Saturday, April 30, 2016

Society Saturday - ICGS attends conferences

It's Society Saturday.

What can you do to jump start your society? We like to attend conferences and workshops. We listened to some of the best speakers in the country and tried to bring those lessons back to our own research. You can also get inspiration close to home at the genealogical society meetings in your adjoining counties.

Here is a list of learning opportunities we took advantage of over the past year and those we are currently planning to attend. Maybe we'll see you there.

National Genealogical Society, St. Charles, MO (May 2015)

Genealogical Society of Southern Illinois, Carterville, IL (August 2015)

Illinois Association of Museums, Springfield, IL (September 2015)

Fox Valley Genealogy Society Conference, Naperville, IL (September 2015)

Illinois State Genealogical Society, Oak Lawn, IL  (October 2015)

Kankakee Valley Genealogical Society, Kankakee, IL (Feb. and Apr. 2016)

DuPage County Genealogical Society, Naperville, IL (March 2016)

Indiana Genealogical Society, Fort Wayne, IN (April 2016)


National Genealogical Society, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (May 3-7, 2016)

Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America, Minneapolis, MN (July 31 - August 3,  2016)

Federation of Genealogical Societies hosted by Illinois State Genealogical Society, Springfield, IL (August 31- September 3, 2016)

Illinois Association of Museums, Oak Park, IL (September 28-30, 2016)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Infamous and Notorious People of Iroquois County

It's a little like a cemetery walk, but you don't have to be in the weather and you don't have to walk! It's a little like a history lesson, but you don't take a test. You may be surprised at what we have found in our archives at Iroquois County Genealogical Society.

Portrayers and storytellers will tell you about people from Iroquois County who where murderers, adulterers, an abortionist and more. Are any of your ancestors in the list? Dr. Charlotte Wright, Mrs. Reiner Meintz, Ben and Fred Doden, John Norvell and family and Coroner Willis Skiff.

Join us for fun and learn something you probably didn't know. Hope to see you Sunday, April 10, 2016 at our first edition of Infamous and Notorious People of Iroquois County. We'll be in the Courtroom of the Old Courthouse Museum, 103 W Cherry Street, Watseka, Illinois.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

McCullough Speedway - Watseka, Illinois

The following article appeared in the February 2016 issue of the Iroquois County Genealogical Society quarterly newsletter, The Stalker. In addition to interviews with living family members, I completed much of the research in the newspaper microfilm collection at the ICGS archives. We have hundreds of Iroquois County and area newspaper microfilm which offer excellent research opportunities.

I hope you enjoy the story. If it reminds you of your own childhood memories, please comment below. Come to visit us at the archives of Iroquois County Genealogical Society.
My dad still refers to a section of the family farm north of Watseka, Illinois as the “racetrack,” telling the hired men “Go check down by the racetrack.” Several years ago, I started asking questions and discovered that there was indeed an auto racetrack in that field during the 1930s and early 1940s run by his dad, T.J. McCullough and family. My dad, Robert and his surviving sisters were young children at the time, but they have happy memories of those summer days.

There was a large grandstand to allow the crowd a good view of the track. Dad’s mother, Myra sold burgers prepared from a cook stove under that grandstand. Walter Craft brought the drink wagon, selling many flavors of Sweet Tooth pop. Youngsters, Delorous, Barbara and Doris looked under the grandstand for coins hoping to get enough for a taste of that pop. According to Dad, when the grandstand was demolished, the lumber was used to build the corn crib standing today in the barnyard.

From the Old Courthouse Museum collection
There were parties and dances, too. My Uncle Virgil talked about building the dance floor with Harry Sweet up at Mackemer & McBroom’s Lumber in 1932, then moving it out to the racetrack. A tent was put up over the dance floor to protect the partiers from the weather. When that party was over in 1934, the floor was sold to Henry Oldberg of Papineau, who later sold it to the Dutch Mill Restaurant in Gilman, Illinois. When the Dutch Mill was sold off, my sister purchased a piece of that floor.

The “auto speedway” was started by a group of Watseka businessmen, according to an article from The Watseka Republican dated April 22, 1925. At the time, this farm was owned by August Wockner. The dirt track was started in the fall of 1924, with the first races in May, 1925. It was known as the “Lightning Speedway,” and it apparently lived up to its name. “The half-mile track was 60 feet wide, with two turns of 510 feet each, and getaway stretches at each side.” It was expected to be a good investment with good returns, and “one of the largest amusement enterprises in this section of the middle west,” according to the April 23, 1925 issue of The Clifton Advocate.

