After the Fire: the Chicago Brickmakers

Chicago in Flames
Chicago in flames: Scene at Randolph Street Bridge. Lithograph from Currier & Ives. (Image from Library of Congress Digital Collections.)

Chicago, October 8, 1871. Fire!

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”

Cubbie Blue runs deep in my blood

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.

Papa played baseball on a community team when he was in his 20’s, about the same time as the Cub’s last World Series appearance in 1945.

Continue reading “Cubbie Blue runs deep in my blood”

Genealogy through the ages

During the past few weeks I have been busy working with a genealogical peerage from 16th century Spain, named Nobiliario genealógico de varias casas de España. It is a handwritten manuscript that describes noble families in the Iberian Peninsula, and includes drawings of each family’s coats of arms. Through the years, many people have used it, as evidenced by all of the notes and comments written in the margins! It is currently in safe keeping at the Newberry Library in Chicago. It is such a thrill to be working with such a unique and colorful book!

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Newberry Library trying to decode this manuscript!

The art of tracing one’s ancestors is not a new pastime. For many centuries families have kept track of their family histories. Your lineage would have been an important part of your identity. Even religious texts like the Old Testament and the Qur’an contain lineages of important religious figures! Genealogies (or peerages, as this book is called) were recorded in medieval and early modern Europe for a variety of reasons, but typically only for families from the upper classes. Continue reading “Genealogy through the ages”

At the Library: Finding your Chicago Ancestors

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”