Changing through the century: Life at the Lott family farm in the nineteenth-century town of Flatlands, Kings County, New York

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Christopher R. DeCorse


Lott family farm, Flatlands, Kings County, New York, Nineteenth century

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Traditionally, the history of the City of New York has been perceived as being the history of the urban megalopolis, Manhattan Island. In fact, the majority of the outer boroughs that make up present day New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) remained relatively rural until the first third of the twentieth century. This dissertation focuses on one particular farming family that lived in what was the Town of Flatlands in modern southern Brooklyn. Using an ethnohistorical approach, this project tracks the changing socio-cultural lifeways of members of the Hendrick I. Lott family, their descendents and their enslaved and servant populations during the nineteenth century. The lifeways approach is an interdisciplinary methodology that has been used to study household or family level groups from European backgrounds during the time period of the late seventeenth century throughout the end of the nineteenth century. This approach combines the disciplines of history, anthropological archaeology and architecture to create a broader picture of the everyday lifeways and activities of families and how their roles changed through time in reaction to internal and external stimuli.

The everyday lifeways of rural southern Kings County residents, prior to the twentieth century, is for the most part, unknown. Historians have assumed that these farming families were similar to those from other boroughs and other areas outside of the county. This assumption has led to a lack of study of this area. Various methodological and theoretical perspectives within the field of historical archaeology offer an outlet to look at certain types of socio-economic groups and situations that often pass into the historical record. For this dissertation, the overarching methodological and theoretical perspective that is incorporated throughout is the lifeways approach. What was the everyday lifeways of the Lott family? What were the interactions between the Lott family and their enslaved and servant populations? How is the Lott family's worldview of life displayed by the layout of their farmstead? Finally, what role did the Lott family play within the larger social context of the town of Flatlands?

By combining the archaeological, historical and architectural records, this dissertation sheds new light into the lives of this nineteenth century family. Archaeological material from the Lott farmstead will be compared with similar nineteenth century sites in Brooklyn. This comparison of the various data sets adds new information as to the issue of consumer choice of the Lotts (and in turn other residents of the area) during this time period. The material remains of the Lott family, combined with a limited documentary record, provides first hand account as to the daily lives and activity of the Lott family members. This, in turn, offers answers to the questions of the Lotts' socio-political status within the community that the dissertation raises.


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