Illinois Ancestors: Writing contest entries sought

Illinois Ancestors: Writing contest entries sought

The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors has announced that it is now accepting entries for its annual Excellence in Writing competition.

The contest is open to family history writers who are nonmembers as well as members, whose work is in any media (e.g., magazines, newspapers, journals, websites or blogs).

In addition to the usual genealogical writing categories (columns, articles, newsletters), the society has added a new category, poetry.

Entries written during the current calendar year will be accepted through June 15.

For complete information on the society and the competition, visit; this website also has a link to a list of the 2012 winners and the titles of their articles.

ISFHWE's primary goal is "to encourage excellence in writing and editorial standards in genealogical publishing."

Black sheep

An online article in the Wall Street Journal titled "When a Genealogy Hobby Digs Up Unwanted Secrets" reveals that one in five researchers might have a negative reaction to finding a "skeleton in the closet" when researching a family tree.

Noted genealogist Megan Smolenyak notes, however, "When you look at what your ancestors did, you don't get the glory and you don't get the blame. It just means you have a colorful story to share. ... The black sheep, the skeletons in the closet, these days are celebrated, if anything, because we have become more open-minded and flexible."

Sue Shellenbarger's article cites some interesting examples.

An informative website at provides links to data in the United States and elsewhere — prison registers, court cases, etc. — as well as links to specific states where data on "black sheep" might be found.

For example, the Illinois Blacksheep Ancestors page has links to the Champaign County Prison (1930 list of prisoners' names, each with date and place of birth); Southern Illinois Penitentiary (list of names, marital status and color, age, & place of birth as taken from the 1880 census); and Joliet Prison's convict registers (and some wanted posters).

This online resource also provides links to other states where similar records can be found.

A search for "blacksheep" on Cyndi Howells' website at offers an extensive list of resources including her Oct. 23 blog at that provides links to helpful articles on this subject.

At least with an ancestor categorized as a black sheep, there is a greater probability that a paper trail exists, thus leading to helpful family details.

Research in Illinois

FamilySearch has a useful article pertaining to researching ethnic, political or religious groups in Illinois at

For example, the suggested resources pertain to African Americans, American Indians, the British, Belgians, Germans, Huguenots, Lithuanians, etc., with details of important repositories, printed works and online sources (with links).

Although a search for ethnic records should begin the same as for any nonethnic ancestors, many records in Illinois help with this specialized research.

While at the above website, note the toolbar on the right side of the page. Click on "wiki home" and search for research advice or where to find record collections in wiki's 75,394 articles. For example, type "Illinois" into the search box, and several articles are offered that begin with the word Illinois (census, archives, church, etc.)

Veterans Day

With Veterans Day fast approaching, there is plenty of time to make plans for that day: Not picnics or parties, but remembering.

For example, plan to display the American flag. If there are parades, cheer the marchers.

If there are special tributes at a cemetery or special memorial, plan to attend and show support.

What veterans do you know? Plan to say "Thank you for your service" to each of them. You may need to ask individuals, "Have you served in the military?" If he/she has served, then express your gratitude.

Perhaps you can assist in making arrangements for such veterans to speak at a school so that our youths can learn how our military takes care of each other — in battle as well as in the community.

Our veterans must never be forgotten.

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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