I recently attended an excellent workshop on writing local history. We don’t often think about local history. When we think about history we think about wars, politicians, epic triumphs, natural disasters, demographics and myriad other things. Local history includes all of these elements as well, since it is affected by them, but it is also very personal because we can relate to it directly.
What is local history? It can be the history of your city, your neighborhood, your church, even your house! Local history can tell you about prominent or average citizens in your town, how your streetss got their name and what people and circumstances shaped the development of your community.
Local history is far more accessible to the average person than “big picture” history. Local history surrounds all of us. Earlier I wrote about oral history interviews as research material. Your neighbors can be excellent sources of local historical information. They may not be able to tell you every detail about city politics, but they can tell you what made your neighborhood special, how it has changed over the years and the types of people who live there.
Your library may also have a local history archive or maybe even a resident historian!
If your house is old enough, even it might provide clues about local history, such as “treasures” left behind decades ago. Perhaps you can find old newspapers in your attic or inscriptions on the walls The type of hardware used on doors and cabinets might tell you when your house was built.
Local history is unique, because it is very special to those who are closest to it. It gives us an idea of what came before us. Remember, you are a part of local history. Make your mark!
We all learn things about our communities as we grow. What have you learned about your local history?