Watermelon-eating Contest

Wordless Wednesday: Little Boy enjoying a Big Watermelon

Little boy eating a large watermelon
“Blondie” enjoying a watermelon at the Watermelon Eating Contest at the Hampton County Watermelon Festival, 1974. (Image Source: Family Photo)

Snapshot of 1929 DeKalb County

My map starts with a view of the whole county.

At the recent ALA library conference, I learned the basics of GIS from a Map and Geospatial information Librarian from the University of Minnesota. I was so excited to try it out for myself, using some historic maps related to my family’s history! I tested it out by making this composite map of DeKalb County. All of the maps that I used to create this map were from the 1929 Atlas and plat book of De Kalb County, Illinois : compiled from surveys and the public records of De Kalb County, Illinois, digitized by the Library of Congress. (See the whole atlas here!)

I started with the county map, matching up points on the county map with points on a present-day digital map using MapWarper. Then, I did the same thing for all the townships and main towns and villages in the county. I linked them together using ArcGIS. The result is a complete snapshot of 1929 DeKalb County! The finished map is best viewed in the web app here. Zoom out to see the whole county, and zoom in a little to see the individual townships and see the property owners in the country. Zoom in even further into a town, and see all of the streets and city lots! You can look at the different layers (or parts) of the map, and adjust the transparency of each layer to view the present-day map underneath it.

If you zoom in a little, you can view the township maps side by side.


Zoom all the way into a town to see the details in each town!


By putting these two township maps next to each other, I can see just how close Gust Medine lived to his brother Peter!

This map is cool, but why is a map like this useful? For me, it is a powerful tool for putting my ancestors within the context of their neighbors and their communities. For example, several of my ancestors lived on the edge of their townships, such as Gustaf Medine in northeast Mayfield township, and Charles Drake on the west side of Genoa township. This map quickly allows me to view their communities and their neighbors. A quick glance can tell me that although they lived in different townships, Gustaf lived very close to his brother Peter (see the image on the right). By using the slider to make the historic map more transparent, I can also compare it to present-day roads and landmarks, and quickly determine how the property has changed over the years. Combining historic maps with GIS technology can definitely produce some wonderful local history resources! Please explore my 1929 DeKalb County map and let me know what you think!

Genealogy at the ALA conference



This week I attended the annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA) in Chicago. It was such a great experience! It is the largest conference for libraries of all kinds in the United States. I learned a lot about today’s librarianship, including lots of cool tidbits about how libraries are helping genealogists!

ALA selfie
ALA Selfie!

Some genealogical highlights from the conference:

