Women & Family Ties in Immigration: Anna, Julian, & Paranka Debaylo

For Women’s History Month I am revisiting some of my favorite research projects I’ve undertaken and focusing on women of all walks of life, not just “great” or notable women –though I love that many are highlighting the wonderful, trailblazing, inspiring women of the past this month. 


Today’s post is about Anna, Julian and Paranka Debaylo, 3 regular people whose lives represent major trends in immigration in the early 20th century. This research began as an assignment to write a biography of individuals buried in the St. Helena Cemetery in Pender County, North Carolina as part of the Volga to Cape Fear Project which resulted in an exhibit entitled Push and Pull: Eastern European and Russian Migration to the Cape Fear Region. 

I chose three related individuals, Anna, Julian, and Paranka Debaylo. Anna was a widow when she immigrated. Her passage was paid by her stepson, Julian. Paranka came to the U.S. to marry Julian and care for his children from his first marriage. Their interlocking stories led me to research the importance of family for immigrants, especially for women, as well as women’s experiences in immigration. I found that there were restrictions at Ellis Island that prevented women from traveling alone unless sponsored by someone already in the United States due to the fear of them becoming public charges. Also, family and community facilitated the transition to life in the United States, helping men to find jobs and older women, like Anna Debaylo, to adjust to U.S. life.

Finding Anna, Julian, and Paranka on census records, Ellis Island ship manifests, birth indexes, city directories, and transit receipts brought them to life in a way, recreating their journey to the United States and their life once they arrived. Why do people leave their homelands, travel on crowded ships, and pay good money to go to a foreign place? For a better life? Is that what they found? How were women’s experiences of immigration different from those of men?

Beginning with the End: Biography from a Gravestone

The St. Helena Cemetery, established for use by the Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church, includes graves of community members regardless of church affiliation. St. Helena, a community in Pender County, North Carolina was founded as a farm colony by Wilmington businessman Hugh MacRae. One of six such colonies established between 1905 and 1912 by MacRae’s Carolina Trucking Development Company, St. Helena attracted immigrants of various ethnicities, especially Italian and later, Russian and Ukrainian (or Ruthenian). Immigrants initially came directly from Europe; however, the majority moved to St. Helena from other locations in the United States, learning of the opportunities there from members of the immigrant community or promoters. Advertised as an area fit for farming, St. Helena promotional material boasted the availability of land and a fast and easy way to own a home. The reality of St. Helena did not always live up to the assured conditions; the promised homes were not of the advertised quality and the land was not immediately ready for farming.[1] Despite the difficulties, a community of immigrants grew there and remains a part of St. Helena today.


The St. Helena Cemetery testifies to the lives of the initial immigrants and their descendants. The headstones, relationships, and lives of three individuals, Anna, Julian, and Paranka Debaylo, all demonstrate the various gendered experiences of immigration and the importance of family connections in enabling immigration and adjustment to life in the United States. Many female immigrants fell into two categories: young women, traveling to reunite with a husband or to meet and marry a man, and older women, usually widows or divorced women, immigrating to join their adult children. Paranka and Anna are examples of these two phenomena. Also, as we will see through the exploration of Anna, Julian, and Paranka’s lives, family connections were important for both men and women, but were more essential for women’s successful immigration.


The gravestones of Anna, Julian, and Paranka Debaylo introduce visitors to the significance of family in the lives of immigrants as well as to the positions of women in the community. Anna Debaylo (January 21, 1867 – February 11, 1960) lived to be 93 years old. Her headstone reinforces the importance of family and her role in her own family. Her headstone is simple, with few words and limited adornment. Made of granite, it is engraved with her name, birth and death dates, a Russian Orthodox cross, a simple design of grapevines across the top and the inscriptions “Our Dear Mother” and a Ukrainian phrase which translates to “Eternal Memory.” Together with the cross, both the grapevine design and the inscription’s reference to eternity are likely religious references to Christ’s sacrifice and eternal afterlife.  It is clear from the inscription and the flowers present at the grave that Anna was a loved member of her family as well as the community. The headstone also attests to the religious faith of Anna and possibly that of her children who likely commissioned this headstone in honor of their mother.


