Alex Jeannotte '17
I began my involvement with research on the Perkins family in 2015 when I took Professor Greenwood's Public History course my sophomore year. I chose the photograph of Rose, Edward, and Abraham Perkins and from there on I made it my job to trace their family history. Uncovering the Perkins family genealogy has been a process and a incredibly rewarding one. The ways I have researched the family have consisted of using census records, newspapers and city and house directories to gain perspective on the many places and possible experiences Perkins family members had while living in Worcester. It turns out, the photograph of Rose and her brothers was actually taken at 1 ½ Winfield Street, about a five minute walk from my apartment. As a History and Sociology double major, I find there is something really really special about being able to walk in the very footsteps of where the subjects of your research once walked.
This spring, I was given the chance to revisit work that I love and then some. Now in my senior year, I was able to apply my historical knowledge of the 19th century to my research in order to understand how and why the Perkins came to Worcester, Massachusetts. Doing this work for the past few years has really developed my interest in research and Public History. I hope to pursue them both in my professional life.
Not only am I preparing the story of how the Perkins family migrated from Camden, South Carolina to Worcester, Massachusetts but I also had the chance to talk with their living descendants. I gained so much insight from Kim and Wendy sharing their family experiences. In return, I helped shed light into a past of their that they had never known. This aspect of the work I have done resonates deeply with my academic and personal interests of the ways that we can remain faithful to the past while being relevant to the present. When I was assigned to pick a photograph in 2015, I was drawn to the one of Rose, Edward, and Abraham but I was not sure why. Little did I know, that three years later, I would be building on their story, presenting it to the public and, most importantly, giving it back to their living descendants. My involvement in research of the Perkins family has been the most rewarding of all my experience in college.