find the reprint of the two volume set available at the Genealogical Publishing Company  It is also offered as a CD-ROM version which is rather a nice feature to have at your fingertips, as it is all word searchable.  You will also find used copies from time to time on eBay, and  The original serial sets are rather scarce and hard to find.

Thanks go to the following for their kind assistance in research for this article:
Mary Kay  Wright, Western NY Genealogical Society volunteer at the Grosvenor Room of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.
Cynthia Van Ness, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society .
Carol Heffley,  Daughters of the American Revolution member.
Staff at Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.
Staff at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.
Judy Stile, Research Assistant, Genesee County Historian’s Office.
Tom Tryniski owner operator of

ps: If anyone has any idea as to where Janet and Tom’s original source records are located it would be great fun to investigate.

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