Illinois Ancestors: Have your 9/11 recollections been recorded?

Illinois Ancestors: Have your 9/11 recollections been recorded?

Sept. 11, 2001, is a day that will always be remembered by Americans. Hopefully, many have recorded the events of that day as part of a family history. Whether or not one's personal activities were physically affected by the tragic events of that day, the memories of that day should be documented for later generations.

The day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Library of Congress initiated the 9/11 Documentary Project. The Library's American Folklore Center issued a nationwide "Call for Participation," in order to collect the sentiments of men and women from around the country and record and preserve their immediate reactions. The collection now comprises more than 400 sound and video recordings containing about 800 interviews, as well as news clippings, written narratives and emails.

Information on this collection can be found at Several recollections (including narratives, poems, a sermon and a song) are also available from this website.

At the toolbar on the left, under "Browse Collection by" click on "Written Narrative," and "view text." For example, Owen Burdick writes of being in New York City that day, and his "recurring visions of that building coming down." His details of devastation and destruction are heartbreaking.

Those who submitted poetry expressed similar emotions. For example, Kelly A. Malone's poem reads (in part), "I don't live close; I did not hear the thunder or the crash, I didn't hear the cries for help or see the metal thrash. I didn't witness buildings fall ... (or) run from plumes of smoke, (or) ... arrive with photo in hand looking for my wife. ... I do not daily pass this site where bodies still decay, while people who must get to work must pass it everyday. I am not brave; I do not grieve for loss beyond compare. ... There was a part inside of me that died upon that day. I cannot look at life the same or trust in the same way. I look to God to give me strength; my trust is in His grace."

The Library of Congress website provides additional links to recorded interviews, drawings and other memorabilia from that dreadful event.

Have you written down where you were and what you were doing when you first heard of those terrorist attacks? What were your thoughts? Has your life been changed? How?

No doubt many have learned to show a greater appreciation for loved ones and for the good things in our lives, but also to be mindful of how quickly everything in life can change.

New Illinois pioneers certified

The Illinois State Genealogical Society has an Illinois Prairie Pioneers Project that honors Illinois pioneers who settled in the state prior to 1881.

The three categories of commemorative certificates are: (1) before statehood in 1818; (2) between 1819 and 1850; and (3) between 1851 and 1880. Persons wishing to identify an ancestor as a Prairie Pioneer must supply documentation proving the applicant's lineage to the pioneer.

That documentation can include copies of Bible, church, birth, death, marriage, probate, deed, census and military records, as well as copies of newspaper obituaries and tombstone inscriptions. The information is kept on file at ISGS. Brief summaries of the first 2,000 pioneer ancestors have been published by ISGS in two books and an index to all the pioneers can be searched from the ISGS website at

(From this website, click on Free Databases, then Certified Prairie Pioneers. One can browse the list of 3,839 entries or search for a specific individual. Data for each entry includes name of county and year settled.)

If a researcher wishes to obtain additional information on an individual that has been identified as a Prairie Pioneer, photocopies of documentation can be requested from ISGS for a fee. Write ISGS, P.O. Box 10195, Springfield, IL 62791; the physical address of ISGS is Margaret Cross Norton Building, 2nd floor, Springfield, IL 62756; phone 789-1968; email

Recently, 13 new Prairie Pioneers have been acknowledged, including Aaron Lewman of Vermilion County, pioneer No. 3823, who settled in 1828. The others: Elizabeth Bean (Kane Co.), George Arend (Coles Co.), Theodore Sleight (Will Co.) John Hubbard Sr. & Alonzo Rollins (Green Co.), David Glass (Pope Co.), Tandy Trice, Mary Gates Trice & Gibralter Trice (Warren Co.), Esther Ladd (Knox Co.), Felix Reynolds (Macoupin Co.) and Christian Woelfel (Cook Co.)

Researchers would be wise to also search the other free databases on the ISGS website. They include African-American Genealogy, Ancestor Photos, Family Bible Records Surname Index, Illinois Conference of the Evangelical Church 1837-1937, and Military Certificates.

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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