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Asheville Genealogy column: Rewards of city directories – Asheville Citizen

City directories were created as an aid to salesmen and businessmen in contacting residents of a given city or area. Almost all large cities in the U.S. had city directories for at least a period of time. These usually contain a business section with all the businesses in the area listed in alphabetical order.

Most important to family researchers are the names of all residents in alphabetical order by surname. If the person was married, his wife was usually listed; also included were his occupation and/or place of employment and the street name and number at which he lived.

Another feature was the alphabetical listing of all streets, avenues, roads, etc., in the city. In this section all households were listed in the order of the street numbers.

The directories were usually published every year, although some do cover two years. One of the features was usually a map of the city or at least of a portion of the city. Another was a list of abbreviations used in the listings, such as “w” for widow or widower.

One of the most important uses of these directories is tracking a person or family through the years between the censuses. Using these, one can determine within a few months the date the family or person moved within the city or even away from the city. These clues can then narrow the time frame for the search for other information pertinent to the family.

If a person or family owned no property (generating deeds and tax records) or was not registered to vote, the city directory may be the only source of information for several years’ time.

It is indeed a rare researcher who has not encountered at least one “lost” person or family who cannot be located in the census. Many times this problem is due to errors in indexing of the census or to variations in spelling of the family surname. A city directory can be invaluable in this instance.

One may find the person by searching the alphabetical list of surnames or even by searching the alphabetical listing of street names. Once the street name is obtained, one can then locate that street in the census and search all households on that street for the person and/or his family.

Speaking of the census, city directories are an excellent substitute for the 1890 Census, most of which was accidentally destroyed.

Still another use is to pinpoint the date or year of the death of a person of interest. Many directories give the person’s marital status, including whether a widow or widower, often giving the name of the deceased as well. Such a listed might say “Jane Smith, w of James.” This enables a researcher to more closely determine the date of the death, narrowing the area and time span when searching for death, cemetery and probate records.

More than residences

Churches and schools are usually listed complete with addresses in the directories, enabling the researcher to determine which of these the ancestor and his family may have attended or belonged to, opening the door for research of those records.

The occupation of a person is usually given in the listing. By following the person or family through several years in the listings, promotions, changes in occupation and employer/place of employment may be determined.


One may also find that members of the family in addition to the parents and children are living in the household. A younger sibling of the husband or wife may be in the household for at least a brief period of time while job searching in the city, a fact that may never come to light when researching “standard” records.

For example, in recent research, a sibling was found in one man’s household in the listing. By the next year this sibling was listed at a different address with a wife. This enabled determining the approximate date of the marriage of the sibling much more easily, narrowing it down to a few months instead of a few years.

Many researchers know that an ancestor immigrated from the “old country” but do not know the exact date. When the ancestor is first found on a census, it can be assumed that he/she immigrated sometime within the past decade, since the previous census. Researching all the passenger lists for that decade can be a daunting task. But by using the city directories, one can determine the date of the first listing for the person or family, then search passenger lists for the preceding year or two.

City directories can also confirm other evidence. Evidence is always more credible when backed up by another source or sources. Directories are an excellent resource for validating documentation previously found.

Where to find them

Where does a researcher find these directories?

Beginning locally, Pack Library has most, if not all, of the city directories for Asheville. The Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society also has some of the Asheville city directories.

One website — http://www.uscitydirectories.com/ — has attempted to list all the city directories available in the U.S. This site will answer the questions “does a directory exist for a locality?” and “if so, where can it be found?”

It should be stressed at this point that many of these directories have not yet been digitized, but this website will indicate which have been digitized and which have not. Some have been transcribed and the transcriptions listed online.

Some paid subscription sites offer at least some city directories. These include, but are certainly not limited to, Ancestry.com and Fold3.com. Ancestry.com has an excellent article on locating city directories at https://www.ancestry.com/wiki/index.php?title=Locating_Directories.

One free site listing directories is http://www.distantcousin.com/directories/. Still one other good way to locate city directories is simply to Google the search string “city directories” AND “city” where “city” is your city of interest.

There are a number of other less-used records that we will discuss in an upcoming article. Address questions to info@obcgs.com.

On a different note, a researcher has asked us to help in the search for a family Bible. If you know of the location of the John Chambers family Bible, contact info@obcgs. The society will put you in touch with this researcher, who really needs the family information contained in this Bible. Thank you in advance.

