This past March, Amanda Elledge-Finn, a first-year Public History PhD student, received first place in the Humanities category at the Graduate Student Research Symposium for her poster “Land, Legacy and Language. Bridging the Public History Gap Through Family History.” The poster, which traced six generations of the Elledge family in North Carolina from the American Revolution to the Cold War, addresses the value of microhistories and their ability to answer larger historical questions. Amanda chose her family – the Elledges – to focus on because as profitable agrarian landholders in the community of Mulberry in North Wilkesboro, NC, they stayed put in one place over a large swath of time.
Amanda used a variety of mediums to find information, including census data, birth, marriage and death certificates, and land grant records which showed her family had acquired land through both headright and land grants. For a slightly wider scope, she also looked at the Harrald family who intermarried with the Elledge family, and were from the same community of 26 families during the same era. Because her great-great-grandfather ran the Mulberry general store, she was also able to acquire general store ledgers from family members and digitize them. Through her genealogical work on her own family, Amanda was able to make broader connections to the larger world. Notably, the majority of the Elledge and Harrald families did not take the typical path of moving out of the agrarian world and into urban cities as many rural North Carolinians did in the mid-twentieth century. Instead, they went against the grain and survived and thrived sticking to what they knew best – farming. In their case, That aspect of the master national narrative did not fit.
Amanda, who put a tremendous amount of time and effort into her project said, “It’s not terribly difficult to find information. It’s a lot harder to decipher if the information is valid. I had to have three pieces of evidence for every claim made – that’s just genealogical practice. I used a plethora of sources and data to get that cohesive narrative and I just ended up being really quite lucky that there was anything at all.”
You can learn more about Amanda Elledge Finn HERE.