Illinois Ancestors: Genealogy grants and scholarships available

Illinois Ancestors: Genealogy grants and scholarships available

This column has mentioned the Seton Shields Genealogy Grants that genealogist Megan Smolenyak makes available to individuals and/genealogical organizations for specific genealogy-related projects. It should be noted that several other awards are also available, and are described on the ConferenceKeeper website at Click on any offering for more information. (Note that Smolenyak's grant is the first ongoing grant listed!)

Institutionalized ancestor research

Researching a family sometimes results is discovering that an ancestor had been institutionalized because of a mental illness. Although there were 20 U.S. mental asylums in existence in 1850 (and 182 mental hospitals by 1890), it was most common for almshouses to care for those with mental and physical disabilities as well as for the aging.

It should be noted that the Illinois State Archives' IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository System) has many Illinois Poor Farm/Almshouse records which can be searched at There are almshouse registers for 20 Illinois counties. Poor farm records for varying counties include account books, cemetery records, inmate registers, death records, inmate index, and medical examination records. Visit for information regarding IRAD's Research Policy.

Some military personnel files survived the fire

Many Official Military Personnel Files (military records for WWI, WWII and beyond) were destroyed by a 1973 fire. An article describing the records that remain and how to access them is on Lisa Louise Cooke's website at There are three ways that these OMPFs can be accessed: a personal visit to St. Louis; employ an independent researcher; or request the records by mail. Cooke's personal search is most interesting.

Identify old cars in photographs

Some genealogists have photographs of family members and their old cars. "How to Identify Old Cars in Photographs, at, provides tips to help ascertain the make and model of the vehicle as well as decipher and date the license plate.

Missouri to digitize WWI collections

Over There: Missouri & The Great War "is a statewide collaborative digitization project to document Missouri's role in World War I." The collection includes historical documents, photographs, artifacts, oral histories, and other primary source material from museums, archives, libraries, and private collections from across the state. View a video with more information at It is planned that the website will have information on all 156,000 Missouri veterans who served in that war. One can currently conduct a search for a veteran or civilian volunteer already in the database. (For example, visit, type a surname in the search box, and be taken to a page showing all men with that surname, along with given name and residence.)

Confederates had many flags

During the American Civil War different Confederate military units had different battle flags. "The Confederate flag we know today was not the official flag of the Confederacy during the war;" it was one of those battle flags — the battle flag of the Confederate Army of the Potomac. A most informative article, "The History of the Confederate Flag," can be found at

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, also has a lengthy, illustrated article, "Flags of the Confederate States of America," at

Anyone with Confederate ancestors would find these articles most interesting and, possibly, valuable additions to a family history. Today, the Confederate flag arouses strong opinions, all valid, one way or another, in many people.

Free webinars scheduled for 2018

The Illinois State Genealogical Society has posted its schedule of free webinars for 2018 at Held the second Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m. (Central time), they will be covering a variety of topics and are all taught by experts. Register early!

Queries, 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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