ABOUT THIS COLUMN

Through this monthly column, Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society volunteers address particular family histories as well as genealogical research in general. To submit questions about your family or others, specify that it is for the Family History column and send to the society via snail mail to P.O. Box 2122, Asheville, NC 28802-2122 or via email to info@obcgs.com. For more information, call 828-253-1894.

LEARN MORE

All events are free and open to the public:

The Madison County Genealogical Society meets at 7 p.m. April 7 in the meeting room of the public library in Marshall. The program will be “The Murray Family of Flag Pond, Tennessee, and Madison County, NC — Revisited,” presented by Dee Gibson-Roles.

The Jackson County Genealogical Society will meet at 7 p.m. April 9 in the Jackson County Public Library Complex. Archivist Heather South will present “A Trunkload of Trouble: The Do’s and Don’ts of Preserving Things.” Those attending may bring their own paper items for evaluation. To learn more, call 828-631-2646 or email jacksongenealogy@dnet.net.

The Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 2 p.m. April 25 in the society’s library at 128 Bingham Road, Suite 950, in Asheville. The program will be “Historical Preservation: Learn More About Archiving Records.” Everyone is invited. To learn more, call 828-253-1894 or email info@obcgs.com.

With view from the top, Wilcox keeps faith in future

“The travel business is a disease, not a profession,” Glenn Wilcox, Sr.  joked, though he’s made plenty of money in his business over the years. “Once you get bitten, you don’t want to do anything else.”

Glenn Wallace Wilcox Jr. joined the firm 45 years ago. Like his dad, Wallace Wilcox had a sharp eye for future trends.

In the 1990s, airlines moved to simplify their fare systems and changed the commissions paid to agents. “That changed the whole industry,” said Wallace Wilcox, who had been writing ticket orders by hand since high school. Over the decade, the travel agent industry went from about 45,000 firms down to about 12,000.


Then came the Internet.

The Wilcoxes compete against the Internet search giants such as Expedia, Travelocity, Trivago, Kayak and others, but can dive into deeper fares that aren't readily apparent on online searches.

They've also specialized in travel for missionaries, planning package tours for pastors who want to lead groups to the Holy Land, as well as finding the special flights and fares for humanitarian relief groups.

Wilcox credits his son for his foresight. "Wallace had the vision to automate the company. We wouldn't be still here without him."

Through industry upheaval and recession, they've whittled their workforce by attrition — no layoffs — down to 15 employees.

Besides Wallace, who serves as the company CEO, the firm employs most of the rest of his family, including Marie; son, David; and his grandsons, Glenn W. Wilcox III and Tyler Wilcox. His other son, William, and daughter Sarah have worked previously for the family business......Read More

Wilcox Travel Consultant Fred Reed Receives Life Time Award | Wilcox World Travel & Tours / American Express the leader in Christian travel

Work begins on downtown Asheville AC Hotel

WNC farms open to Public!

On September 20-21, 2014 from 1-6pm, the gates and barns of WNC farms open to the public—even those farms that don’t normally allow visitors. Our self-guided driving tour is a chance to learn how food grows, taste farm-fresh treats, hang out with farm animals, and meet the community’s food producers. The tour features 37 farms, with 11 new farm stops, throughout seven counties in Western North Carolina. 

 

For more information: http://asapconnections.org/events/asaps-farm-tour/

ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project)
306 West Haywood Street Suite 200
Asheville NC 28801

828-236-1282

How Asheville became (and continues to be) the most exciting small city

Asheville, the most exciting small city (Rolling Stone)


Does anyone remember the early 1990s in Asheville, a time when Bill Clinton was president, Jim Hunt the governor of North Carolina, and there wasn’t a parking or traffic problem at all?

Asheville, the most exciting small city

Asheville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Mountain Xpress
wouldn’t come into being until 1994, the year before Gannett Co. bought out the Asheville Citizen-Times. Fine cuisine? Mark Rosenstein had just begun that tradition in Asheville with The Market Place. You could enjoy coffee and a live mic at Beanstreets, savor some of the best vegetarian dishes at the Laughing Seed (an ingenious name for a restaurant), buy beads and bangles on Wall Street, hang out at the eclectic Malaprop’s Bookstore, come to a burgeoning outdoor festival oddly called Bele Chere, and enjoy gourmet sweets at the Chocolate Fetish. It was all just the beginning.

Within a few short years, Asheville had gained its “new age” identity, while North Carolina had lost its image as a progressive Southern state. When conservatives swept most state and national offices, the Mountain Xpress had grown to 80-or-so-page issues, the city actually had a club scene, and Asheville had become a granola ghetto in one of the South’s most reactionary states. It still is.

