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Local History and Genealogy Blog

Finding African-American Ancestors in Champaign County: A Resource Guide

Champaign Public Library, Douglass Branch, opening 1976

The history of Champaign County’s African-American community began in the pioneer days of Champaign, Urbana, and the surrounding towns and villages. The easiest way to get started searching for African-American history in Champaign County, as with any subject pertaining to local history in Champaign County, is to search the Local History Online database. You can begin with a quick search from the homepage, which leads to an alphabetical list of results from the Local History Online index. You may find it useful to click “More Searches” and choose a keyword search of our holdings as well. What types of results will you see while searching Local History Online? Below is a list of several types of resources that you can search at the Champaign County Historical Archives. Included are references to several resources specific to Champaign County’s local African-American history and individuals.

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Cemetery Haunts

Genealogists and local history buffs aren't the only ones who appreciate a good cemetery.


Deer lounging in Woodlawn Cemetery, Urbana, IL (2016)

These lovely creatures were captured by our own resident cemetery aficionado, Karla.

If you don't mind spending an afternoon in a cemetery you may be interested in our upcoming workshop: Basic Cemetery Restoration. John Heider, a professional gravestone conservator, will offer a hands on class on how to properly care for Illinois cemeteries and their historic grave markers on June 4th. The class will meet at The Urbana Free Library and Roselawn Cemetery.  

Cemeteries not your thing? 

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In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today America honors the contributions and incredible life of Martin Luther King Jr. On this date we especially pause to remember his passion, bravery and hope for the future. Yet, it is important to note that reminders of his life and teachings surround us every day. From memorials and streets to movies and documentaries, Dr. King’s message of love can easily be recalled. Below are a couple of every day reminders of Martin Luther King’s philosophies

Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Urbana 

MLK, Urbana Schools, Martin Luther King Jr.

Formerly Hays School, the elementary school was renamed for Dr. King in the 1970’s. 

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Ellis Island, A New Beginning...

Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892. In honor of that occasion here is a blog we posted in 2013 about the history of the island and tips for researching an ancestor's immigration story. Happy New Year, Everyone!


View of the front facade of the Immigration Station; a boat is docked in front.We all learned as school children how our immigrant ancestors came to America through Ellis Island. The real story about where and when immigrants entered the United States is much more complicated than the story we grew up with. Ellis Island was a New York gateway for the arrival of U.S. immigrants from roughly 1892 to 1924. Although it was by far the largest port of entry and millions arrived during that time, it was one of many ways to enter the United States.

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