24 January 2011

Are You My Smiths (Pt 4)

     This is part three in a series detailing the research I did on my Smith family. Check out parts onetwo and three.

     Having explored all population census records on the life of my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Richard T. Smith, I decided to move onto city directory records to see if I could flesh out his life. I'd browsed Atlanta directories at the Fulton County Library Central Branch, but had been looking for other families and not Richard, at the time. Luckily, many directories of the appropriate time period have been placed online recently at Internet Archive.

     I started with the 1899 Atlanta City Directory. This was the year before my Great-Great Grandmother Louise would marry and leave home and the year that her twin sister, Louisa died (btw, who decided on such identical names?).  In the 1899 directory, there were 7 Richard Smiths, two with the middle initial T recorded and none with wives listed. In order to confirm which Richard Smith was mine (if any), I needed to match the address given for him with another member of his family who was living with him. City directories are different from census records: not everyone is listed; usually only home owners and those in the work force are recorded in directories. Based on census records from this time, I knew that Richard worked in a cotton mill, as did the rest of him family. Those working should be listed and should share an address with their father. Sure enough, this was how I was able to identify Richard.

     The following individuals were listed as living at 63 Organ in the 1899 Atlanta City Directory:
  • Aaron, wks Expo Cotton Mills, r 63 Organ
  • Albert, wks Expo Cotton Mills, r 63 Organ
  • Miss Eliza, wks Expo Cotton Mills, bds 63 Organ
  • Miss Louise, wks Expo Cotton Mills, bds 63 Organ
  • Richard T, wks Expo Cotton Mills, r 63 Organ

     Ok, wait - who's "Miss Eliza?" Could this be Louisa? The only information I have on Louisa comes from Louise's family bible and the fact that my grandmother told us that her grandmother, Louise, had once had a twin sister (I'm a twin, so the topic of twins in the family tends to come up). But for both her birth and death, the name Louisa is given, not Eliza. But honestly, how can you tell Louise and Louisa apart? It would make sense that one would go by anther name. I can't find an Eliza Smith with this family in any other directory. I think that this is likely her, but it's impossible to confirm right now.

     Going back to Richard, I followed this same strategy throughout the available city directories. He stayed on the same street with his family for a number of years.
  • 1898: 63 Organ with sons Albert and Aaron [earliest confirmed appearance]
  • 1902 : 67 Organ, as a shoemaker, with wife "Efeline," son Aaron and his wife Sarah, son Albert, and son William with his wife "Versa"
  • 1903: 63 Organ, as a shoemaker with wife Rachel, son James H and his wife Sallie
  • 1904: 67 Oragan, as a shoemaker with wife Evelyn, son Aaron, James H and his wife Sallie
  • 1905: 67 Organ, as a laborer, with wife R Evelyn
  • 1906: 92 Center, at a "mach wks" with wife Evelyn
  • 1907: 92 Center, at machine works, listed alone
  • 1908: 92 Center, as machinist, listed alone
  • [In the 1910 census, Richard and family had moved a few miles east to Rockdale County to work in a mill there.]

     From these entries I can see that many of his children are moving in and out of the home (though there may be errors in the listing). Also, Richard's wife, Rachel, goes by different names at different times. I knew that her middle name started with an 'E' from her headstone, but now I know it to be Evelyn.  Also, with her name going back and forth, it adds evidence for this being the correct family.

     It's also very interesting to note something written in the 1899 directory, regarding the accuracy of the listings: "In comparing the present work with that of 1898, we find less than thirty-five per cent. of the population are at the same address."  This is something that I've come to discover on my own while researching. Louise Smith Waters appears with her husband each year in the Atlanta directories. And it almost never fails that they will be at a new address. Usually they are in the same neighborhood or just down the street, but sure enough, the move constantly.  I think it's a product of mill workers who don't live in mill villages. They are constantly on the move to find cheaper rent and possibly better positions.

     In part five, I'll continue to explore facts about the Smith family's life using these directory listings.

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