Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"My Trip to Illinois - March 2011" by John Finch

This article was written by CVGS member John Finch, and appeared in the March 2012 CVGS Newsletter:

     Last year, in March, I had an opportunity to travel to the Chicago area. Our eldest grandson had enlisted in the Navy and was graduating from Recruit Training, more commonly referred to as “Boot Camp”, at Great Lakes, Illinois.

     This event was of special interest to me as it marked almost 50 years to the date of my own, nearly identical, rite of transition.  As a retired Chief Petty Officer, I was filled with pride.  

     Of further interest to me was that two of my family lines could be traced to an area near Chicago, in Lee County.  Traveling to this region of the country seldom presents, so I had every intention of taking advantage of this trip.

     I set about planning my trip to include genealogy research.  I contacted the Lee County Genealogical Society ahead of time and advised of the family lines of interest to me.  I wondered if I wasn’t expecting too much for the time I had allotted or if I could accomplish the many tasks that I hoped for. 

     I arrived at the town of Dixon, in my rental car at about noon.  Dixon is the County seat for Lee County and the location of the Lee County Genealogical Society office and library. I met with librarian, Rita Welsh, who had prepared several references of the very surnames that I had requested.

     Nearly all my questions were either answered at the Lee County Genealogical Society or in the marriage records I was able to copy at the old courthouse.  I spent some time walking in the cemetery and found the graves of several ancestors. I located the tombstone of my Emmanuel Depue, a GAR headstone.  He had died 20 November 1865.  I couldn’t help thinking that he had survived the Civil War only to die here at his home just a few months after the war had ended.  Although the marker was yet in very good condition and readable, it had been tilted to near toppling from the roots of a nearby tree.  I thought to myself that the stone should be righted and resolved to make it happen.

     I returned home.  Now with a wealth of new information to sort through, analyze and add to my family history data base.  Old history blended with new as I developed photographs of that graduation ceremony at Great Lakes.  I contacted the Lee County Genealogical society and told them of my project to right the monument of Emmanuel Depue.  They referred me to a local Monument Company and I contacted them for arrangements.  A couple of months later I received both an invoice and the before and after pictures showing that a new concrete base had been poured and the stone reset, straight as can be.

     I cannot begin to tell you of the wonder, the fulfillment and the rewards that this trip yielded.   I could not have imagined how very much can be accomplished, simply by being there. 

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