  • My professor Nicole Wedemeyer Miller (who taught Genealogy and Library Services last semester at Univ. of Illinois, and who just published a book about Family History services at the library) spoke about conducting a successful genealogy reference interview, emphasizing the need for patience and organization. Not every family historian who walks into the library will know what they are looking for!
Nicole W. Miller giving presentation
Nicole W. Miller giving a presentation to librarians about performing a successful genealogy reference interview.
  • Genealogist Tina Beaird reminded us about some great free genealogy websites to suggest to patrons (or use for our own research!). These included Digital Public Library of America, Linkpendium, FamilySearch, Google News Archive, and local or state Digital Memory Projects like Montana Memory.
  • This year is the 100th anniversary of the US’s entry into WWI. Representatives from FindMyPast and FamilySearch highlighted some great resources for locating your ancestor who participated in WWI. FamilySearch has a huge variety of WWI resources at all levels, including local, state and international records! FindMyPast (free subscription through many public libraries!) offers a British perspective of the war, including most WWI British military records. Missouri also has a wonderful project for Missourians who fought in WWI called Missouri Over There. The project is bringing together all kinds of digitized photos, 3D artifacts, and a service database that has a listing for every WWI service member from Missouri.
  • We heard an overview of the project to find the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument time capsule. A librarian had stumbled upon a historic newspaper article about the erection of the monument that described a time capsule that was buried underneath the cornerstone of the monument. That discovery started a project to uncover the time capsule. With the help of an archeologist, they worked to uncover it, but did not end up finding it. The librarian is continuing her search for the remarkable time capsule!
  • A librarian from the Fountaindale Public Library (the library has a great genealogy blog by the way!) hosted a panel of historians from various ethnic historical societies, who can be very helpful with regional and ethnic research. The panel consisted of representatives from the Swedish American Museum, the Polish Genealogical Society of America, and the Chicago Scots Genealogy Group.
  • A session called “Mapping the Generations” was a great overview of how libraries can help genealogists use maps to find their ancestors.
    • If you have Chicago ancestors and you haven’t used ChicagoAncestors.org, it’s such a great resource! Find out what the neighborhood where your ancestor lived was like, or find out which churches were nearby. Bonus: you can send them your own photos and information to add to their site!
    • New York Public Library has a bunch of digitized maps for New York City, and has some crowdsourcing projects going on that use Fire Insurance maps, modern maps, tourist maps, and information from city directories to eventually create a great genealogy resource! (These can be found at NYPL Map Warper and Building Inspector.) In the end, you’ll be able to zoom in to the map, see the footprint of the building where your ancestor lived, and see a listing of all the people in that household! It’s still a work in progress, but it will eventually be an amazing resource for New York City genealogy!
    • A rep from FindMyPast also expressed how important maps are to family historians, and the importance of looking at all kinds of maps. Topographical maps, historic weather maps, religious data maps and other informative maps can help shed light on your ancestors’ decisions!
  • First slide to presentationOne of the BEST sessions that I went to was “How to put your family history on the map: Georeferencing and geocoding historical information” by Ryan Mattke from the University of Minnesota. I loved this session because I’ve always wanted to learn more about geospatial technology, and this tutorial gave me the basic tools to make my own interactive maps! He showed us how to use this for genealogical research, but it has a lot of applications, like creating walking tours of your town, or create your own interactive map like ChicagoAncestors.org! He showed us how to overlay a digitized historic map over a modern map (like Google maps), link them, and then add your own interactive points to the map! You’ll be seeing my own interactive map here soon!
  • I also attended a short debate about preserving analog audiovisual materials in libraries, museums and archives. The question was, “Is the preservation of analog audiovisual media the single most important preservation issue facing libraries (and archives and museums) in 2017?” However, the panel and audience did not reach a full consensus. Although the discussion was primarily among professional archivists and preservationists, it did raise some important questions that are also important for family historians. If you do happen to have old audiovisual materials in your family history collection, such as old home movies on VHS or film reels, or cassette tapes of interviews with relatives, what do you do with them? Especially for degrading formats like magnetic tape (VHS or cassette), there is immediate need to preserve the content by digitizing them. However, once you digitize them, you need to actively migrate them to stable file formats in order to preserve the digital files. I learned that digital and analog audiovisual materials can both be easily lost (very soon!) to time and obsolescence if we do not actively work to preserve them! As for me, I’m ready to dig out my grandmother’s old film reels and get them digitized!

I went to a lot of sessions pertaining to genealogy, but they weren’t the only ones I attended! I got a bunch of free books and swag at the exhibit hall, I met the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, and was just barely missed meeting Representative John Lewis! I went to several other events, including a speech from Reshma Saujani (CEO of Girls Who Code) and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the closing ceremony! I’m both excited and exhausted from the experience!

Calling all Medine cousins!


Medine family photo at the Pleasant Hill farm
The only known photograph of the Gustaf Medine family, taken about 1911 at Gustaf’s Pleasant Hill farm in Mayfield, IL. Photo Source: Drake family photos

I’m looking to reconnect with any relatives of the Medine family from DeKalb County, Illinois!

This semester, I took an online Genealogy course at University of Illinois with genealogist Nicole W. Miller. I feel like I learned so much about developing trends in genealogy, and I developed better practices for researching and sourcing my own family history. One of my accomplishments was writing a formal compiled genealogy for the Medine family. I realized that there are still some close Medine cousins that I know very little about! I would love to reconnect and share family stories with their descendants. If you are descended from any of the relatives listed below, please connect with me by commenting on this post! I know the basic information for each of these people, but I’d love to add more to their biographies! I will definitely share the final genealogy paper with you!

