714 “A” Ave. Norfolk, VA

The house at 714 “A” Avenue is a historic landmark, as far as I’m concerned. It was the home of my maternal grandparents, Ira Jr.* and Virginia Braswell née Alston.

It was there that they raised a family of eight children, including my mother, and lived for over fifty years. Over the years, 714 served as a home for other family members, as well. Any who needed help were welcomed, my mother recalled to me.

714 was built in 1917 and perhaps the first occupants were Ira’s parents, my great-grandparents. Their names were Ira Sr. (of course) and Mattie Braswell née Brewington. They both were from Wayne County, North Carolina.

Norfolk, Virginia was a land of plenty jobs at the turn of the twentieth century, and so Ira journeyed there and did very well for himself as head bellman at the Atlantic Hotel.

Ira Sr. and Mattie married in 1904, by 1920 they were living at 714.

Ira and Mattie’s children were: Leon, Curtis, Clara, Ira Jr*, Perry, Mattie, and Joshua Braswell. The homestead was the setting for many family and social gatherings, based on newspaper accounts and family recollections.

Years later, as previously mentioned, my grandparents lived there. I personally remember their home as a loving and inviting place.

It was a place for deep discussions and a place to showcase the graduation photos of their children. It was a place where my grandfather exclaimed, “Get that girl some Kentucky Fried Chicken!” around the kitchen table. It was a place where my grandfather told us that we would be going to the beach, Oceanview, the next day, much to my great excitement. It was a place where my grandmother opened the back door to shoosh away stray cats and where she showed me a beautiful ring that she promised to gift me when I turned seventeen. It was the place where my mother’s uncle boarded for a time. One day he showed her a suit which hung on a doorway at 714. It was the suit that he intended to wear to her high school graduation. It was the suit that he’d be buried in before that would happen. 714 “A” Avenue was the place where I stealthily snuck into the refrigerator at night and nibbled on raw hot dogs, much to my now horror and shame. It was the place where one of my uncles, as a child, foretold of funeral processions with his toy cars. It was the place where you could walk for thirty seconds and be on Church Street. It was the place where they said my grandfather prayed all night and all day ‘til he went through. It was the place that a spark was lit in me for learning my family’s history, because of that beautiful family Bible. It was the place that my grandmother sold part and parcel for some kind of new beginning that would be short-lived.

Think about the one place in your family that is considered the homestead, the gathering place. Learn all that you can about it. Google it; ask family, neighbors. Read about it wherever you can and know. Know that by listening to the heartbeat of the family via the old landmark, that history will unfold for you.

History is situate in the homesteads of our ancestors…

The Genealogy Situation Room

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