Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mapping a Migration: Settling - and Clustering - in DC

Last week I introduced Operation DC with a map plotting the basics of my family's (great-grandparents, grandparents, their in-laws) migration to DC - who came, from where, and when. In that post, I also mentioned that I'd been compiling a list of family residences in DC, the goal being to get a better understanding of the neighborhoods in which they live and the institutions they might have interacted with (aside from the ones I already knew about), and hopefully opening the door to more resources.

So, my fun with maps continues, with a map of DC homes (1908-1964) for the Cooper, Shepherd, Petite, Watkins, Reid, Reeves and Ferguson families:

Some notes on the creation of this map:

  • Addresses were pulled from City Directories, Deeds, Draft Registration Cards, Newspaper Articles (including obituaries and marriage license application announcements), and Social Security Number applications.
  • The map was created using Google's My Maps function
  • Each individual, family or married couple (depending on what they were at the time) has their points plotted in a different color, on a different layer of the map
  • You can't actually see all the points on the map, because some are stacked on top of each other, as multiple couples lived in the same buildings, sometimes at the same time, sometimes over time

This last note above actually points to the coolest thing about all of this for me: seeing how families clustered together and supported each other through shared housing. Notice the clusters on this map, circled below:

The cluster to the left is a group of homes the Petites lived in, including my great-grandmother Katherine Shepherd's aunt Eleanor (Allen/Ellis) Petite and her son Fred Petite, as well as Katherine herself and her son, my grandfather Louis Shepherd. This is in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

The cluster in the center represents homes of the Coopers (my grandmother Elnora's family) as well as the homes their children and spouses (Fergusons, Reeveses, and Shepherds) would move into. This is in the Capitol Hill and Eastern Market neighborhoods.

On the right is a cluster of homes the Reid and Watkins families lived in. My grandfather Louis' second wife Doris was born a Reid; Doris' mother Cornelia was born a Watkins. These homes are roughly in the Capitol Heights, Grant Park, and Capitol View neighborhoods.

(Other markers generally represent either residences when a person or family first arrived in DC, or later homes of children after they married spouses and established themselves in the later half of the roughly 60-year period I'm researching.)

But actually, you need to drill down further to really see the clusters, and because of the stacked data points, a map isn't the best way to see it. So, I created a series of visuals:

Homes Owned by Noah and Nancy (Thomas) Cooper

(I don't have all dates of residence for all families, so you can see that a few of the years are approximate, and my research focus ends in 1964, so even if I have records of residence after that year, they aren't included here.)

This shows the two homes purchased by my great-grandparents in Washington, DC. According to Nancy's obituary, the family migrated up from Georgia in 1934, and city directories show Noah's early DC jobs were as a janitor, so it's notable that they were able to purchase two houses in about 10 years. My guess is that Noah sold his portion of the land inherited from his mother, but I haven't yet researched this.

Eleanor and Katherine, Sticking Together

When my great-grandmother moved to DC, she was just a teenager, maybe 16 years old, and she moved into the household of her maternal aunt Eleanor Petite, Eleanor's husband, Oswald, and their son Frederick. In 1922, Katherine gave birth to my grandfather Louis, while still living with the Petites, and in 1923, Oswald Petite passed away. It was now a household of two women and their sons. Katherine was briefly married in 1927, but within 2 years, she and Louis were back to living with Eleanor and Fred. In all, they shared at least 4 homes together between 1918 and 1933, when Eleanor passed away.

Watkins Neighbors or Housemates?

Meanwhile, my step-great-grandmother Cornelia (Watkins) Reid and her siblings, plus spouses, were living as either neighbors, or perhaps housemates (depending on whether the Blaine Street addresses are actually a case of an information collector getting their info wrong).

This doesn't cover all of the examples of family clustering or house sharing, but I'll end with two of my favorites before your eyes glaze over, if they haven't already:

The Girl and Boy Next Door

On the left is my grandfather Louis Shepherd. On the right, in the household of Noah and Nancy Cooper, is his future wife, Elnora. I've written more about them here.

And, new to me:

Share a House, Share a Life?

Yes, future husband and wife Fred Petite and Annice Gray lived in the same house at different times! Fred's mom Eleanor purchased 813 22nd Street NW from Annice's father and family in 1924. Censuses show the Grays (including Annice) living there at least from 1910-1920.  City Directories show that the Petites didn't move in immediately, but they're living there in 1930, according to that year's Census. By 1936, Fred and Annice are married. I want to know the story there!

My next steps will involve researching the neighborhoods in which my family lived to see what adds to my understanding of their stories. I'll also be researching the institutions - churches, schools, businesses, etc - with which they were affiliated. This'll take a while, but there will be posts along the way.

And now that I've written this up, I've got a family reunion to head to!


  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers. This is a great online community. I had trouble reading where to click to make a comment but I found it. I was just concerned that others who wanted to make comments wouldn't be able to find where to click. Good Luck and Have a Happy Fourth of July.

  2. Hey Grant, thanks for the welcome and for the comment. I played with the settings and the entire footer should now be easier to read. I popped over to your blog on the Anderson migration to Utah - what an interesting story you have to tell!

  3. Adrienne,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2016/07/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-july-8-2016.html

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you Jana! I'm going to have fun exploring your blog and some of those other links!