The headstone of Julian Debaylo (May 6, 1886 – January 31, 1934) also invokes family. His gravestone is very similar in size and design to Anna’s headstone.  The granite headstone is engraved with his name, birth and death dates, the inscription “Our Father” and a simple design of leaves. However, it does not include the Russian Orthodox cross as Anna’s does. The inscription here signals Julian’s position as a loved and respected member of the Debaylo family. The lack of religious imagery may signal less involvement in the church of either Julian or his children who, again, appear to have commissioned the headstone.


In addition to the imagery and inscriptions on the headstones, the placement of them also alludes to relationships and connections between the deceased. Paranka Debaylo (September 26, 1899 – November 29, 1960), Julian’s second wife, is buried beside Julian. Her gravestone is identical to his save the name and dates and the term mother in place of father. Her gravestone was clearly designed to accompany that of her husband’s and both stones were most likely chosen by Julian and Paranka’s children. Together with Julian’s grave, Paranka’s headstone reinforces the position of parents in the family and the connections established through marriage. The three headstones described above sparked further questions of family connections, the experience of female immigrants, and the role of family in the lives of immigrants to St. Helena as well as in the lives of immigrants to the United States more generally.

Family Ties in Immigration

The lives of Anna, Julian, and Paranka demonstrate the scenarios that women commonly faced in immigration, that of moving to be with their children or that of moving for marriage, as well as the necessity of family connections in order to enter and adjust to the United States.[2]


Anna Debaylo (commonly spelled Dybajlo on documents) was born in 1867 in Cholojow in what was Galicia in the Austrian province of Poland and is modern Ukraine. She was the third wife of Hrehory (Gregory) Dybajlo. Gregory already had four children from his two previous marriages. His first wife was Anna Lotocka who had three children: Michael, Emilian or Julian, and Dmytro. His second wife was Teklia who had one daughter, Anastazia (Nascha). Anna Shainoha became Anna Debaylo and Gregory’s third wife. They had four children: Paulina, Ilko (Elias), Sophia, and Peter. According to her granddaughter, Anna had wanted to be a nun but was convinced by family that marrying the widowed Gregory and caring for his children would be a better way for her to serve. Gregory passed away in 1914. Anna remained a widow for the rest of her life.[3]

Anna immigrated to the United States in 1923, at the age of 56, with her son Peter (Piotr) on board the George Washington which departed from Bremen, Germany. The ship manifest listed Julian Debaylo as her son (he was her stepson), and as the party who paid for her and Peter’s travel.[4] At that time it was necessary for female immigrants, especially if traveling alone, to be sponsored by a male already in the United States who agreed to be responsible for the woman. This policy was based on ideas that women were more likely to become public charges if not cared for by a male relative or husband.[5] Likely, Julian not only paid for Anna’s ticket, but also served as her legal sponsor. Between her arrival in New York City in 1923 and when she moved to St. Helena in 1928 Anna may have lived with Julian or another one of her children already in the United States. Once she settled in St. Helena she was a member of the household of Eli Debaylo, her biological son. The household at the time of the 1930 census also included Eli’s wife and two daughters. [6] Anna lived in St. Helena until her death in 1960.


