WHAT IS THE PROJECT?
The Elfreth’s Alley Mapping Project is a tool designed to make information accessible to researchers from all backgrounds. The map itself encompasses the Philadelphia metropolitan area and pinpoints the locations of archives whose holdings include documents pertaining to the history of Efreth’s Alley. These can include anything from city directories to property deeds to photographs. Accompanying each link is a short informational paragraph regarding the archive’s location and how to access it, as well as a link to the institution’s website or finding aid.
WHAT IS A FINDING AID AND HOW DO I USE IT?
A finding aid is essentially the search function for an archive. For most, you simply type in a key word you are looking for, such as “Elfreth” or perhaps a family name, and the search results should reflect whether the archive’s holdings include documents relevant to those subjects. That said, it is important to remember that spellings change over time, so it may also be helpful to try common permutations, such as “Elfrith” instead of “Elfreth”.
If you are unsure about how to use a finding aid, if there is no finding aid available on the archive’s website, or your initial searches did not produce results, don’t hesitate to contact archival staff for help. While some archives prefer visitors make an appointment, others happily take walk-ins, so it is best to call ahead of time or use their website to familiarize yourself with their procedure beforehand. Once there, the staff is truly your best resource and can help guide your research as well as suggest new paths you may not previously have considered.
OTHER WAYS TO THINK ABOUT FAMILY HISTORY
Family history is important in its own right–it helps us to connect to our pasts and craft an identity–but the history of our family members can have an impact far beyond our own family trees. As part of Elfreth’s Alley Mapping Project, we encourage users to think more broadly about the applications of their family histories and to take advantage of archival resources to make connections into fields of history that may not be readily apparent.
The History of Gender
The history of gender refers to much more than simply the history of men and women. It includes how our ideas of gender norms were constructed, how labor was divided along the lines of the gender binary, and what it meant to be a man or a woman at different points in history. Gender also helped to dictate what opportunities were available and what expectations were applied to an individual, and played a part in determining the consequences should they fail to meet those expectations.
The History of Labor and Industrialization
Philadelphia has a rich history of labor, closely tied with the rise and fall of industrialization within the city itself. Examinations of labor history can tell us more about what kinds of jobs were popular during different time periods and among different populations, as well as what working conditions were like in those jobs. It can also tell us about how certain industries developed, or failed to, and why.
History of Immigration and the Movement of People
Given its location as an industrial center and a major port, Philadelphia has long been a hub for the migration of people and goods. Viewing history through this lens provides insight to how individuals fit into broader trends of movement over time, as well has how migrant families helped to shape the city economically and culturally, and were in turn shaped by it.
The History of Urban Renewal
The history of Urban Renewal in Philadelphia is one of economic struggle, racial tension, and gentrification. Specifically, it refers to attempts made by the city to “clean up” certain areas of Philadelphia, often at the cost of pushing out the people who lived there. While Urban Renewal may not be the most glamorous aspect of history, it is necessary to acknowledge when considering the future of the the city and its inhabitants.
These are only some of the ways family histories can be woven into larger historical trends; this is by no means a comprehensive list! The power of history is the ability to create connections, both to the past and in the present. We hope that the access to information provided by the Elfreth’s Alley Mapping project makes forging those connections a little easier and inspires users to view their own histories in a new light.