On my recent research trip to Chicago, there were a number of memorable finds and ancestral breakthroughs. Yet one of my most gratifying days was spent driving through the South Side, stopping at, taking pictures of, and trying to visualize those important and life-changing family events that took place at those locales.
Before my trip, I had amassed an impressive list of addresses for various bungalows, apartments, schools, churches, and other significant landmarks that defined and shaped my family’s life in Chicago. Using Google Maps, I plotted out all the locations out in advance, and re-ordered my list several times to make sure my route was the most direct possible. No sense criss-crossing the city wasting precious research time! Although Google offers the Street View, nothing compares to being there on location, driving the same streets and viewing the same neighborhood cityscapes.
Throughout the day, several locations stood out for me. The first was 8227 S. Indiana. According to my great aunt, this was the house where my grandparents were married in 1942.
The Alderson’s first moved to that address in the mid-1930′s, according to the Chicago telephone directories from the era, and remained there for nearly 20 years. Fast forward to the mid-1960′s, a few short miles away. The Avalon Theater was showing “Disorderly Orderly,” starring Jerry Lewis. In the audience, my mother and father were on their first date.
Originally opened in 1927, the historic theatre was renamed the New Regal in the 1980′s. I remember both my parents pointing out that distinctive dome from the Chicago Skyway as we drove past. My parents’ first date must have gone well, as a few years later, they were married at St. Felicitas Church.
Located at 1526 E. 84th St., the church is again only a short distance from the other landmarks, schools, and residences that I visited on my travels that day. I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure, touring my family’s Chicago neighborhoods, viewing first-hand the sites and locations that shaped my family’s narrative. Yet perhaps the most rewarding part of my journey will be when I sit down with my parents to share and discuss my trip and findings. Perhaps I’ll glean some new insight into their experiences there in the South Side or learn about new locales that I’ll explore on my next adventure to Chicago.