Anna’s life after immigration is an example of the experience of many other widowed, divorced, or separated women who immigrated in order to be with their adult children who had already established a life in the United States. Anna being an aging widow likely made her economically vulnerable and immigration an appealing option. Anna seems to have been part of an increasing number of widowed women who immigrated after 1915 in order to rejoin children. Prior to that time, few older women immigrated.[7] When they did, older women, as well as older men who immigrated, depended on their children and ethnic and religious communities in order to adjust to life in the United States.[8]

Julian Debaylo, whose birthdate is disputed between May 6, 1886, the date on his headstone, and July 1, 1886, the date on his first marriage certificate, immigrated to New York in 1908, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1913. Julian likely came to the United States in search of a better economic situation. In Galicia, economic conditions deteriorated after 1848 when the government ended serfdom. The peasants remained on the land, but partible inheritance was enforced rather than primogeniture. Landholdings became smaller over time, eventually leading to the inability to support a family on one parcel. Adding to the reasons for immigration were high taxes, potato blight, and epidemics.[9] Julian may have had additional reasons for immigrating, but economics were likely a great factor.

In 1916, at the age of 29, Julian married Anna Mikariya Spivak, or Annie as she is identified on the 1920 census, and they had two children, Nick and Helen, born around 1917 and 1918 respectively. At the taking of the 1920 census the Debaylo household was living in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Also included are the birthplaces of each member of the family. Annie and Julian were both born in Galicia while both of their children were born in New Jersey. The census also gives insight on how Julian and Annie perceived themselves ethnically; a notation appears to replace Russian with “Ruth” (perhaps an abbreviation of Ruthenian) as their mother language and might indicate their ethnic affiliation. The ethnicity of immigrants from Eastern Europe was often unclear. Immigrants entering the United States were sometimes misidentified by officials. Also, the region of Eastern Europe underwent many geo-political changes during its history. Ruthenian was used by those individuals from Galicia or Carpatho-Ukraine, differentiating them from other Ukrainians as well as from Russians.[10] Finally, the census listed Julian’s occupation as a tailor in a clothing factory.[11] No occupation was listed for Annie who most likely stayed home to take care of the children.[12]


Annie Debaylo passed away sometime between 1920 and 1923. Julian wrote home to his family for a second wife to care for his children after the death of their mother. Paranka, or Frances, Shainoha, a relative of Julian’s stepmother, was sent to be his wife. According to family stories, Paranka did not wish to marry Julian after she saw him due to his “hunchback.” Julian broke his back in a childhood accident in which he fell from a woodpile on a wagon. Paranka ultimately chose to marry him; the other option being to return home.[13] Julian and Paranka had two children, Anna, born in 1923, and Julian Frances Debaylo, born eight months after his father’s death in 1934.[14] Julian and Paranka lived in New Jersey for several years following their marriage. Julian seems to have moved sometime between December 6, 1923, the date of his stepmother’s arrival in New York City, at which time Julian’s address was listed as 515 E 16th St, New York, NY, and the release of the 1924 city directory in Passaic, New Jersey in which Julian is listed as a tailor at 136 Columbia Avenue. Julian continued to be listed in the city directories of Passaic, including the Clifton area, through 1930. The address of his tailor shop changed at least once. Paranka (as Frances) was listed as his spouse in the 1929 directory.[15] Julian, Paranka, and their children moved to St. Helena between 1930 and January 1934, when Julian died at the age of 47 from pneumonia in Burgaw, North Carolina.[16] Paranka gave birth to Julian Francis Debaylo in September, 1934.[17]

Paranka went on to marry Walker Augustine and her, Julian Francis, and Freddie Augustine are listed as members of the Augustine household in the 1940 census. Still living in Pender County, Paranka was listed as a farmer while her new husband Walker was listed as a farm manager.[18] After 1940, Paranka had another son, Walker Don Augustine. All four of her children dedicated a page in the St. Helena History to her memory.[19] Paranka’s motivations for immigrating were likely a combination of economic and personal and possibly included pressure from her family. It was common at the time for Eastern European women to prefer an Americanized husband and many would take the chance of moving to marry a stranger; however, it was also common for parents and other family members to make decisions about immigration for young women as well as to arrange marriages.[20] It is unclear whether Paranka and Julian knew each other before marrying, but she was related to Julian’s stepmother and it was her family who likely made the arrangements for the marriage and Paranka’s passage to the United States.

