Thursday, December 27, 2012

More About Connecting People to Places

In the December 10 post, we discussed the value of business cards as a local & family history tool, enabling us to tie individuals to buildings, businesses and locations.  There are a number of other things sitting around our houses that also do that for us.

Another personal collection that I've donated to the Local History department are matchbook covers with connections to Southwest Michigan, adding to some that were already in the manuscripts.  Like business cards, these matchbooks represent people & businesses of the past, connecting them to addresses. 

The cover shown here represents B & H Appliance Repair which was once located at 838 Gull Road in Kalamazoo.  B & H is no longer at this address, although it may be that they moved to Delton where there is another business by that same name.  The Gull Road address is apparently now part of a series of commercial sites that are available for sale according to listings found on the web.

With this starting point, one could begin putting together a history of the property or of the business using city & telephone directories.  Directories from the Local History Collection show the following different addresses for B & H Appliance Repair over time:
  • (1997) - 8973 N. 28th, Richland Township
  • (1985-86) - 5400 Meredith, Kalamazoo
  • (1964) - 134 N. Pitcher, Kalamazoo

Of course, one would need to do additional research to determine if these listings were all the same business under the same name, but this illustrates how using a variety of different resources that tie an address to a business or person can connect things together nicely.

Mr. & Mrs. Clyde Watson resided in Lawrence in 1964
Another very common resource that we all have in our homes is correspondence or envelopes with addresses.   As a stamp collector, I have hundreds of envelopes similar to the one shown here.  Here we have a name, an address, a return address, and the added bonus of a postmark which gives us an exact date for this information.  Contents or a letter in the envelope are nice to have, but in their absence the envelope itself is important historically. 

It can be difficult to track family residences for those that may have moved often, did not own the dwelling, and may have been boarders, renters or just plain live-ins.  Correspondence can be a key element in tracking those individuals over time. 

Okay, it's no longer a secret that it takes a bit of a pack rat to hang on to these things, but God bless them.  They are the ones that just can't seem to bring themselves to throw away these paper items knowing in the back of their minds that they play a role in history - and, once they are destroyed, they are gone forever.

If you are one of these wonderful people who has hung on to things like these, reluctant to toss them and would like to make a home for them, you might consider placing them in a local history collection.  In the case of the Van Buren District Library, we are collecting anything of this nature pertaining to Southwest Michigan historic sites & people (Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, Van Buren & St. Joseph Counties).  All are being integrated into the Historic Sites Inventory (HSI) project, indexed and archived.  For more information about the HSI or how to donate materials, please contact us.

Next time, we'll talk about a couple of more types of sources that tie people to places...

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
Photographer - H. L. Morgan, Front Street, Dowagiac
From the private collection of Sarah (Adams) Jackson

Can you identify the young woman in this cabinet card?  Do you have knowledge of the photographer?  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.   

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