Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 29
Alumni Profile
Digging up documents

     Investigating a family history can uncover all sorts of
intriguing details. Joseph Neville, Delaware '62, a senior program
officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities, knows firsthand
about such excitement.
     Uncovering a German influence in his own family, Neville set off
down a path of scholarship, focusing on German immigration that
occurred between 1850 and 1914 in his hometown of Wilmington, Del. His
scholarly work on the subject landed him in an innovative,
professional development program begun by NEH last year.
     Neville is one of six staff members selected to take part in an
independent study, research and development program. The program
allows staffers-many of whom have backgrounds as scholars, teachers or
curators-to keep abreast of current developments in their respective
fields and to cultivate capabilities as program administrators.
     Created by Congress in 1965, the NEH is an independent agency
that supports education, research, preservation projects and public
programs in the humanities.
     For the past two years, Neville, who lives in Dale City, Va., has
worked on his research project in his spare time. He says he expects
the NEH program will enable him to make significant progress on the
project as well as sharpen his skills as an historian.
     Neville is particularly interested in the marriages involving
Wilmington's first- and second-generation German immigrants. He is
using church documents, local and federal civil records and newspapers
to determine how the immigrants and their children were
     "It's my hypothesis that Wilmington's Germans melted into the
surrounding population rather quickly, and that crucial evidence for
their having done so can be found in the frequency with which German
immigrants and their immediate children married outside their group,"
Neville says.
     Neville will examine the Germans' intermarriage patterns, the
ethnicity of their non-German spouses and the role of religion in the
assimilation process.
     According to Neville, Germans were the second largest ethnic
group to immigrate to 19th-century Wilmington. They were preceded by
the Irish. The Germans ventured into a city that experienced
considerable industrialization and urbanization.
     At the NEH, Neville directs the fellowship program for college
teachers and independent scholars, chairing more than 100 panels, most
of which were in American and European history. He holds a Ph.D.
degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and an M.A. from
Pennsylvania State University.
                                                     -Zandra Singleton