Once in the United States, the reasons that Anna, Julian, and Paranka moved to St. Helena specifically are not completely known. Julian’s position as a tailor was one of the best in the garment manufacturing industry, but was still low paid.[21] Also, having likely been landless peasants back home, most immigrants saw in the United States the opportunity to own land.[22] It is likely that Julian, as well as his brothers, moved to St. Helena in order to own land and try to prosper as farmers. Other motives likely included the desire to be with family already in St. Helena. For Anna who came to live with her son Elias, it is more evident that family was a major factor. As far as Paranka, it is difficult to determine from the sources if she had much of a choice in moving to St. Helena; however she moved there with her husband and remained there after his death.

From the lives of these three members of the Debaylo family, the importance of family connections in aiding immigration and settlement in the United States is evident. For women especially, these connections legally and economically enabled immigration and assimilation. Julian’s sponsorship of Anna and marriage to Paranka facilitated both women’s entry into the United States, where they likely hoped to encounter better economic circumstances. Women’s experience of immigration often followed the same paths: immigrating for marriage, to follow a husband, or to be with children or other relatives. However, while especially important for women, family connections were important for men as well. Julian Debaylo not only sponsored his step-mother’s immigration, but also at least two of his half-brothers, Peter, who immigrated with Anna, and Elias Debaylo. Julian filed the necessary paperwork to bring Elias and his sister Sophia to the United States while another brother, Michael Debaylo paid for the tickets. Michael was also instrumental in finding work for Elias.[23] The benefits of having relatives already in the United States eased the transition.

[1] W. Frank Ainsley, “’Own a Home in North Carolina’: Image and Reality in Ethnic European Colonies,” in Journal of Cultural History, Vol 5:2, 1985, 61-69.
[2] Maxine Schwartz Seller, ed., Immigrant Women, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press), 1981, 20-21.
[3] Ann Mizerak, “Debaylo Family Genealogy,” 2012, Private Collection of Ann Mizerak, Burgaw, North Carolina; and Personal Communication with Ann Mizerak, Burgaw, North Carolina, September 6, 2013.
[4] Ship Manifest, Ellis Island Foundation, “The American Family Immigration History Center’s Ellis Island Archive,” Ellis Island, (Online:  The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., 2009), <http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/&gt;, accessed September 4, 2013.
[5] Seller, 18-19, 34-35.
[6] Mizerak, “Debaylo Family Genealogy”; and 1930 U.S. Census, Burgaw, Pender, North Carolina; Roll: 1712; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 2; Image: 569.0; FHL microfilm: 2341446, Digital image, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.
[7] Seller, 21.
[8] Seller, 65-66.
[9] Paul Spickard, Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity, (New York: Routledge), 2007, 193.
[10] Myron B. Kuropas, The Ukrainian Americans: Roots and Aspirations, 1884-1954, (Toronto: Toronto University Press), 1991, 5-7.
[11] Copy of Marriage Certificate, Emilian (Julian) Debaylo and Anna Spivak, January 10, 1916, in Mizerak, “Debaylo Family Genealogy”; and 1920 U.S. Census, Manhattan, New York, New York, Accessed via HeritageQuest, ProQuest LLC, 2013, Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1920, accessed via Heritage Quest, accessed on September 4, 2013.
[12] Seller, 66.
[13] Personal communication with Ann Mizerak, Burgaw, North Carolina, September 6, 2013.
[14] Mizerak, “Debaylo Family Genealogy”; and Birth Certificate of Julian Francis Debaylo, Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Birth Indexes, 1800-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Register of Deeds. North Carolina Birth Indexes. Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina State Archives. Microfilm.
[15] Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Passaic, New Jersey, City Directory, 1924, 1925, 1929, 1930.
[16] Death Certificate of Julian Debaylo, Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
[17] Birth Certificate of Julian Francis Debaylo.
[18] 1940 U.S. Census, Rocky Point Township, Pender County, North Carolina, accessed via Heritage Quest, ProQuest LLC, 2013, accessed on September 4, 2013. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940.
[19] “History of St. Helena”, Community Publication, Private Collection of Ann Mizerak, Burgaw, North Carolina.
[20] Seller, 20, 117.
[21] Doris Weatherford, Foreign and Female: Immigrant Women in America, 1840-1930, (New York: Schocken Books), 1986, 108-113.
[22] Timothy Walch, ed., Immigrant America: European Ethnicity in the United States, (New York: Garland Publishers, Inc.), 1994, 64.
[23] Baltic American Line Receipt, Mizerak, “Debaylo Family Genealogy”, 2012, Private Collection of Ann Mizerak, Burgaw, North Carolina.

