Illinois Ancestors: Website focuses on Indians, Trail of Tears

Illinois Ancestors: Website focuses on Indians, Trail of Tears

Between 1838 and 1839, many Cherokee Indians were "forcibly removed from their homelands in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. They traveled by foot, horse, wagon or steamboat; many died along the way, which is why the horrific journey was dubbed the 'Trail of Tears.'"

Pat Cummins, president of the Native History Association, with the help of Google Earth and an 1878 map of Old Jefferson, Tenn., found the old roadbed where "approximately 4,218 Cherokee men, women and children had traveled."

The National Park Service will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (owners of the property) to mark the Trail of Tears segment with historic trail signs. To read about this discovery, visit the link at

Also on the website, under the word "genealogy" in the toolbar at the top of the page, are links to many informative articles; click on any one to access the category: Sacred Sites (160 articles), American Indian History (656 articles), Memorials (101 articles) and Researching the Past (243 articles).

Wagon train diaries

The Oregon-California Trails Association has been maintaining a repository of the letters, diaries and newspaper articles of the pioneers who migrated to Oregon, California, Utah and Montana. OCTA's website, called "Paper Trail," is based on a searchable index to these collections, with names, places and a survey of the text as well as a list of the libraries where the original documents are located.

At, one can conduct a free preliminary search. For example, a search for the name Sager resulted in 64 hits, each identified with first name, year/age/gender, individual type and party. A subscription is required to access further information.

A basic individual membership in OCTA costs $45 per year. Members receive the quarterly publication "Overland Journal," the quarterly newsletter "News from the Plains" and free access to the website Paper Trail as well as other discounts. Visit The home page also offers links to the Oregon National Historic Trail, the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, the California National Historic Trail and the Pony Express National Historic Trail.

Shelby County case files index

A helpful source of information for researchers having Shelby County ancestors is the database created by the Illinois State Archives, Shelby County Circuit Court Case Files Index (1828-1871), found at

These case files include chancery, criminal and common law proceedings and generally show the names of the plaintiff, defendant, judge and clerk of the court, the court dates and usually the charge or cause of action. Documents contained in these case files include: summonses, affidavits of witnesses, subpoenas, bonds, receipts, warrants, verdicts and transcripts of coroner's inquests.

Since it is sometimes difficult to determine correct spellings, it is suggested that alternative spellings of names should also be searched.

Copies of the files found in this index may be requested by mail or telephone. (Instructions are provided.)

Quick links

The Illinois State Archives provides a handy page of quick links that could assist researchers at The list includes:

— ALHN Illinois (links to online data).

— American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library.

— Directory of Illinois Museums.

— Family History Center Catalog.

— Illinois Genealogy and History (ILGenWeb).

— Illinois County Boundaries 1790 — Present.

— Illinois Department of Public Health: Office of Vital Records.

— Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

— Illinois Newspaper Project.

— Illinois State Genealogical Society.

— Illinois Vital Records Information.

— Locate Family History Centers.

— Newspapers in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

— Soundex Code Generator.

— Southern Illinois History Page.

— United States Newspaper Project.

— USGS Geography Information.

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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