Tag Archives: Family history

Lincoln on Love

A letter from Lincoln

The State of Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln,” offers many opportunities to study Abraham Lincoln, the famous statesman, who was revered throughout the state’s history. For those of us who grew up in Illinois, school was not closed on President’s Day, but on Lincoln’s birthday, endearing him further to school children who grew up admiring the man.

It was no surprise to find a newspaper clipping about Lincoln in my grandmother’s scrapbook, probably from a Springfield, Illinois newspaper, although the source was not identified. The text contained a love letter of sorts, from Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd. The letter did not contain the word “love”, nor did it propose, although it appears that was the intention. The couple was married in 1842.


My Dear Mary

You must know that I cannot see you or think of you with entire indifference, and yet it may be that you are mistaken in regard to what my real feelings toward you are. If I knew you were not, I should not trouble you with this letter. Perhaps any other man would know enough without further information, but I consider it my peculiar right to plead ignorance and your bounden duty to allow the plea. I want in all cases to do right and most particularly so in all cases with women. I want at this particular time more than anything else to do right with you, and if I know it would be doing right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you alone, I would do it. And for the purpose of making the matter plain as possible I now say you can drop the subject, dismiss your thoughts, if you ever had any, from me forever and leave this letter unanswered without calling forth one accusing manner from me.

And I will go further and say that if it will add anything to your comfort and peace of mind to do so it is my sincere wish that you should. Do not understand by this that I wish to cut your acquaintance. I mean no such thing. What I do wish is that our further acquaintance shall depend upon yourself. If such further acquaintance would contribute nothing to your happiness, I am sure it would not to mine. If you feel yourself in any degree bound to me, I am now willing to release you, provided you wish it, while, on the other hand, I am willing and even anxious to bind you faster if I can be convinced that it will in any degree add to your happiness. This indeed is the whole question with me. Nothing would make me more miserable than to believe you miserable, nothing more happy than to know you were so.

In what I have now said, I think I cannot be misunderstood, and to make myself understood is the only object of this letter. If it suits you best to not answer this, farewell. A long life and a merry one attend you. But if you conclude to write back, speak as plainly as I do. There can be neither harm nor danger in saying to me anything you think just in the manner you think it.                                                  

Your friend,   Lincoln


Happy Valentine’s Day on February 14 AND Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12.


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Family History In a New Age


Whoever said you can’t go home again wasn’t kidding! I thought I knew Chicago. I grew up in Illinois and was familiar with the sights. After I graduated from Northern Illinois University, I made a beeline for the Rocky Mountains, and made Colorado my home. However, I returned frequently to The Heartland for visits. A trip to Chicago with the family this summer proved there were many new things to learn about that old city. I had never seen Millenium Park, home of a giant mirrored sculpture, known as The Bean. This made me think about ways in which our experience and landscape are affected by change in general, and technology specifically.

The reason for the trip was a family reunion, finalized with a burial ceremony in a pioneer family cemetery among the cornfields of Illinois. How does one commemorate such an event, and provide a way for the young participants to remember the trip and understand its significance? How can they learn from what they have seen and carry it with them?

I provided each family cluster with a flash drive, brightly colored on a lanyard, so it would be easily visible, and not get lost. It contained a pedigree chart, a copy of the story of the family’s history, which was presented aloud at the cemetery, and an electronic scrapbook containing historic family photos, including important captions identifying people and places in the photographs. Paper might have been more visual, but would have been cumbersome, and might eventually get lost in the shuffle. The 8 GB flash drive could also serve as a storage place for photographs from the trip. The unspoken purpose was for backup for safekeeping that multiple copies of the family history artifacts provided. I certainly hope flash drives endure.

What do we do with our photographs these days? In the digital age, hundreds of prints for scrapbooks are not practical. CD storage has become an option with an uncertain future. Who knows where we go from here. Trends are ever changing. Recently at a Red Rocks concert, many people sitting nearby entertained themselves while they waited for the performance by taking photos of one another and themselves, then sending them off to friends on their phone, hardly bound for longevity or preservation. At a recent wedding, the groom read his vows from an electronic notebook, then handed it to the bride so she could read hers. Will these trends seem outmoded as an eight track tape player in ten years time? Will artifacts we store now using one method be accessible a generation from now? I guess all we can do is hope for the best, and pay close attention.

Joyce B. Lohse



Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


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WHERE are you?

Oak Ridge Abe Lincoln

A rub of the nose on Abe Lincoln’s bust by his tomb assures good luck.