New beginnings

Since my last post I have moved to Wilmington, NC and have started graduate school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. In two years time I will have a Master’s degree in history with a concentration in public history. Over the last couple of months I have adjusted to living in the city of Wilmington and am continuously adjusting to grad school itself. This semester I am taking the required first year history grad class in historiography as well as two public history courses. One is entitled Public History: Theory and Practice and the other is Historical Collections. Already I feel I have learned so much and have been exposed to ideas and practices that are going to enrich my future career in museums.

Through the Historical Collections class, we (the grad students) are also able to get real hands-on experience in the field. We are working on a project called The Volga to Cape Fear. The project is centered around collaboration with the Eastern European immigrant community of St. Helena, a small town located in neighboring Pender County founded by Wilmington businessman Hugh MacRae in the hopes of creating farm colonies to stimulate the local economy. Ultimately, through the project and the coursework of the collections class we will learn how to research material culture, make loan recommendations, and borrow and care for objects. Next semester the project will continue and culminate in an exhibit.

The first step of the project has included getting to know our advisory committee which consists of Eastern European (mostly Russian and Ukrainian) immigrants or their descendants. The knowledge of the committee has been a huge help in beginning our research and we are so appreciative of the time and effort they have already put into the project. Members were able to provide primary and secondary sources on the individuals buried in the cemetery as well as contact information to others who had information. Their assistance and enthusiasm makes the project even more enjoyable.

The first assignment related to the project was a biography of individuals buried in the St. Helena Cemetery. I chose three related individuals, Anna, Julian, and Paranka Debaylo. Anna was a widow when she immigrated. Her passage was paid by her stepson, Julian. Paranka came to the U.S. to marry Julian and care for his children from his first marriage. Their interlocking stories led me to research the importance of family for immigrants, especially for women, as well as women’s experiences in immigration. I found that there were restrictions at Ellis Island that prevented women from traveling alone unless sponsored by someone already in the United States due to the fear of them becoming public charges. Also, family and community facilitated the transition to life in the United States, helping men to find jobs and older women, like Anna Debaylo, to adjust to U.S. life.

Finding Anna, Julian, and Paranka on census records, Ellis Island ship manifests, birth indexes, city directories, and transit receipts brought them to life in a way, recreating their journey to the United States and their life once they arrived. Why do people leave their homelands, travel on crowded ships, and pay good money to go to a foreign place? For a better life? Is that what they found? The next phase of the project will hopefully answer some of these questions as well as offer up new ones for thought. We will begin conducting oral histories with immigrants and their descendants to learn more about those buried in the St. Helena Cemetery as well as about the community at large and the forces of push and pull that brought these people to the Cape Fear. We will also be looking for the material culture, the objects that make up life and memory, the tangible things that tell the stories and represent these journeys and new lives as immigrants in St. Helena. We will borrow these objects for the exhibit on the community to be completed next semester. I’m excited to continue this project and look forward to working with more members of the St. Helena community.

End of an Era

Graduation is approaching and it’s time to reflect not only on my projects this semester but on my time at Preservation Chapel Hill in general. Having been here for nearly a year, I can see how I’ve learned and grown as a public historian. This semester alone, I took on several new projects, learning new skills and meeting new people along the way.

