On the evening of Sunday, October 8, 1871, a fire breaks out in Chicago, just to the southwest of the city’s center. It had been a dry fall, and the fire quickly spread. Over the next 30 hours, the central area of the city burned, spreading across roughly 3.3 square miles of the city, leaving over 100,000 people (1/3 of the city) homeless, and about 300 people dead. Much of the city was left smoldering in ashes and rubble. The fire was known as The Great Chicago Fire, and today marks the 150th anniversary of the blaze.
In 1871, my 3rd great-grandfather, Johann Adolph Wilhelm Mueller, was a brickmaker in Lake View, and had owned his own brickyard for about six years. While it is a populous Chicago neighborhood now, at that time, Lake View was a rural township just north of Chicago city limits, with about 2,000 residents, and was known for its celery fields and emerging brickyards. Thomas Moulding had established the first brickyard in the township in 1863 on Southport Ave., and started using the clay along the Chicago River to make bricks. Very soon, others, mostly Germans like my 3rd great-grandfather, set up brickyards nearby. After the Great Chicago Fire, their bricks literally helped rebuild the ravaged city. This is the story of my brick-making ancestors. Continue reading “After the Fire: the Chicago Brickmakers”→
My great-uncle, Ted Jordan, passed away unexpectedly last week. I last saw Ted when I was five years old, when he came to Christmas in Illinois. I don’t remember much about our encounters that year, but I remember him as jolly and friendly, and had a genuine smile. Although I didn’t know him well, I’ve gotten to know him through talking to those who worked with him, cared about him, and were his family. Below is my memorial to him.
Ted C. Jordan
Ted Clarence Jordan was born July 28, 1939 in Chicago, IL, and died February 15, 2018 in Portland, OR at the age of 78 after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. He was the son of Erwin and Dorothy (née Mueller) Wischmeyer.
Ted in Chicago, about 1941.
Ted and his sister Trudy, about 1943.
Ted with his mother Dorothy and his sister Trudy, about 1947.
Today, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will roll across North America. For many, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Illinois, some people remember the partial eclipse experienced here in 1970 and 1979, but the last time Illinois residents experienced a full total solar eclipse was in 1869. This eclipse was the only time in the history of the state (established in 1818) that a total eclipse had ever been observed! As this Daily Herald article discusses, Illinoisans were building the State Capital building at the time, and attempted to commemorate the occasion with a monument at the capital. Since solar eclipses are such relatively rare occurrences, I wondered, which of my ancestors experienced a solar eclipse during their lifetimes? Continue reading “Solar eclipses in my ancestors’ time”→
Sometimes you live through history. I am blessed to have witnessed the Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years. Being a Cubs fan is just in my blood.
When I was growing up, we’d try to go to a Cubs game once a year. As a kid, Chicago seemed very far away, and traveling to a Cubs game seemed like such a trip. Most of these trips were organized by a local bank, who sold tickets to its members and would take us to the game on a big fancy Cubs bus. We’d usually sit on the third base side, under the balcony so we were protected from the sun and the rain. My grandfather (Papa) would buy tickets for the whole family, and we’d spend the day at Wrigley. I’ll never forget sitting next to Papa during the game while he explained who everyone was on the team, and gave us some light commentary.
I am a future librarian who is also a family historian. I am a heavy library user, especially for genealogical purposes. Many libraries also host genealogy presentations and workshops, which can be very valuable, even to more experienced genealogists! This post highlights one of my many recent encounters with genealogy at the library.
I recently attended a genealogy presentation at the library called “Finding your Chicago Ancestors.” The presenter was Grace DuMelle, who has published a book by the same name. She hosts many presentations in the Chicago area, and shared some valuable research tips for finding my ancestors in Chicago! Her presentation (and her book) highlighted many resources in Chicago and online that allow you to dig deeper in your research. I’ve struggled to do research for my Chicago ancestors because they had fairly common names and it was hard to trace them by searching by name in the common resources (census, BMD records and such). The presentation was a real eye-opener to different strategies that I should be using in my research. The resources that she shared were specific to Chicago, but the strategies could also be applied to my other urban ancestors. Continue reading “At the Library: Finding your Chicago Ancestors”→