Thursday, April 23, 2015

If you BUILD it, they will come.

Our Iroquois County Genealogical Society office is in a 2-room vault in the old county courthouse, so we sometimes keep the doors (steel-reinforced?) nearly shut to better control the temperature. There is a sign, "Come In. Doors are shut to conserve the heat (or cool)."

One small section of original record books
A few days ago, the doors parted and I heard a first-time visitor say, "Wow! I've found the treasure chest right here!" We really do have an impressive collection, and we still have the record books used over 100 years ago all around us.

Would you like more people to know about your Society, your Historical Museum or your Family History journey? So many people spend time online researching or learning. If you have activities or resources that can answer someone's research needs, it helps to get the word out. You have to BUILD that online presence.

I will be speaking on this topic at the annual meeting of the Iroquois County Historical Society at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The meeting is just outside those vault doors in the old Iroquois County Courthouse, 103 West Cherry Street, Watseka, IL.

We are the Iroquois County Genealogical Society. We are on Facebook. We have a Rootsweb page. Here are three more ways we are BUILDing our online presence.
  • We are BUILDing an online library catalog of the family histories and reference books we have. Maybe we have something that will help in your research. You may come to visit. It is the ICGS.Illinois LibraryThing. Free to BUILD and use.
  • We are BUILDing interest in the activities and resources we have in Genealogy with this blog,  Searching Genealogy in ... Iroquois County, Illinois, and we include helpful hints on researching your family history. Free to BUILD and use.
  • I am BUILDing a Pinterest board entitled Genealogy-Iroquois County-Illinois where I pin items of genealogical interest for Iroquois County. Free to BUILD and use.
These are definitely works in progress, but that just means we are still BUILDing our following, and we are working to get more people through those vault doors.

If you BUILD it, they will come.

Friday, April 17, 2015

ICGS.Illinois on The LibraryThing - National Library Week 2015

The week of April 12-17, 2015 was National Library Week, so I spent a few hours in the Iroquois County Genealogical Society library entering more books from our collection into our LibraryThing online catalog ( I first wrote about our library in this earlier post.

Many of these new additions include histories of counties in Illinois and booklets in honor of community centennial celebrations. There are many more bookshelves to go, so you can continue to return to our LibraryThing to see our new additions.

A few book tags on ICGS LibraryThing

If you don't have the direct link to our LibraryThing site, you can find the ICGS LibraryThing listings directly from the LibraryThing home page ( or

On the LibraryThing home page, look at the top right corner of the page. You will see a Search site box to the far right of the brown bar. Click on the search magnifying glass, right below the word Help.

Now you can choose what you are searching, from Works (book titles) to Authors to Publishers. To search for our library, from the left column, click Members.

Enter ICGS.Illinois in the Search LibraryThing box and click the search magnifying glass. The results list will include ICGS.Illinois (Iroquois County Genealogical Society, Watseka, Illinois, USA).

Click on the link and you will see our Profile page. Read through our page to learn more about our Society. When I wrote this blog post, we had 880 books and family histories entered. You can also link to web page on Rootsweb, our Facebook page and this Searching Genealogy in...Iroquois County, Illinois blog. When you are ready to check out our books, click the Your library link next to Collections. You can browse through books or use the Search this library box to check for specific works.

There are many options available for viewing and searching collections on The LibraryThing. Explore and enjoy!

If you have any questions or comments, please click Comments below. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Chris Vallillo to perform "Abraham Lincoln in Song"

Make your plans now!

Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 2:00 p.m.

Old Courthouse Museum
103 W. Cherry Street
Watseka, Illinois

The Iroquois County Historical Society is hosting Abraham Lincoln in Song, "a one man show created by award-winning folksinger and folklorist, Chris Vallillo to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.  Extensively researched and historically accurate, the program uses period music to look at our 16th President from a whole new angle ... The show covers Lincoln’s life from his birth on the Big South Fork of Nolan’s Creek in Kentucky in 1809 through his death in 1865 at the hand of John Wilkes Booth and lasts approximately 1 hour and fifteen minutes." (Source)

According to the web site,, "For Chris, a good song is as much a work of art as any painting or sculpture. His music has a timeless quality about it, with one foot in the past and one foot in the future."

