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Family history: Knowing Asheville-area historical events helps genealogical research

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5/11/2011 - Family history: Knowing Asheville-area historical events helps genealogical research
by Dee Gibson-Roles

So many folks come back to Asheville after moving away...their roots bring them back for second homes and vacations throughout the region.  Knowing Asheville's strong history makes our citizenry so diverse, and can make even the newest generation, and most recent newcomers, feel like they've got a "home" in Asheville and a place to come back to for years to come!

--Tammy Mansell

 

            Last week's column began the discussion of historical timelines -- lists of public events such as wars, epidemics, natural disasters and land grants -- that may aid in researching a family's history

Economic and employment events are important to include on the timeline. Especially significant are large booms in an occupation or industry or changes in an area that would affect employment and thus the economy.

One Western North Carolina economic event that comes to mind is the logging boom of the early 1900s. It mushroomed into a huge business almost overnight, providing men with employment and wages such as many had never been able to earn before, thus providing families with assurance that they could afford the essentials in life as well as "luxuries" that they had never experienced.

But when the boom died, it was gone, again almost overnight. Suddenly the work was gone, leaving many men who know only the logging business unemployed.

Many families migrated to the northwest U.S. during the years following the crash of the WNC logging boom, as the logging industry was firmly and permanently entrenched in that area. In fact, so many left Jackson County and went to Washington state that one area there is called "little Jackson County."

Another local event that affected many families was the Tennessee Valley Authority project, in which the lakes and dams were constructed to provide electrical power to the area. Many families were displaced as the water rose and covered their homes.

Some moved to areas fairly close to their former home, but many chose to move to more industrialized areas where they could find work in factories.

Hundreds of families were affected by the TVA project. Playwright Gary Carden wrote a wonderful one-actress narrative play about this event, titled "Birdell." It presents a very good picture of how the

project affected one family.

Still another local event, one that was repeated all across the country, was the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. People within the boundaries of this park, as well as others in the U.S., had to leave their homes and move to another area.

These are just a few of the examples of local events which should be included on a timeline along with the more widespread -- national and world -- events.

Creating timelines for an ancestor's life almost always yields new information or can help confirm data already found. Putting ancestors' lives into the context of the current events of the time can bring them to life for the descendants, making them more like "real persons" than just names and dates on paper.

Most genealogical societies, including the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society, will be glad to answer any questions about constructing a timeline.

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