All of my projects this semester involved preserving the stories of people and places of Chapel Hill. One of the first things I did this semester was research the Hudson-McDade-Merritt House. Built in 1855 with an addition added in 1894, the house was home to A.J. McDade, the first Sunday School superintendent at University Baptist Church and the first mayor of Chapel Hill. The most interesting part of my research was trying to figure out what happened to the house which no longer sits at the corner of Columbia and Franklin Streets. The 1990s saw a heated debate between the University Baptist Church, who wanted to build educational space on the site, and community members who wanted to save the house. One plan seems to have almost gone through and the house was disassembled with the intentions of being reconstructed elsewhere; however, plans fell through and it remains unclear why the house was not reconstructed in a new location. With my research, I wrote a short article about the house for the Town of Chapel Hill’s off-campus student newsletter since so many students live in close proximity to the house’s former location but have no idea that a structure that represented Chapel Hill’s village days sat so nearby. The article, entitled “The Mysterious Case of the McDade House,” can be viewed here: http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=18395.

One of my other main projects this semester consisted of conducting oral histories. The first was with Derrick Jones, the last resident to live in the Hogan Rogers house, a structure in danger of being demolished. Mr. Jones talked about his family and his memories of growing up in the house, as well as about structural or landscape changes that he recalled occurring at the house. His story provides a connection between the historic house and the present as well as a human dimension to why historic homes are important—for the stories they can tell us about the past. His interview is also a form of “preserving” the house even if it is physically destroyed. My interview with Derrick Jones was my first time working on an oral history project. I was excited to acquire a new skill, but must admit it was a totally new experience for me and a bit of a challenge. Learning to know when to interject or redirect someone are skills I could continue to work on.

Derrick Jones Inteview, Still Image of Video, available at Preservation Chapel Hill.
Derrick Jones Interview, Still Image of Video, available at Preservation Chapel Hill.

The second oral history is part of an ongoing project to learn more about Clelue Johnson who worked as a housekeeper for Horace Williams. After his death she went on to become a nurse at UNC Hospitals, but Preservation Chapel Hill wants to know more about her life before working for Horace Williams as well as during and after. My project consisted of finding people who knew Clelue, who passed away herself in 1999, so that we can learn more about her life. I began my project by reading over the research done by a previous intern about Clelue as well as continuing more research myself. By talking with people at the Jackson Center, I contacted people in the community in order to find out who knew Clelue and who might be willing to talk about her with me. In addition to compiling contact information about people who might be helpful, I was able to conduct one interview for the project with Kathy Atwater. Mrs. Atwater was a young girl with she met Mrs. Johnson who was her Brownie Scout leader. They also both attended First Baptist Church. Mrs. Atwater shared a church directory with us she and Clelue had worked on together as part of the committee responsible for the anniversary directory. The directory also includes a photo of Clelue, allowing us to see her for the first time. Mrs. Atwater told us about Clelue’s heavy involvement in various committees at First Baptist Church. She was also able to suggest more people to talk to. I myself did not have time to follow all of the leads on this project and it will be left to a future intern.

Image of Clelue Johnson in First Baptist Church Directory, provided by Kathy Atwater. Images available at Preservation Chapel Hill.
Image of Clelue Johnson in First Baptist Church Directory, provided by Kathy Atwater. Images available at Preservation Chapel Hill.

My third project consisted of researching and writing a synopsis of three of Chapel Hill’s historic cemeteries: Barbee-Hargrave, Old Chapel Hill, and West Chapel Hill. This was part of an ongoing project with the Town of Chapel Hill to provide better interpretive and educational information to visitors of the cemeteries. Each of the cemeteries is significant for its African-American history. Barbee-Hargrave Cemetery and West Chapel Hill Cemetery were each specifically African-American cemeteries, having been established during the time of legal segregation. Old Chapel Hill Cemetery was also segregated into separate sections for blacks and whites. Efforts have been made over the years to provide for the recognition of those buried in these African-American cemeteries or sections, which often lacked the identifying markers found in white cemeteries. Signs are being designed to be placed in the cemeteries themselves and the synopses I wrote will be on the Town’s website for those who are interested in learning more about the cemeteries.

