Spirits of Willow Creek Farm

For about a year now, I’ve been working on an interesting and unusual project, the house history and resident genealogy of Willow Creek Farm–considered the third most haunted residence in Illinois.  I haven’t written of it before because I have submitted an ongoing series of articles in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly (which is how I wound up as its editor!) and there is an agreement that anything published in the ISGS Quarterly cannot be published elsewhere for six months.  It’s been six months since the first article was published, so I’ve now posted it here.  Subsequent articles will be published every three months until the fourth and final article.

Click here for the first of four articles on the Spirits of Willow Creek Farm.

Busy, Busy, Busy.

It has certainly been a while and I promise to never go this long without posting again.  But, much has been happening.

Picture2I finally put the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly journal for Summer 2017 to bed this past week.  My third as editor and—if I do say so myself, and I do—it is my best yet.  Looks good, excellent articles and (hopefully, with multiple reviews) error free.  This week I also wrapped up a program I facilitated for some veterans in Stephenson County on behalf of the county’s Veterans Assistance program.  Thursday, the Stephenson County Genealogical Society (of which I am the prez) sponsored a living history event with President Ulysses and First Lady Julia (Dent) Grant.  I wrapped up development (well, working with developers) on our Stephenson County Genealogical Society new website (https://stephcogenealogy.org).  And, I received nearly 50 sets of new DNA data last Tuesday and have been diligently putting them on GEDMatch and doing some genetic genealogy analysis.

And, finding a new family member.

Genetic genealogy seems to have taken over my life in the past year.  A half-sister discovered last February and within hours of beginning to post family DNA data on GEDMatch this past week, it was clear my already huge maternal family side was about to add yet another cousin.  A young man looking for his biological father.  It seems I’ve found him but, wouldn’t you know it?  His father is from the one line descended from my grandfather with whom no one seems to have continued contact.  But, since there are at least 400 other family members in this group (we have our own Facebook page) this gentlemen is no longer at a loss for family on his paternal side.

I marvel at the technology we have today.  My mind reels from the ability to find information—documents, mind you—of ancestors dead for centuries.  Did they ever even think that one- or two-hundred years from then that their ancestors could potentially track their entire lives?  If so, you’d have to wonder about some of the trails they left behind…..

So, on to the next things on my agenda.

  • Back to work on the Wayne Street house histories.
  • Back to work on the Willow Creek Farm book I’m ghostwriting (and it’s about a haunted house, so pun kinda intended).
  • Recruiting authors for the Fall 2017 issue of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly.
  • Analyzing family DNA kits.
  • Writing this blog on a return-to-regular basis.
  • Prepping for the three Lifelong Learning genealogy courses I’m teaching this fall at Highland College.

I think that ‘bout covers it!

Slave Ancestors Webinar

Tracing Slave and Slaveowner Ancestors with DNA and Genealogy

Illinois State Genealogical Society webinars are an excellent educational resource and, when viewed live, are free!  Archived webinars are available only to members (ISGS membership is $35 per year *hint*hint*grin*).

As a genealogist with an interest in African-American genealogy (spurred on by having been a foster parent to three great daughters), I’m very excited by this upcoming (April 11. 2017) webinar.  Registration should still be open; check it out!

The history of slavery in America has made our DNA a complex cultural stew. In this session, learn how to combine traditional genealogy and DNA research to confirm or deny slave, slaveholder, and ancestral ties to one of history’s most peculiar institutions.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Nicka Smith is a professional photographer, speaker, and documentarian with more than 18 years of experience as a genealogist. She has extensive experience in African ancestored genealogy and reverse genealogy. She is also an expert in genealogical research in the Northeastern Louisiana area, sharing genealogy with youth, and employing the use of new technology in genealogy and family history research.

Nicka has diverse and varied experience in communications, with a background in publications, editing, graphic design, radio, and video production. She has edited and designed several volumes of family history that include narratives, photos, and genealogical information and has also transferred them to the online environment.

