Tag Archives: Illinois

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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Narcissa at Northwestern

An opportunity to experience history can be as close as a family scrapbook.  While my sister and I were visiting our Mom’s house, we pulled out a scrapbook, an album created by our grandmother, Narcissa Pickrell, during her college days at Northwestern University from about 1916 to 1920. Her collection, combined with letters she had written, gave us a glimpse of her personality and her life. She was clever, pretty, spunky, and talented. While growing up near Springfield, Illinois, she was popular and creative. Life was full of gossip about boyfriends, cleverly written with a sense of humor. Her cluster of girlfriends enjoyed creating outfits to wear and making hats. Their ongoing quest was to create the perfect stylish hat. Meanwhile, her schooling continued. She enrolled in the oratory program as a theater major at Northwestern University near Chicago. Her interest in costuming was no doubt useful to her theater study, and her popularity escalated when she embraced social life in a college sorority.

Narcissa's Scrapbook

Narcissa’s Scrapbook

Then came World War I. The tone of the album became more somber with letters from boys she knew who were stationed in Europe. The frivolous tone was replaced by serious portraits of friends along with announcements of marriages and graduations. One might be left to wonder which of her beaus she married, or how her life turned out. We were left to fill in those blanks with all we knew. Rather than one of her college suitors, she married a young farmer, the brother of a close friend, back home in central Illinois. The bright, energetic young woman would not live long. In spite of extensive medical treatment, she succumbed to TB a few days before her thirtieth birthday. Although her life ended early, it was not before she married my grandfather, and gave birth to a little girl, my mother. Of course, this event made life as we know it possible for myself and my sister. I am so grateful for a glimpse of the grandmother I never knew through her scrapbook.

Thanks goodness for digital cameras. Rather than remove photos and pages to be photocopied or scanned at a print shop, I copied all images I needed by taking close-up photographs. I highly recommend this method for making copies of precious family artifacts, leaving primary documents in place, intact, and out of harms way.

Joyce B. Lohse

Coming Soon — July 13, 2011, 7 p.m.
Pikes Peak Genealogical Society
my “Pioneer Voices” presentation


Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Family history


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Heartland Homeland

Joyce in DeKalb

Midway through the summer is a great time to regroup, and to return to Illinois for a visit. When I renew family ties, I enjoy and appreciate the grounded feeling of walking on the soil of my ancestors and the land of my upbringing. Fields of corn look splendid, far beyond the anticipated “knee high by the 4th of July.” Sweet corn newly arrived at the farmer’s market tastes a little like heaven.

Weather was predictably unpredictable during my stay in Illinois. My first evening there, the rain poured down in buckets. The rain gauge read five inches under a canopy of hardwood trees. Next door, the reading was closer to a half foot. Tornadoes touched down a few miles away, leaving a trail of broken and uprooted trees, some collateral building damage, and power outages for several hours.

My family was unruffled. Once the rain let up, we opened a bottle of wine, put steaks and vegetables on the grill, and enjoyed candlelight on the screened porch. The beauty of the situation was far superior to any inconvenience caused by the absence of electricity. In a small way, I felt in touch with my long ago Illinois pioneer ancestors. In spite of the hardships encountered in their newfound homeland, there was beauty in nature and a simpler way of living.

I enjoy my visits back to the Midwest. I relish seeing the rich, black soil, the beauty of the lush greenery, trees, songbirds, and lightning bugs. I enjoy my people, appreciate my family history, and blend with and relate to the hearty souls and grounded characters who live in the heartland. However, the best part is my return trip to the Rocky Mountain West, where the wide open spaces, independent spirit, and cool, dry air envelope me and welcome me back to my chosen home.

Joyce B. Lohse, 7/3/10

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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Family history


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