The first races in May 1925 were well attended with 1600-1700 patrons watching W. H. Barton of Hoopeston finish the fastest 5-mile in 5 minutes, 31.4 seconds. That’s 54.3 miles per hour, amazing in 1925.  In his Buick Special, he also finished the fastest half-mile trial in 32.1 seconds, 56 mph. With a $200 prize, the 20-mile race was won by H. Rose of Rantoul, driving a Frazier Special. Other area drivers mentioned in these early race results included Howard Edwards, Melvin Harwood, Clyde Ash, Lester Grice, Harvey Edwards, Eugene Gilkerson, Joyce Galloway, Verney Cantway, Arthur Delozier and Howard Frazier.
The Watseka Republican, May 22, 1941

In 1931, Thomas James (T.J.) McCullough purchased the Wockner farm and continued the races. The track was known for a short time as the Watseka Speedway. Eventually, it was called the McCullough Speedway and attracted drivers from Chicago, northern and central Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. The races were sanctioned by auto racing organizations and attracted much attention. As public interest changed, the races went from full-sized autos to midget races, even running motorcycle races in May, 1938. There was one fatal accident in May, 1937 when John Ronald Bergal, 27, of Hammond, Indiana died following injuries he suffered when his car “turned turtle” rounding a curve, throwing him from the car.

1940 racetrack
  ABOVE: July 14, 1940
IL Historical Aerial Photography
(ILHAP) 1937-1947
In 1940, the farm implement company of T.J. McCullough & Sons was established. (This company can be seen in the photo from 2009 below.) From my research, it seems the last races were run during the summer of 1941. They included both the big car professional and midget car racers. However, life was changing. By the end of the year, many sons went off to war, and Americans were busy supporting those efforts.

BELOW: Evidence of McCullough Speedway is still visible in this 2009 Google Earth image recorded by USDA Farm Service Agency. Aerial Photo Source: Google Earth

Google Earth: 2009

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

FREE Research Center

Do you know what primogeniture means? How about et ux? Are you a puzzled progeniture?

You could just Google these words for a definition, but that may give only modern day use. Visit Ancestry's Genealogy Glossary landing page. The genealogy glossary list gives you the genealogy-specific use of terms, many in century old documents.

Here's another problem many of us face. Sometimes you can search a foreign database index using names and gender only. You will get search results in most cases, but when you see the images, they are in the foreign language.

This page has  topics for searching in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish language documents. Help with wordlists, occupations and names is given. Click the "more..." link under each language to see overall research hints for those records. You may also discover specific databases that are more obscure. Remember, the general Ancestry search only looks at the top 10% of the most popular databases. A small, obscure foreign database must be searched specifically by name.

If you are searching using keywords, such as an occupation, you should use the foreign terms. Here is a message you will see on the search page for Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire. (You must log in to see this gazetteer.)

Here are just a few terms you may encounter as you search foreign databases.

Inventaire des biens or Pensionnaire (French)
Manente or Pompiere (Italian)
aangetrouwde or zuigeling (Dutch)
Lehrkrankenschwester or Wäschereiangestellter (German)

One last item: Be sure to check out the Research Guides in the top right corner of the Glossary page. These are FREE and new ones are frequently added.

Take advantage of these free research topics to achieve better search results in, and generalize what you see to other searches you do.

If you want even more help, be sure to visit us at the Iroquois County Genealogical Society in the Old Courthouse Museum.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Leap Day 2016

As we finish up our first One-on-One week of 2016, we move on to another celebration.

One-on-One research

Come join us Monday, February 29, 2016 for our Leap Day Celebration, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. We will have snacks all day, and pizza at 4:30 p.m. Take advantage of our one day, in-person only SALE of 29% off all publications! We are located in the Old Courthouse Museum, 103 West Cherry Street, Watseka, Illinois, USA.

You probably know how to determine when a leap day is added to the February calendar. The year has to be a number evenly divisible by 4, and NOT end in 00, unless it is also evenly divisible by 400. For example, 2016 is a leap year, 2017 is not. The year 2000 was a leap year, but the year 1900 was not.

Did you know one of the other Leap Day traditions could cause a man to be given a fine of a public kiss or a nice gift for a single woman? When there were stricter social rules, women were not allowed to propose marriage to a man.

That is until 5th century Ireland, when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait so long for a man to propose. The story goes that St. Patrick said the women could propose on this one day in February.

In English law, February 29th was ignored legally, and people assumed traditions held the same status. In 1288 Scotland, they supposedly passed a law that allowed women to propose marriage to the man of their choice in that year. Any man declining the invitation could face fines from a public kiss to buying expensive gifts for the scorned woman.

