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!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISGS Fall Conference - What I learned, part 1

Some of what I learned at the recent Illinois State Genealogical Society Fall Conference

 I am trying to use technology to simplify my genealogy activities, so I downloaded the ISGS conference syllabus to the GoodReader app on my iPad. Using the outlines entered by the ISGS, I jumped right to the syllabus page of each session, and I highlighted specific sources or text as the session was happening. I took session notes with my iPad on the Evernote app. It worked well for me. Now I can easily review the notes I took from my iPad, iPhone or computer, without trying to remember where the printed syllabus is.

I attended sessions presented by LaDonna Garner, Tony Burroughs,  J. Mark Lowe and learned about migrations into the Midwest and the records these activities created. The topics included tax records, farmers and tenant farmers, early river towns, African American research and land acquisitions. So a few highlights...

Whenever I hear the word, probate, I think of wills or deeds, but I learned probate simply means recording of records. That means many actions fall under probate proceedings. One set of records to search are sometimes called Cash Books, and we have some of those books in our ICGS archives! I didn't know that.

There was an Illinois County tax taken in 1890. I have to look around for those, as they should help with not having the 1890 federal census. We have the 1890 Iroquois County Tax List available from  ICGS publications.

Did you know states controlled state militias until 1903? Prior to this time, the idea of state versus federal control of militia was unresolved. The Militia Act of 1903 began the process for the establishment of the United States National Guard and federal support for equipment and training.

The book, The Emigrant's Guide to the Western and Southwestern States and Territories by William Darby is available in full on Google Books.
Emigrant's Guide
This book was written in 1818 by a member of the New York Historical Society and discusses the rivers, roads, crops, climate, settlements and other interests in these states and territories. I'm looking forward to reading about the life my ancestors lived and how they traveled across the eastern states.

Where did travelers stay? Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inn didn't open his first family hotel until 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Where and what did they eat? The term ordinary referred to a tavern. According to, it is a chiefly British term meaning a) a complete meal provided at a fixed price, or b) a tavern or an inn providing such a meal. I'm sure many times food supplies were carried along, an ordinary might be an option when you didn't feel like going out to shoot your supper.

I still have many notes and ideas to share and study and research from the ISGS Fall Conference, but today it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving Dinner for 2014.