Local History and Genealogy Blog

Winter is Coming

Champaign County residents at the turn of the twentieth century knew how to travel
through the Midwest snow and ice in style. Pictured here is a horse-drawn sleigh
outside of the William Redhed residence in Tolono, circa 1890. 

Source: "William Redhed House, Tolono, and unidentified women in a horse-drawn

New Digital Collections in the Archives

Train wreck We’ve added 3 new albums to our digital collections. They feature the Illinois Central Railroad, African American Community leaders, and churches throughout Champaign County.  

Illinois Central Railroad

Train wreck


The Illinois Central Railroad Company, incorporated in 1851, took advantage of an 1850 charter that allowed using public land for railroads. Its first railroad would run diagonally northwest with a branch to Chicago. In Champaign, a Power House was built on Wabash with barns for housing and repairing trains nearby, the freight house was located off Neil, the tower was put east of the freight house and along the Belt Line and the station was on University St.  In Urbana, the depot was on Broadway with its powerhouse off Main.


A Look Back at October in Pictures

Thanks everyone for making Archives Month such a success. We enjoyed seeing you all over the last month. Remember to be kept up-to-date on all the events and workshops hosted by the Archives you can sign up for email notifications to be sent to your inbox. Just make sure to check Local History and Genealogy in the selection list.  

Authors Panel book display, October 25, 2014    Fred Schlipf, former director of The Urbana Free Library, presenting at Authors Panel, October 25, 2014

This Week at the Archives

We are closing out American Archives Month  with a bang as we prep for 3 events this week. Whether you are interested in the discoveries made by local authors during the research process, kid-friendly genealogy activities, or oral history there is an event for you.  We hope to see you as we finsh up celebrating Archives Month. 

Authors Panel Poster  Discover Your Family's Story Poster    Oral History Workshop Poster

Champaign County on Film


Image of reel-to-reel film projector

“Saving our film heritage should not be limited only to commercially produced films. Home movies do not just capture the important private moments of our family’s lives, but they are historical and cultural documents as well.”– Martin Scorsese

On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, the Champaign County Historical Archives and Student Life and Culture Archives will present a mashup of archival films from the mid-1920s through the 21st century including aerials of Champaign-Urbana, college life, Orpheum Theatre, agricultural technology, the Flat Iron fire of the late 1940s, African-American CU Day Reunion, and the changing nature of transportation that includes trains, buses, and cars.  

October is American Archives Month.

Archival Crush. It’s a real thing, look it up.

Actually, never mind, Google won’t return a hit, but all archivists have one. Society of American Archivists president Kathleen Roe talks about her crush (although she calls her an archival neighbor), Genevieve Hankins-Hawke, an African-American nurse, widow and mother during World War II, whose papers she processed more than 25 years ago but whose story still remains with her. 

Try-It Illinois is now available! (October 1 through November 30, 2014)

Try-It! Illinois 2014, the fourteenth annual statewide database trial, sponsored by Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White and the Illinois State Library is now available. Come visit the Archives and get your password!

Joseph William Royer, Architect of Schools and Early Urbana

Urbana native, Joseph William Royer is well-known for being the architect of The Urbana Free Library (1917), the Champaign County Courthouse (1901), and Urbana High School (1913). But his designs extended beyond Urbana and Champaign County, and even Illinois reaching into Iowa and Indiana.