  • Ralph/Harry Shaffer, born about 1913, Illinois. Son of Roy and Julia (Medine) Shaffer. He likely grew up in DeKalb, Illinois, and I believe that he lived in Chicago in 1943. No further information.
  • Leona G. Bowen, born 16 September 1913 in Mayfield, DeKalb County, Illinois and died 4 February 1975 in Sycamore. Daughter of Jesse Scott and Augusta (Medine) Bowen. She married Melvin Ernest Voltz on 25 November 1933 in Elgin, Kane County, Illinois. He was born 27 October 1909 in Illinois and died on 29 October 1983 in Wisconsin.
  • Donald M. Bowen, born 18 November 1916, Sycamore; died 9 December 1989 DeKalb County, Illinois. Son ofJesse Scott and Augusta (Medine) Bowen. He married (1) Edna Eddy on 15 June 1946 and (2) Teresa Mary deRin on 2 September 1949 in Geneva, Kane County, Illinois. Teresa was born 17 January 1921 in DeKalb, the daughter of Anthony and Sylvia deRin, and she died 26 May 1988.
  • Helen M. Bowen, born 11 July 1920, Mayfield; died 27 July 1949, Elgin, Kane County, Illinois. Daughter of Jesse Scott and Augusta (Medine) Bowen. She married Charles Joseph Leonard on 25 April 1940 in Dubuque, Iowa. He was born 25 April 1912 in Illinois to James and Mary Leonard, and died 26 December 1993 in Van Nuys, California.
  • James Leonard Medine, born 30 June 1924, Genoa, Illinois; died 11 December 1944 in France. Son of Fred and Lillian Kleona (Leonard) Medine. He served in the military in WWII and was killed in action. 

I will also be writing a compiled genealogy for Gustaf Medine’s siblings who also settled in DeKalb County, Illinois. They are all the children of Andreas Danielsson and Lena Stina Svensdottr, born in Smoland, Sweden, and emigrated here in the 1880’s. Their original last name was Andreasson, and they all changed it to Medine when they arrived in Illinois. Please contact me if you have any additional information about the following individuals! Thank you!

  • Peter Sven Medine was born 9 June 1858 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden, and died 12 January 1930 in Sycamore, Illinois. He married Mathilda Johnson (1861-1925) in DeKalb County, Illinois on 9 December 1887. They had four children, all born in DeKalb County: Harry William Medine (1888-1964), Arthur Albert Medine (1890-1972), Carl Edward Medine (1894-1987) and Ernest Glenn Medine (1900-1991).
  • Mary/Maria Medine was born 1 May 1856 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden, and died 27 Mar 1940 in Sycamore, Illinois. She had one daughter who was born in Sweden, Amanda Helena Medine (1882-1953), who married Alfred A. Reed and Edward Castenson. In 1890, Mary married Andrew Turkelson (1834-1910) in Illinois, and they had three sons: John William Turkelson (1892-1953), Rienhold Turkelson (1895-1910) and Carl Victor Turkelson (1897-1970).
  • Helen Medine was born 1 March 1863 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden, and died 15 November 1948 in Maywood, Cook County, Illinois. In 1886, she married Andrew Elmberg (1851-1924). They had one daughter, Maud Victoria Elmberg (1888-1967). Helen later married Herman H. Phillips (1867-1943).
  • Christine Medine was born 5 March 1846 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden and died sometime after 1907. She arrived with her father Andreas in Illinois from Sweden in 1899. When Andreas passed away in 1907, she is named as “Mrs. Christine Anderson of Mayfield.” I’m not sure who she married (if she did marry), or when she died, or if she went back to Sweden after 1907. She had a son, born in 1873 in Sweden, named Anders Göran.

On this day: Edwin Drake

On this day, 97 years ago, my grandfather Edwin Drake was born. This precious photo is him as a baby with his mother, Emma (Medine) Drake.

Emma Drake holding her son Edwin
Emma holding Edwin as a baby. Source: Drake family photo.