When you visit cemeteries to collect data and photos for your family research this summer, don’t forget to notice your surroundings. My term for this important element is “territorial context.” This information will serve you well if you share directions to the location with another person, or if you ever return to that location. You need to answer and record information about certain aspects of your destination. What direction are you facing? What landmarks do you see? Who are the neighbors?

This summer, I visited ancestors buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Although I was not equipped with a GPS, I had done my homework. A library book provided me with a detailed map of the cemetery, and internment forms I obtained previously contained lot numbers. More importantly, when I visited the site previously, I knew a remarkable landmark stood a short distance from the site. My family was a stone’s throw from Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb. You could not miss it. That detail told us we were near the family plot.

Illinois Cemetery

Where am I?

During the same trip, we visited another little pioneer family cemetery, which was not so easy to locate. When the paved road disappeared, we wondered if we were on the right course with barely visible ruts to lead us on. Corn fields in all directions blocked our view. Which way were we going? The sun was overhead, and we had no large landmark to guide us. But we pushed on until we came to a clearing surrounded by robust crops. This was the place. Next time, it will be much easier to find. Next time.

Illinois Cemetery 3

Another view provides territorial context.

Joyce Lohse

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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Family history


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Who are your relatives?

Mary Ann Elkin

Headstone of Colorado pioneer Eliza Routt’s mother

The big event in our family this summer was a trip to Illinois. We transported the cremains of my folks to their homeland, where we became reacquainted with the people and the soil of our upbringing and our ancestors. With this powerful experience still fresh in memory, I hope to shift the focus of this blog from western history in general to topics closer to the heart. This will allow me to share tips about researching, preserving and sharing family history.

You may wonder why it matters, or what is the big deal about family history and genealogy. Perhaps this list will put it into perspective. At least, this is a good starting point.

Can you climb YOUR family tree?
1 You
2 Your parents
4 Grandparents
8 Great Grandparents
16 GG Grandparents
32 GGG
131,072 GGGGGGGGGGGGGGG Grandparents!

Now, that’s what I call a family tree!

Joyce Lohse,

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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Family history


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Who Are You?


Family history is a hot topic. On Friday evenings, a television show called, “Who Do You Think You Are?” features well-known actors or actresses, who embark on a journey of self-discovery by searching for clues and stories about their ancestors.

This is an exciting prospect for anybody who is interested in family history. The bad news, as has been discussed by my local genealogy society, is that the personalities featured on the show have the advantage of a staff of researchers to show them the way toward their family origins. Many of us, who have been conducting family research long before it became readily available on, have been researching our family for decades before reaching the conclusions met by these people in an hour-long segment. This is not sour grapes speaking. Instead, this is a warning to newcomers. Do not expect to find your family history in a heartbeat. However, the journey is the reward. Embark on it with relish, and enjoy the ride.

My next entry on this blog will concern what happens when you find a noteworthy individual in your family tree. This might be a person who has become famous through public service, or one who might be of questionable repute. On one hand, we have the first governor of Colorado and his wife, and on the other hand, we have a well-known pioneer scoundrel. The results are most interesting when they meet in the pages of history.

In the meantime, the Association of Writers and Publishers conference takes place this week in downtown Denver. Although I will not be able to attend, my pals from Women Writing the West will rally for a gathering while they are in town.

On Saturday, High Plains Library District will host an Authors’ Open House at their library in Firestone. This event was snowed out last year, but should come together fine this time around in spite of a little spring snow this week. Local authors will make presentations and sign books. Time spent in libraries in rural Colorado is time well spent. Come by and say Howdy!

Joyce B. Lohse, 4/7/10

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Posted by on April 7, 2010 in Denver history, Family history


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Family Photos

As a genealogist, I place a high value on family photos. They are important threads in the fabric of any family, which allow us to reach back in history, and touch the lives of our ancestors. This past week, my sister and I were fortunate to visit our Mom back in Illinois where we grew up. I admit it, I grumbled some at the suggestion of dragging out slides with screen and projector. After all, Kodak announced the demise of Kodachrome film just last week.

It turned out to be a great experience. With the passage of time, the images have taken on new and different meaning. As we viewed them, we laughed til we cried. So many shared memories were contained in those images.

The danger is that the identity of our ancestors in those images can be lost. In addition, as technology changes, the format becomes obsolete. We are looking into scanning our slides and storing the images, possibly in DVD format, for maximum storage and durability, until the next technology change.

It is so easy to throw photos in a shoe box and forget about them. Time spent organizing, labeling, watching, sharing, and preserving precious photos is time well spent, which will, no doubt, be appreciated by our descendants.

Joyce B. Lohse
2 July 2009


Posted by on July 2, 2009 in Family history


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