Thursday, October 27, 2016

"We the Pumpkins" Contest Harvest Daze 2016

In this Presidential Election year, the Iroquois County Genealogical Society Harvest Daze Pumpkin Contest theme was "We the People Pumpkins!"

The Pumpkin Contest drew 27 carved and painted/decorated pumpkins in 6 categories. There were a total of 430 votes cast.

President's Award
Pick of the Patch
The theme of “We the People Pumpkins!” inspired the ICGS President’s Award entry, a pumpkin painted and decorated with an quill and ink bottle and a painted parchment sheet showing the Preamble and Article One of the Constitution. A team of four WCHS art students, Miryam Bevelle, Sadee Wuethrich, Natalie Sapp and Nathan Wilson created the pumpkin.

All other winners were chosen by votes of Harvest Daze visitors. First place winners and their categories include Ginny Lee-Pick of the Patch, Aubrey Chandler-Youth Carved, Scarlett Siebert-Youth Painted/Decorated, Stacy Beam-Adult Carved, Ginny Lee-Adult-Painted/Decorated and the Lee Family-Organization Painted/Decorated. See all pictures and winners on our Pictures page.

"Big Creeper"

The contest to guess the weight of the Big Pumpkin, aka "Big Creeper" was won by Marissa Baldwin-Clements. Her winning guess was just 1 pound 12 ounces over the actual weight of 156 pounds, 12 ounces. Thanks to Clara for raising such a great pumpkin. I hear that she checked on the pumpkin frequently and was often seen encouraging the pumpkin to grow.

Although there was a steady shower most of Saturday morning, we had a great turnout of pumpkins and visitors. The weather finally cooperated on Sunday and we had a great time with our pumpkin friends!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Celebrate 150th Birthday and Independence Day 2016

Celebrate 150th Birthday and Independence Day 2016

Iroquois County Genealogical Society is parading this summer with the Iroquois County Historical Society.

To begin, we are celebrating the 150th birthday of the 1866 Iroquois County Courthouse, now a museum housing the Historical and Genealogical Societies of Iroquois County. Since 1975 it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We started the parade season with our Birthday Cake float at the Milford Fun Days, June 25th, whose theme was "Under Construction." This is such a fitting theme for family history and genealogy, don't you think. Seems like there is always more to learn in our family history search.

But we found more parades with great themes for genealogy and family history.
Upcoming parades:
  • Onarga, IL Independence Day Celebration, July 2, 11 a.m. Theme: "A Time to Remember"
  • Watseka, IL Fourth of July Celebration, July 4, 11 a.m. Theme: "Pride in our Past, Faith in our Future"
  • and more to follow in Iroquois County communities,
  • ending with (we think) the Hoopeston (Illinois) Sweet Corn Festival parade in September.
Remembering items and people of our past
The Old Courthouse in Iroquois County, Illinois was built in 1866, which makes this year the 150th birthday of this historic building. Both the Iroquois County Genealogical Society and the Iroquois County Historical Society share this remarkable building which houses the Old Courthouse Museum.

The Historical Society collection includes items showing the history of Iroquois County, from the lives of its people, to the life of its land. Visit the Victorian Parlor, old Bedrooms, Veterinarian and Doctor Rooms, One Room School, Animal and Rock rooms. You can see the building's original Courtroom where county cases were argued for a century.

Located in the several old county vaults are our Genealogical Society treasures, original record books of the county, probates, estate records, land records, tax records, military and education records. If that's not enough for you, we also have newspaper microfilms, maps, atlases, cemetery records, church records, and the list goes on.

Next year, 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of the Historical Society and 2020 brings in the 50th anniversary of the Genealogical Society. Lots to celebrate around here.

Happy Independence Day, USA.

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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