A Short Update

You never know what you'll learn from a birth certificate or death certificate.  Today I got the death certificate of my great-grandfather, George Siegler, from New York City.  Amidst all for information was a little tidbit that made me stop and think.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a post about "Grandma's House," which in our case was an apartment at 19 Cox Place in Brooklyn.  I included in the post my out of proportion drawing of the apartment, which was of the type called "railroad" or "shotgun," in the sense that you could stand in the living room and fire a shotgun and it would go out the window in the kitchen, at the other end of the apartment.  Here's the drawing:


I think my grandparents occupied the first bedroom, and my dad, as a young man, the second bedroom.

So what was the tidbit I got from Great-Grandpa's death certificate?  At the time of his death in 1944, his home address was recorded as "19 Cox Place, Brooklyn."  So in that year, when my dad was 19 years old, his grandfather was living with them.  Where did Dad sleep?  With his grandpa?  On the couch in the living room?  

Having been there as a child, I can assure you with confidence that the rooms in this place were very small -- just enough room for  a bed and a dresser.   It would be a tight squeeze with three people living in the place, but with four, it would have been very uncomfortable.

Here's the thing -- when I look at census records and so on, I'm surprised at how many people are living in the same place, sometimes not only the family but a grandparent, the spouse of one of the adult children, a grandkid or two, even a boarder.  It seems that as time has gone by, our need for space has grown, to the point that today a nuclear family (parents and 2.5 kids), will buy themselves a 3000 or even 4000 sq ft home, if they can afford it.  We need "personal space," "alone time," "a room of one's own," that our ancestors would not have been able to comprehend.  

A question:  Have we gained something? Have we lost anything?  How will our lives evolve in the future?


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