UPCOMING WEBINARS: For a listing of upcoming webinars, visit the ISGS website.

ISGS webinars are held on the second Tuesday of each month and begin at 8 PM Central. Each webinar is about an hour long.

A Genealogist’s Spectacles

glasses

Yes, I use four different pairs of glasses.

I’ll start with the sunglasses because I rarely get to wear them.  Not much opportunity to do so when much of my life is spent indoors sitting before my computer, in libraries or dusty basements flipping through sooty books and legal documents.

Then there are my regular glasses, the purple ones without the old-lady neck strap, something like which I’ve worn since I was a child of seven.  I don’t really need them so much (cataract surgery took care of that a few years ago) but after a lifetime of wearing something on my face, it’s habit.  And, it’s helpful when I need to read on the run (i.e., no time to take off regular glasses for one of my other pairs).

The rather smart purple-with-neck-strap glasses are my reading glasses.  Books, documents (lots of documents), newspapers and more are considerably clearer with these accessories.  And, as a genealogist, often are in constant exchange with my BC glasses.

My BC glasses got its designation during my days in the US Army when we were issued similar pairs in Basic Training. The idea was that no man would be even remotely interested in one of us who wore them; hence, automatic birth control.  I received these BC glasses from the VA a few months ago and, while they are only mildly different than the dreaded BC glasses of our Basic Training days (once out of Basic, we were allowed to revert back to more fashionable ones), in the 21st century this same style is considered trendy!  Why is this pair important?  It seems that there are sunglasses, regular-seeing glasses, reading glasses (with or without neck cord) and computer glasses; who knew?

Utilizing all four pairs when necessary has saved considerable eye strain these past few years.

Why bring this up, now?

Because I spent the day reading city directories.  Ever read a city directory?  If you’re at all into genealogy and you haven’t, you should.  Thirty years (that’s just today’s work—there were 105 years’ worth, in all) and the names of owners/occupiers of ten homes.  And, tracking each and every one in Excel.  Reading glasses/computer glasses/reading/computer/reading/computer….

House FrontIt all started because I wanted to do a house history of my 105-year-old home as a sample for the CPGen website but the city of Freeport renumbered the houses on my one-block street and I can’t (yet) locate which of the early ones were mine.  So, since it’s a limited pool of ten houses on the street, I decided to do them all.  Good thing I love house histories.

So, I am officially done with the city directories.  Still haven’t identified which of the originally-numbered homes is mine but I have narrowed it down to three.  The problem is that each of the original homeowners left between the use of the old house numbers and the renumbering of the street.  At least, that’s the best available information given one missing city directory in our local library for the year the house numbers changed.  And, my county (Stephenson, Illinois) lists deeds by Grantor/Grantee and not by property address so the only way to track the original owner is to start with the last (that’d be me).  Finally, there are no plat maps available (that I’ve been able to yet locate) showing the placement of the original five properties on the street, of which my house is one.

Next stop?  County Recorder’s Office and deed books.  Lots and lots of deed books…..

Gloryland

A little promotion for Freeport Public Library (100 Douglas Street, Freeport, Illinois): One Book, One Freeport 2017; another excellent program from my local library.  Click on image for more information.

Gloryland crop

 

SCGS Meets April 6th

In February of this year, I became the president of the Stephenson County Genealogical Society, which is a very cool volunteer job.  For a genealogical society, we have a fairly good-sized membership with a great group of people and a small cadre of very active volunteers.  And, we get to call the Frances Woodhouse History Room at the Freeport Public Library (100 Douglas Street, Freeport, Illinois) home.  As local history rooms go, our library’s is one of the best (okay, the best) I’ve ever had the pleasure to explore.

Logo


SCGS meets the first Thursday of the month with the exceptions of January and July when there is no monthly meeting. The next SCGS meeting is Thursday, April 6th at the Freeport Public Library.  The business meeting begins at 6pm and, though we usually follow our business meeting with a presentation, this Thursday we encourage all members and residents of Freeport to attend the Freeport Public Library’s One Book, One Freeport event, “Living History Portrayal of a Buffalo Soldier.” 