Abraham Lincoln in Song reached #10 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album Chart in 2008. The live show and CD are both endorsed by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

“With Abraham Lincoln in Song, Chris Vallillo takes the audience on a musical journey, making history come alive!” -Phil Funkenbusch, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

For more information, call The Iroquois County Historical Society at 815-432-2215, check their Facebook page at or email

"An astonishing piece of work...enlightening, exciting and entertaining!" -Rick Kogan, The Sunday Papers, WGN Radio

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Great sites to learn about using the FREE!

We are three days into our free ONE-ON-ONE training sessions at Iroquois County Genealogical Society. (Still going through Saturday, March 14, 2015) I have had a great time. It's amazing how much you can learn just helping someone else learn. Love it and always will.

Sometimes you get a good start with those local resources found at your genealogical society archives or your state archives. Sometimes you get a good start by using online research sites. (Most of us probably do both of those things.)

One excellent online family research site is the FREE, and always will be FREE, site of the LDS church. You do not need to be a member of the church to take advantage of the "largest genealogy organization in the world."

All that, and they have some of the best online training resources ever. If you cannot make it to ICGS for our ONE-ON-ONE training sessions, you can find help in the following.

1 - Training Center - always FREE. You can link to the Learning Center for "hundreds of online genealogy courses to help you discover your family history." Search for specific topics or choose a lesson by place, skill level, subject, format and subject language.

Here's an example: Beginning training on Family Trees in
Free Training Videos

The View This Lesson link takes you to the FamilySearch Family Tree Curriculum page, where you can choose Levels One, Two or Three or training in the Android or iOS apps. Incredible resource, and this is only ONE topic. Some lessons have pdf handouts, videos and actual practice activities and worksheets. It's as though you are sitting in a classroom with a skilled instructor. You cannot help but learn.

2 - FamilySearch Research Wiki - new look, same great info

You may have been on the FamilySearch Wiki pages previously. The initial steps to get there have changed a bit, but the good stuff is still there.

From the FamilySearch home page, hover the cursor over SEARCH and choose Wiki.

This opens the new-look Family History Research Wiki. Remember, the concept of a "wiki" is collaboration, so on the right side of the window, you see links about how to add to the collaboration and creation of content pages. You are probably not there for that purpose right now, so don't click on those links.

You are here to learn more about searching your family history.

Family History Research Wiki
You need to use the clickable map or the search box to the left of the map to get to the research guides and information.

Just for fun, click North America on the map. There is the page you may be familiar with. Now choose United States, either by clicking the link or the next map. If that is not enough info to keep you happy and busy for a while, you already must know more than most of us.

We still have openings for participants in our free ONE-ON-ONE training sessions. Call and make an appointment. (815-432-3730)

We are here to help!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

One-On-One Training is Here! March 9-14, 2015

Have you ever wondered, do you really want to spend your hard-earned money on a premium online site to continue your family history search? Maybe you have a personal account on one of those sites, but you don't really know how to use it very well. Are there some free sites that may help you in your journey?
Iroquois County Genealogical Society volunteers are ready to help you gain some insight and experience in your online quest. Next week, March 9-14, 2015, we are having ONE-ON-ONE WEEK at the ICGS archives in the Old Courthouse Museum, 103 West Cherry Street, Watseka, IL. Bring your research questions and your curiosity. We'll sit down with you to see what we can all learn. If you already subscribe to a premium site, bring your login information and we can work from information you already have found. Either way, we are waiting to help.
A variety of premium sites can be explored:,,,,,,, a German immigration database site and Daughters of the American Revolution. We can also help with the free web site. (Oh, and we will have a sale on our print books for participants.)
This is a free service to help you in your family history journey. All we ask is that you call the ICGS office at 815-432-3730 or email us at to register. We are offering these in two-hour blocks of time (you may extend, if needed).

