Local History and Genealogy Blog

Every veteran has a story. Make sure yours is heard.

Home to the former Chanute Air Force Base for 76 years, Champaign County has a long history of wartime participation and civilian support. 

World War I soldiers marching by Champaign First National Bank.

This Veterans Day, The Urbana Free Library would like to make its patrons aware of the Illinois Veterans’ History Project. The project in conjunction with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, creates a permanent record of the names and stories of Illinois war veterans and civilians who served during wartime.

Vriner’s Confectionary: the flavor of a bygone era

Vriner’s Confectionery interior, ca 1919

Sugary, sweet treats have been a highly traded and well-loved food for over a millennium, and by the 1800s over 380 factories were built in the United States to manufacture candy. Many of the larger manufacturers have withstood the change in time, allowing their names to become synonymous with the fast approaching holiday season, but we often forget about the smaller confectionary shops they started out as. At the turn of the 20th century, we had a few shops that called Champaign County home. The longest running one was Vriner’s Confectionary.

Ellis Island Records Available Free Online

Ellis Island, Jersey City, NJ, 2014Extra! Extra! Read all about it! FamilySearch has announced that Ellis Island Records are now online for free. Not just a few, but the complete archive of Ellis Island Records! These include passenger arrival records and passenger lists all for your perusal.

Try Out 'Try-It! Illinois!'

Try-It! Illinois 2018 posterTry-It! Illinois is the annual statewide database trial sponsored by Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White and the Illinois State Library. It offers the staff and library users of more than 5,000 ILLINET member libraries the opportunity to survey and evaluate a wide variety of electronic resources. Thanks to the partnerships between the Illinois State Library and the participating electronic resource vendors, there is no charge for accessing these databases during Try-It! Illinois. 

Urbana Money

Urbana Money, bill

There are few occasions in which printing your own money would be an appropriate solution to a financial crisis. However, Urbana did just that during the Great Depression.

Interesting Urbana City Codes from 1954

Photo by Jon JordanWhere would our society be without laws? They are some of the most important things when it comes to keeping people safe and holding others accountable.

The enduring mystery of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart standing with University of Illinois President Arthur C. Willard

Earhart with Arthur C. Willard, Urbana, IL, 1935 

The perennial mystery of Amelia Earhart has been in the news once again with the International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery’s paper that ‘analyzes radio distress calls’ heard in the days after Earhart’s 1937 disappearance in her attempt to be the first woman to circumnavigate the world.

Chanute AFB Closed 25 Years Ago

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the closure of Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. At the time the base closed its doors on September 30th, 1993, it was the third oldest active base and oldest Technical Training Center. Administration and other departments, clubs, groups, and individual personnel had managed to gather an abundance of historical records, photographs, and ephemera.

Browse Photographs Online!

Did you know you can browse thousands of historical photographs of Champaign County online? Just visit the Champaign County Historical Archives Flickr page! From daily life at Chanute, to local church architecture, our Flickr has something for everyone!

Some of our newest albums include:
The Urbana Free Library, 1949Mary E. Busey’s Gift: A Centennial Celebration of Samuel T. Busey Memorial Library – Excerpts from the exhibit honoring Mary E. Busey’s donation of $35,000 for a new library building in honor of her late husband Samuel T. Busey.