Perhaps no one chronicled Asheville’s evolution better than Rolling Stone magazine. In the spring of 2000, one of its young writers, Erik Hedegaard, came visiting “the rustic town of Asheville.” There he found not a miniature Charlotte or Atlanta but instead, “America’s new freak capital.” It wasn’t, of course, but it did qualify as one of the most interesting places Rolling Stone had come across, remarkable in itself.

Hedegaard fairly gushed at the number of “hippies, neo-hippies … witches, pagans, the homeless and the lost, … braggarts, … crystal worshippers, … anarchists, performance artists,” Rastafarians, Native American wannabees and dreadlockers in strange conical hats and beards — all of whom had flocked to Asheville in the closing decades of the 20th century.

So had a great many well-dressed, well-connected, well-mannered and well-heeled visitors, many of whom stayed. They, too, fairly gushed at Asheville’s uniqueness. At the Fresh Market in North Asheville, one older, retired Floridian supposedly turned to her husband and said, “Harry, when one of us dies, I’m moving to Asheville.” Many did.

But why? Hedegaard typically found that the new hippies and retirees came not only for “the majestic, electrifying charge of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” but because Asheville promised the best natural high in the nation, an unspoiled, un-urban uncongested, unpolluted, yet still manageable small city.

When combined with lots of empty buildings from the 1970s, reasonable housing, small-town amenities and a tolerant majority culture, Asheville seemed to have hit upon a mystic formula that would make it the most interesting small city in America, at least for a Camelot moment.

Perhaps no one was more astonished at Asheville’s new millennium incarnation than the city fathers themselves. They had envisioned and planned a revitalized city built around streetscapes, a downtown health adventure, a state-of-the-art performance theater, museum, urban trail, upscale restaurants, downtown condos, some indoor/outdoor sidewalk cafés, a restored Grove Arcade and a protected historic district. For them, Asheville once again would be the cultural, artistic, literary, commercial, political and crafts center of Western North Carolina, just as it had been in the 1920s — a tourist haven, but assuredly not the nation’s new freak capital. Asheville’s visionaries did not foresee a born-again hippie culture that resembled that of the 1960s, only with more pierced body parts and less political angst.

Asheville’s subsequent history became that of two cultures.

The new Asheville that emerged in the last two decades at first successfully avoided the chains, franchises and corporate clones that clogged faceless cities like Charlotte. In saving the city’s downtown from the mall and franchise frenzy of the 1980s and 1990s, Asheville’s leaders instead inadvertently had encouraged smaller, unique, locally owned businesses to locate in scores of half-empty buildings. Locate they did. Meanwhile, the ubiquitous bookstore chains like Barnes  Noble, the trendy “McBurgers” eateries like Applebee’s and Chili’s, and the typical cineplexes offering the same six movies chose instead to line Tunnel and Hendersonville roads just outside downtown —whether due to codes, coincidences or corporate indifference.

Downtown, a new ambience emerged that reflected the feel of Beanstreets, the Mystic Café, Malaprops, Wings, the Captain’s Bookshelf and Laurey’s — the quintessential Asheville café and caterer. Soon distinctive specialty shops like Indo, Ad Lib, Constance’s Boutique, and more massage, natural health, healing and yoga clinics than any normal stress would suppose sprouted up throughout downtown Asheville.

Yet the hole-in-the wall boutiques and shops weren’t just gaps in Asheville’s new cultural and economic renaissance, but rather their mainstay. Soon small condos and converted loft apartments followed. But would it last?

The greatest threat to Asheville’s culture of eclectic, dynamic young neo-hippies and new middle-class urbanists came not from its city fathers, but rather from the good life these people enjoyed. A commercial as well as a cultural phenomenon, Asheville quickly made the nation’s top-10 list of just about everything. It became a target for corporations, commercial franchises, expensive condominiums, upscale restaurants and tourist hotels. Chain operations, like Subway, Aloft and Starbucks, sprouted around Barley’s and Tupelo Honey Café, with more to come. Rents skyrocketed and suddenly Asheville became unaffordable to many. Julian Price, who tirelessly advocated for affordable housing in the downtown area, would have been dismayed. Lexington Avenue, “the oasis of otherness,” became just another downtown street. Was Asheville’s Camelot moment ending?

