Neighborhood genealogy

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Right now I've fallen in love with an idea. I just wonder how long I will be in love with this idea, until I find that it just doesn't work for one reason or another. The idea is a neighborhood genealogy. Which in my mind right now is similar to the neighborhood history of the TC that I've been doing, except it is more people focused and the people and things don't have to prove any greatness or be particularly unique. It can be accepted for what it is and what it was without any pressure to conform to the great narratives.

Poking around I found a chapter in a book by essayist David K. Leff on "Neighborhood Genealogy", which as I read it is about the people who reside in the village the author lives in, their history to the place and the human relationships. In the book there are some notables who pass through. In the first paragraph of this chapter he writes:

Every neighborhood has a genealogy of engaging people, often eccentric and sometimes seemingly ordinary. The buildings that are a neighborhood's most prominent feature are merely representative of the people who occupy them. The are erected, demolished, rebuilt, sold, and passed down according to the sucesses, failures, and whims of their inhabitants. Even the plainest postwar subdivision likely has a cast of characters in its past; a farmer and his crops, an enterprising developer, soldiers returning from war, perhaps women who worked in defense plants. Like Collinsville, such places may appear ordinary, but facination pulses just below the surface of the houses and streets we see everyday.

My own work with genealogists has been limited. I hate to say that I have had a stronger bias towards the academic over the genealogist, despite the latter's greater efforts to preserve and support archives. I do remember working at the University of Florida library's microfilm department as a student when the genealogists came in to scour over the Florida census microfilm and one elderly woman was over the moon to discover a distant relative was a mule trader. An ordinary mule trader. And now, I get just as excited discovering the ordinary neighbors of the past, who lived in what is now Truxton Circle.

With a family genealogy, almost no one asks why someone does it. There is very little to prove to anyone outside of the family, unless trying for membership to the DAR. Family members are aware of the past without necessarily being trapped by it. I come from a line of Southern farmers, farm hands, slaves and sharecroppers, the Help, from loggers and lumbermen. My agricultural experience is that of one 4-H project and backyard gardening and the Help works with small slinder pieces of wood called pencils.

I've been throwing around the idea of creating an e-book based on this idea of a TC neighborhood genealogy. Mainly because the audience for this would be very, very small. But I've got to learn a little bit more about e-books (besides being able to read them on your Kindle), and if anyone knows more about them please contact me via the comments.

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Interesting prose and investigation. I've done some work in this area in the form of survey's for potential historic districts: Shaw East and in Tennleytown. We kind of summerize the census data to track changes in race, occupations, and immigrant status over time to document how the neighborhood changed. It can be rather subjective with regards to occupations, as one if forced to determine what constituted professions v. working class occupations during different eras.

Many are surprised, for example, that U Street was completely white occupied until about 1910, when it began to change...and later became far more historic during its black heyday period than it ever did for its origins of building and occupation. I've also done this in more detail for apartment buildings like the Dresden, for example. It is interesting to see how one occupation tends to take over, and I think they might learn about vacancies in the building through their work environment.

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