Happy 2016!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Genealogy Help, German Research and Coroner's Reports

Lots of information for you in this post!

This week is our 3rd week of One-on-One sessions, and we are off to a great start. There is still time to sign up for your FREE help session. We can help with family research or just exploring the many online resources available for family historians. Come in to the ICGS archives in the Old Courthouse Museum, 103 West Cherry Street, Watseka, IL, and our volunteers will do whatever we can to further your research efforts.

Ginny Lee helping Trisha Seigmiller

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 sessions in two-hour blocks of time (you may extend, if needed).

See more information in our previous post One-on-One Training Is Here.

Do you have German ancestry? Don't forget to sign up for the Lin Strong seminar day, Saturday, November 7, 2015. Space is limited, and it is filling up. Call at 815-432-3730 or email to sign up or for more information.
Lin Strong (left) and ICGS President, Mary Buhr
Lin Strong, President of the Ostfriensen Genealogical Society of America will present a seminar on German and related research. Part of the day will be spent in the ICGS library using the OGSA publications and other resources available here. This promises to be a fabulous day of learning and fun.

One more calendar item: our Annual Meeting will be held Saturday, December 5, 2015. We'll have coffee at 6:00 p.m. with meeting at 7:00 p.m. Our program will be given by Bill Cheatum, Iroquois County Coroner. Bill will discuss ways to use coroner's reports in genealogy research.

We hope to see many ICGS members and guests for this interesting evening!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

See you at the Iroquois County Fair!

Believe it or not - fair time is here! We hope to see you at the Iroquois County 4-H and Agricultural Fair. The Iroquois County Genealogical Society will have a booth in the Commercial Building at the fair.

As always, we want to wish ALL the exhibitors, young and old, the best of luck! It's great to win, but it's great to have fun and learn, too. The county fairs do that for everyone involved, even us!

It is a little chilly today, but next week is forecast to be in the 80's. You may need one of our popular freebies: a genuine "I'm a Genealogy Fan!" fan, unique and completely handmade. I know, I cut out 200 fans over the last two days!

We have information on records held in the archives of ICGS, genealogy forms and ideas for the taking. You can even get a piece of candy to give you energy to get through the building.

Speaking of getting through the building - how about something for the kids who get dragged through the commercial displays! Play our "Prize Every Time - Pick a Duck" game, always a winner. Yes, you can be just a kid at heart to play our game.

Our faithful volunteer, Ashley will not be able to join us in our booth this year. Ashley has spent many summers volunteering in the ICGS office and organizing and working in our booth at the fair. She graduated from college this spring, and now she has a REAL job, making money! Congratulations, Ashley. We will miss you, and we'll try to make our booth as much fun as you always have.

This year we have FOUR FREE chance bundles. You can enter for one or all four.
  • Census bundle - full set of our U.S. Census index books for Iroquois County for the years 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and the 1890 Tax List - $60 value
  • Birth bundle - 6 index books to Iroquois County births for 1916, A-Z - $43 value
  • Death bundle - index books to Iroquois County Death Records 1902-1948, Cemetery Histories and Locations of Iroquois County, Iroquois County Burial Permits and Onarga (IL) Funeral Home Records - $32 value
  • Miscellaneous bundle - Iroquois County Poor Farm Records 1857-1964 and 4 booklets of miscellaneous records which include such items as 1850 and 1860 Mortality Schedules on U.S. Census, index to WW I Iroquois County Soldier records, Iroquois County Farm Name Applications 1915-1927 and Iroquois Hospital Admittance Book 1916-1918 - $48 value
Of course, if you do not feel lucky each of the books in these chance bundles will be available for sale. In addition, we will have for sale our very popular volumes of Iroquois County interest, including
  • Aerial Farm Photos of Iroquois County 1955 (we can help you find your farm picture),
  • 1880 History of Iroquois County by Beckwith, with our added every name index,
  • Combined Atlas of Iroquois County: 1885, 1904 and 1921,
  • Portrait and Biographical Record 1893,
  • 1907 Past & Present of Iroquois County and
  • Original Land Purchases 1831-1882.
We have name index books for all cemeteries in Iroquois County and Catholic church record collections. As much as possible, we will have copies of these publications at our booth for you to purchase at the fair. You can see our complete publications price list on our web site at this link. (Prices subject to change.)
The Iroquois County Historical Society will be sharing the booth space with us. You can learn about the activities of the Historical Society and find additional information about the Old Courthouse Museum.

The Iroquois County Fairgrounds is located north of Crescent City, IL on Illinois Route 49. Follow this link for more about how to get to the fairgrounds and the activities for this week.
We hope the weather is great and everyone has a fabulous time!