You will hear of the experiences and challenges of life during Reconstruction from the son of a sharecropper of African- and Native-American heritage. This living history presentation reflects the life of a buffalo soldier in the U.S. Cavalry during the nineteenth century. Presented by Steven A. Cole. April 6, 6:30 p.m. at the Freeport Public Library.

At our June 1st meeting, SCGS welcomes back Scott Whitney, a retired math and science teacher, as President Ulysses S Grant with Peggy Whitney, elementary teacher, portraying First Lady Julia Dent Grant in public interview.  All are welcome; there are no fees for SCGS events!

President and First Lady

Scott Whitney, a retired math and science teacher, portrays Lt. General Ulysses S Grant Grant, or President Grant. Peggy Whitney, elementary teacher, portrays Mrs. Julia Dent Grant.  The June 1st presentation for the Stephenson County Genealogical Society begins at 6:30pm (following the SCGS business meeting at 6pm) at the Freeport Public Library (100 Douglas Street, Freeport, Illinois) and will consist of a public interview of President and First Lady Grant.

A Family Narrative

Though this sample covers a single individual—my maternal grandfather, Philip E. Helferich—a family narrative traditionally covers an entire familial line from as far back as the client requests and for which documentation can be found.  As will be clear almost as soon as you start reading, Philip was an …unusual fellow, with three wives during his lifetime.  Philip’s life is reported in full (with information found to date), without a singular focus on the lives of any of his wives or children.  This narrative could have begun with Johannes “Henner” Helferich and covered all of his children in brief with the exception of Johann Fritz, who would have a narrative similar to this one on Philip E. and whose entire family would be listed in brief with the exception of Johan Georg and so on.

A family narrative that follows the entire Helferich line from Henner (because he’s the earliest ancestor with enough proven documentation to warrant inclusion) to me!  It would include a separate focus on:

Johannes “Henner” Helfferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Johannes Fritz Helfferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Johann Georg Helferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Görg Philipp, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Johannes “John” Helferich, with brief documentation of his wives and children, including a focus on

Philip P [Philipp?] Helferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

George Lennis Helferich, with brief documentation of his wives and children, including a focus on

Philip Ernest Helferich, with brief documentation of his wives and children, including a focus on

Nola Deene Helferich Feinberg, with brief documentation of her husbands and children, including a focus on

Me (and my siblings, if wanted).

Yes.  It can be a very long document but, as is clear from The Interesting Life & Times of Philip E. Helferich, it can also be a document rich with information that helps to bring our ancestors to life.  Definitely much more interesting than a numbered list of ancestors.  Think Who Do You Think You Are? in text; and then some.  It is also important to note that few of our ancestors will have stories as …extensive as Grandpa Phil’s.

There is one additional thing to remember about any genealogical report.  A good genealogist will provide the client with all of the documentation found and will be as sensitive as possible in reporting potentially difficult to accept information.  If the client chooses to keep some information out of the final report—the one that goes to their family—a good genealogist will have an exchange with the client about the importance of being inclusive but, in the end, will respect the wishes of the client.

So, please enjoy P.E.’s interesting life and times—and, they were even a bit more interesting than is written here; if only documentation to support the stories was available!

Note: Unless otherwise requested, reports contain footnotes, not endnotes as in this version of The Interesting Life & Times of Philip E. Helferich.  This narrative was originally created as the final assignment for the Professional Genealogist Study Group (ProGen).  What is included here as a sample of a single-individual family narrative is the same report recreated to gift to Helferich family members and was written with endnotes.

All reports presented to clients will not only include footnotes to document where each document or piece of information was—and could be—found, but will contain either the original, paper or electronic copies of all documents.

Click here for The Interesting Life & Times of Philip E. Helferich.