One of the other experiences this semester was with event planning. The interns planned and executed a fundraiser in conjunction with Women’s History Month entitled “First Ladies: Legacy Builders in Our Community.” The event itself went well; we had a very interesting panel of women, all leaders in the Chapel Hill community, who discussed issues such as poverty and the future of positive initiatives in Chapel Hill and North Carolina more broadly. However, attendance was very low. I think we learned the importance of careful scheduling – there were many competing events that day; venue choice – something off-campus likely would have worked better; and early publicity – the timing of Spring Break caused last-minute advertising of the event. Overall, the event allowed a chance for us interns to meet leaders in Chapel Hill and it was good exposure to event planning.

Having been here for almost a year now, I’ve really learned a wide variety of things including practical skills related to both preservation and professional development. I’ve also had valuable experiences related to the field I plan to pursue a career in and I have real-world products to show for my time here. In particular, I feel I’ve improved as a public speaker through our internship capstone presentations each semester. I feel more comfortable discussing my work in front of community members. I’ve also increased my experience with research and writing, while learning more about what preservation really is, a part of public history I’d had little exposure to before this internship. Finally, I’ve learned more about the town of Chapel Hill as an intern here then I had as a student at UNC the three previous years. I’ll be taking what I’ve learned and applying it at the next step in my career, graduate school. I’ll be going to University of North Carolina Wilmington in the fall as a Master’s student in the History department, with a concentration in public history. Ultimately, I hope to pursue a career in exhibition and interpretation at a museum or historic site. While I hope to work in a museum context, I will always remain interested and advocate for historic preservation of the built environment as well.

Moving forward, looking back

So far this semester, my work on the two oral history projects has moved forward slowly, yet steadily. I got back in touch with Derrick Jones, the Hogan Rogers House resident and hope to be recording that interview very soon! Also, I’ve met and talked with several members of the community who knew Clelue Johnson. Mrs. Clelue Johnson was a housekeeper for Horace Williams but later went on to be a nurse at UNC Hospitals. One woman I spoke to knew Mrs. Clelue Johnson once she was a nurse. She remembers living with Mrs. Clelue and her husband Mr. Williard Johnson when she was in junior high. The stories she had to tell about Clelue were so helpful and really provided insight on her character and her life. The stories also included her own accounts of attending school the first year of desegregation in Chapel Hill. That was the same year she lived with the Johnsons and she spoke highly of their support for her and the trials she faced as an African-American student in a newly integrated school.

Other people I’ve spoken to knew Clelue because they were neighbors or attended the same church, First Baptist of Chapel Hill. Many people who only knew Clelue in passing have still be helpful in suggesting others to talk to. The project is difficult at times when I feel that I’ve hit a dead end or can’t get in touch with someone; however the conversations I’ve had with interested community members have made up for any of the frustrations. I look forward to talking to more friends and neighbors of Mrs. Clelue Johnson and learning more about her life as well as theirs in the history of Chapel Hill.

Aside from the oral history projects, I have also begun a new project. I am using research done by a past intern to move toward finishing PCH’s contract with the Town of Chapel Hill to place signs in 3 of the historic cemeteries of Chapel Hill: Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, Barbee-Hargrave Cemetery, and West Chapel Hill Cemetery. I am editing the text prepared by a past intern and searching for photos to include on the signs. I am also writing text for an online component of the project, a website that will feature information about each of the cemeteries. The website will have information for researchers in addition to the signs actually located in the cemeteries.

I’m excited to continue to move forward on these projects and hope to have more updates on the oral history projects soon!