Not really. Perhaps the best barometer of what has happened to Asheville since 1995 can be found in the pages of Mountain Xpress and along Haywood Road in West Asheville. The new urban streetscape in West Asheville looks astonishingly like Eric Hedegaard’s Lexington Avenue of 2000, while the best weathervane of contemporary Asheville still can be found in the Xpress’ letters to the editor, club scene, advertisements, articles and coverage of local politics. Mountain Xpress’ first cover featured a crack-smoking rabbit and a more recent one depicts the best brews in the mountains, both challenging us appreciate what makes Asheville one the best natural highs in the nation.

Retired UNC Asheville history professor Milton Ready lives in Mars Hill.

Buncombe Commissioners approve $1.3 million for Enka-Candler sports complex

Enka-Candler sports complex

After an hour-long discussion and seven stipulations, Buncombe County commissioners approved donating $1.3 million to help fund a new Enka-Candler sports complex — although one commissioner described the proposal as a “little outside the norm.”

Enka-Candler sports complexThe Enka-Candler sports complex would consist of seven baseball fields on 90 acres near Interstate 40 at the former Enka/BASF manufacturing site. The land will be donated by Fletcher Partners, and the complex will be built and maintained by the Enka Youth Sports Organization (EYSO), a nonprofit created in the last few weeks. Buncombe’s $1.3 million would go to EYSO, which has not yet achieved its official 501(c)3 status.

“I think it’s a sound plan,” said Commissioner Holly Jones. “That said, we’re getting to [fund] a nonprofit where the ink’s not dry [on its status], there’s no financials to look at, so we’re kind of going out here on faith with a big dollar amount. I believe in you, but I just wanted to say that in terms of transparency and accountability that [what we’re doing] is outside of our norm.”

According to project progenitor and Fletcher Partners member Martin Lewis, the Enka-Candler sports complex will be entirely self-sustaining, if everything goes according to plan: “We would have sponsored fields, banners in the outfields, and we would also have tournament teams that would be coming in.”

The plan, according to Lewis, calls for hosting travel baseball and softball teams on the weekend, and paying for field upkeep with concessions, ticket prices and sponsorships. During the week, the fields would be open to the public, ideally for free, as long as public users cleaned up after themselves, he explained. This would enable the facility to remain solvent without further county support.

Buncombe’s $1.3 million funding came with four stipulations initially: that the spec building (from which the donation money is coming) sells to a private investor, that the EYSO secures the donated 90 acres from Fletcher Partners, that the EYSO garners $2.4 million from the Tourism Development Fund, and that EYSO secures $1 million in private donations. As of Sept. 2, about $750,000 had already been raised.

Commissioners added three more conditions.

Commissioner David King added an amendment that calls for EYSO to build a greenway, at a cost of about $125,000.

During the public-comment period on the proposal, Buncombe County Board of Education member Lisa Baldwin noted concerns about environmental safety. Thirty of the 90 acres sits on a closed landfill, and other land rests on the Hominy Creek floodway.

“We were comfortable,” Lewis assured commissioners. “After looking at the property and doing due diligence … we were O.K. with that.”

Nonetheless, Commissioner Joe Belcher put forth an amendment requiring that the environmental report be supplied to the Board and studied by staff as part of the conditions for the $1.3 million dollar donation.

Commissioner Brownie Newman raised concerns about the future of the facility. “In the long run … are there things we should be thinking about on the front end to ensure, when none of us are sitting here, that there is some long-term public accountability? … What if, in 30 years, this land is worth $50 million, and it’s converted from a public to a private purpose? I just want to make sure that this board is set up so that won’t happen.”

After some discussion, the commissioners added one more condition:  If in the future the nonprofit wants to change the use of the land from recreational sports, the Board of Commissioners would have to approve the change. This amendment brought the total number of conditions to seven.

Conditions in place, the motion to award the $1.3 million passed 7-0 for the new Enka-Candler sports complex.

Other business:

• County Manager Wanda Greene presented a few points regarding the county’s retirement incentive. So far, 131 employees have chosen to take the incentive, and will be leaving the county after Sept. 30 if they haven’t already left. Greene said it would take a few weeks to get all the savings information together. “We are losing a lot of institutional memory,” she said. “It’s been a little bit tougher than we expected, but I think everybody’s happy with the results.”

• The Board unanimously approved closing an unopened road in Candler. The road, Oak Street, was prepared by the county but never completed and opened, and the property owners along the road petitioned for it to be closed completely.

• The County had two “Good News” items. The first was a proclamation by Holly Jones to representatives of Minority Enterprise Development week, which is in its 31st year in Asheville. MED Week runs Sept. 8-14. The second was a presentation by the Asheville Humane Society, which saved a record 5,599 animals in the previous fiscal year and has not had to euthanize an animal since 2010.