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posted: 7/30/2011 6:00 AM

Historical detectives find family ties

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  • Ray Wilson of Abingdon, Ill., consults files from the archives at the Galesburg Public Library genealogy lock-in. Enthusiasts were locked inside for several hours to hunt and search for missing links in their ancestry.

      Ray Wilson of Abingdon, Ill., consults files from the archives at the Galesburg Public Library genealogy lock-in. Enthusiasts were locked inside for several hours to hunt and search for missing links in their ancestry.
    Steve Davis/The Register-Mail

  • Kay Webber consults with Robert Grove as they research their ancestry at the Galesburg Public Library's genealogy lock-in. Grove has worked his way back through six generations of his family, and a friend had recently given information that goes even further back. He was looking through records at the library to find out more about ancestors who fought in the American Revolution.

      Kay Webber consults with Robert Grove as they research their ancestry at the Galesburg Public Library's genealogy lock-in. Grove has worked his way back through six generations of his family, and a friend had recently given information that goes even further back. He was looking through records at the library to find out more about ancestors who fought in the American Revolution.
    Steve Davis/The Register-Mail

 
The (Galesburg) Register-Mail

GALESBURG -- Fran Henley heard as a young child that she was related to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Many years later she decided to dig up the truth.

"I thought I would see if I could prove it and lo and behold it was true," she said.

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Longfellow was a famous American poet who died in 1882. Henley is a member of the Knox County Genealogical Society. The group works like a team of historical detectives, sifting through archives looking for clues.

"It's an addiction and once you find one generation you can't wait to find the next," she said. "It's like a puzzle and people who like problem solving are drawn through it."

Henley and her fellow genealogy enthusiasts enjoyed a lock-in at the Galesburg Public Library on Sunday. Doors at the library, which is closed on Sundays, were opened for 15 minutes to let the genealogists in. They were locked inside for several hours to hunt and search for missing links in their ancestry.

The society helps people interested in exploring the past, using tax, marriage and death records, census and other sources to piece together family puzzles.

Mary Karlovich traced her roots deep into American history, all the way back to a Mayflower family. She's also traced roots back to an island off the Scottish coast.

"It's pretty impressive what you can find," she said.

Another enthusiast at the library Sunday, Larry Thurman, said most of his ancestors were farmers and fishermen who first moved to America in the 16th century. His investigations showed the diversity of immigrants to America. He found Swedish, Dutch, Scottish and Irish strands in his background.

Robert Grove has worked his way back through six generations of his family, and a friend had recently given information that goes even further back. He was looking through records at the library to find out more about ancestors who fought in the American Revolution.

"It makes me very proud that they survived," he said.

Grove found some Swiss roots in his background including a man by the name of Jacob Graf, who had 35 children. Not all of the children were his, Grove thinks, as the man married on several occasions and some of the children may have been brought into the family.

The Knox County Genealogical Society meets on the second Monday of every month in the lower-level of the Trinity Lutheran Church. But anyone interested in exploring family history also can go to the library on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. when volunteers are on hand to help people trace their roots.

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