Local History and Genealogy Blog

"I wish you were here if only for a short time."

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi to the Union armies commanded by Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War. It was a seminal moment: the Confederacy was now split in two and commerce could once again flow from the farms of the Midwest down the Mississippi River virtually unimpeded.

Recently Processed Collections

Two collections have recently been processed and are now fully accessible at the Champaign County Historical Archives of The Urbana Free Library.

The Champaign Urbana Woman’s Club

Alien Visitors ... to Urbana?

A sharped eyed staff member spied this image from our collections: 

"UFO" over the home of Don Manning, Urbana, IL, February, 1969

Apparently, sightings of unexplained phenomena and Unidentified Flying Objects are not uncommon here, as this June 6, 1969 article from the front page of the Urbana Courier relates.

Riding the Rails to a New Life: The Orphan Trains

By the middle of the nineteenth century, New York City was teaming with new immigrants, with more coming every day. These new families often found themselves in dire circumstances, surrounded by poverty and disease. As a result, many children ended up without parents, orphaned and left wandering the streets. The plight of these children did not go unnoticed, and soon several orphanages and aid societies developed to assist them.

Roger Ebert, Legendary film critic and Urbana native, dies at 70.

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Urbana native, and esteemed film critic, Roger Ebert.



Roger Joseph Ebert, was born on June 18, 1942, in Urbana, Ill. He attended Urbana High School and the University of Illinois.