March 9-14, 2015
Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm.

See you soon!!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

So many books, so little time!

In my first post on this blog, I wrote a brief summary of the types of records and resources we have in the ICGS archives. As I looked back at that post today, it was really brief. That's why this blog is so important. There is so much to tell.

Our "Genealogy Office" has a room that just fascinates me. If you ask Mary (she's in the office every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), she will tell you that I always have been amazed in this room. It is full of BOOKS, hundreds of them! I want people to know about them.

A personal story I have to share: When I was at the University of Illinois, I used to go to the undergraduate library to study. Many days I would spend more time browsing the bookshelves than studying my books. After all, at that time, I was in part of the largest public university library in the country. Now, the Association of Research Libraries statistics for academic libraries in 2007-2008 shows Harvard University Library in first place with 16,832,952 volumes and University of Illinois in second place with 13,158,748. So many books, so little time!

For a few months, I have wanted to get a list of our books online. We don't circulate these books, but you should know what we have. There's no time like the present. Thanks to the constant updating of our computer records by Deb, time on Friday with Ginny and the computer, my past experience with databases and a little luck, we exported, then I imported 853 book titles into the online library site called LibraryThing. Our member name is ICGS.Illinois.

You can link directly to our Library at
This is definitely a work in progress, but book titles and most copyrights are listed. Tags (those words that help in searching and categorizing stuff) are in the entry, but not showing at this moment. Just one of those mysteries of technology I love so much. Authors should be showing, too, but aren't. Hmmm?

I guess I could have waited until it was tweaked to let you know this was available, but I just couldn't hold back. We have 853 books listed online!! As a former colleague used to say, "Whooo hoooo!"

Check out ICGS.Illinois on LibraryThing. Just saying, "So many books, so little time!"

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mark your 2015 calendars!

The ICGS Board has set dates for some of our 2015 activities. Expect 2015 to be a great year! Add these to your calendars now, so you don't miss a chance to participate, and check back for more details and reminders in future posts and in our newsletter, The Stalker.

Have you ever wanted to test run an online subscription site without having to sign up for it? Do you wish you knew more about how to get around a site that you are already paying for? Are those free online sites worth your time?

In a new event this year, we are going to try to answer those questions with you. The week of March 9-14, 2015, the Iroquois County Genealogical Society board and volunteers are hosting One-on-One training sessions to help you explore many online genealogy sites. The sessions are free, but registration is required. Sessions will be scheduled in 2-hour blocks of time. We are still working on the specifics, but some sites we are considering include Ancestry, Family SearchFold3, GenesReunited, Archives, Newspaper Archive, World Vital Records, Find My Past, Accessible Archives, and OGSA (Ostfriensen) Database.

Our 3rd Annual Cemetery Walk is scheduled for Sunday, September 13, 2015. We are planning to hold this event at the Flesher Cemetery, north of Crescent City, Iroquois County, Illinois. There will be much more to come on this interesting and enjoyable event. See this post about our 2014 Cemetery Walk.

Last October, we had a visit from Lin Strong, President of the Ostfriensen Genealogical Society of America.

Lin Strong (left) and ICGS President, Mary Buhr
At that time, we talked about having Lin come to Watseka to present a seminar. She will be here on Saturday, November 14, 2015. Part of the day will be spent in the ICGS library using the OGSA publications and other resources available here. Her topics are still being decided upon, but this promises to be a fabulous day of learning and fun.

IHSA (Illinois) Class 2A Watseka Regional Girls Basketball tourney runs from February 9-12. Watch for our ad in the printed program.

One last item to note: As you may know, you can purchase our publications from our web site using Paypal. When you visit our office, you now can use Paypal for in-person purchases, copies or donations. Just another reason to stop by to see us!