My Hayes Project Experience

When you sit down to a reception desk to start a normal day of work, the first thing to come to mind most certainly is not funeral home records from 1912. But that is where I found myself almost a year ago.I was sitting in front of a monitor attempting to read and transcribe cursive writing from a hundred years prior. All I could think about was how much I wished I had continued training in cursive past the 3rd grade. The first month consisted of a lot of strained eyes and persistent use of the zoom feature on the photo viewer. But the initial obstacles of cursive print aside, the Hayes project proved to be an invaluable experience.

Through transcribing the records of the historically black Hayes Funeral Home, we are gaining insight into the Black communities of Memphis dating back all the way to 1905. Specifically, we are learning factors such as where African-Americans lived, how long they lived, and what they died of. We have also come to know the insurance companies they used, the hospitals they frequented, and the jobs they held. The information all together enables us to have a detailed account of the African-American communities of Memphis in the early 1900’s.

Not only does it give us an entire basis of useful and practical factual information, but it also provides an interesting history. I have come to know that historic areas of downtown including Beale street housed black doctors’ offices. Even more interesting is coming across people who died at ages as high as the 120’s. Whether it be a particularly old person, an intriguing place of death, or a cause of death of “dropped dead”, the Hayes Ledgers have yet to disappoint. I am thrilled to continue my work with the Hayes Ledgers and make more exciting and informative discoveries in that beautifully tangled forest of penmanship.


Published in: on June 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm  Comments Off on My Hayes Project Experience  
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