The most commonly asked question about CPGen concerns the origin of our name. As a born’n’bred Chicagoan with a penchant for Chicago’s history and a one-time collector of all things Chicago World’s Fairs (the first, in 1893, was the Columbian Exposition honoring 400 years since Columbus sailed–eh, it was a very different time in the 1890s), it’s actually a nice progression. But, the real impetus was a single photograph.
One evening during an overlong holiday vacation, I finally went through the family photos and papers I’d sorted out after my sister unexpectedly passed away during the previous year. Among them, I found a photograph of my father that I’d not before seen. On the back was written: Jimmy and Anthony-Chicago World’s Fair. (That’s my dad on the left.)
And, of course, my first thought was: Why didn’t I ever ask?
During that same stretch of vacation boredom, I privately messaged a cousin on my mother’s side, explaining a family story that she certainly should have known but didn’t. She ended the conversation with that oft-given phrase: We should write a book.
Ah, I suspect those two statements began the career of many of genealogist.
Who doesn’t think their family is intriguing enough to write that book? (If you know of someone who doesn’t think so, then they must not know their family history.) While I’ve dealt with many a client or family member incredibly disappointed that the great-grandmother they believed an “Indian princes who danced for the Queen of England” or the great-great grandfather who single-handedly defeated Napoleon wasn’t and didn’t, what I unearthed about their ancestors tends to be much better. Most often, men and women who were risk-takers, especially those who left their homes and homelands to come to America—land of great promise and great uncertainty—and persevered.
And, is there one human on the planet over the age of 40 who hasn’t, at least once, mentally kicked themselves for not thinking to have asked a deceased parent or grandparent about that time when they…? Or, worse yet, not being interested enough to have really listened while their grandparent regaled them with stories.
Those were the two events that propelled me into becoming a genealogist. And, somehow, We Should Write a Book or I Shoulda Asked Genealogy didn’t have quite the same ring as, Centuries of Progress Genealogy. Plus, neither of those lend themselves to a cool Art Deco logo as does CPGen.
For more information on the Chicago’s 1933 Centuries of Progress World’s Fair, the Newberry Library’s “Picturing a Century of Progress, the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair” is a great starting point. For an amazing array of Century of Progress records, check out the 264 photographs and 16 oversize folders at the Chicago Public Library.