News from the Reference Desk Category: History

Being Irish

On St. Patrick’s Day it is often said in the United States that everyone is a little Irish. But how many people of Irish descent are there in the United States? An exact figure is a challenge to determine but the United States Census figures project it to be around 33 million. Here is a Census Bureau report issued in 2004 which describes the results of an ancestry question on the 2000 Census. An article from the website Irish Central compares figures from the 2000 Census to those from the American Community Survey in 2014. It also explains why it is difficult to pin down exact figures regarding ethnicity. If you want to see if there is an Irish ancestor in your background, there are resources at the Mount Prospect Public Library which can help. Look through this list of Irish genealogy books in our collection. Investigate the genealogy online resources Ancestry Library Edition, Heritage Quest, and Find My Past. If you would like some help with this research, please come to the Research Services Desk and set up an appointment with the genealogy librarian or make an appointment online. Whatever your background, wear a little green and have some fun on St. Patrick’s Day!

Tales Told by Found Photographs

The stories of our families are told through  many forms of documents.  Family photographs, however, are unique because they have visually captured moments in time that now only live as memories.  A discarded photograph album lead a writer in New York to the story of black families that lived in the Crown Heights neighborhood of New York City during the middle of the 20th Century.  This writer, Anne Correal, describes the journey she undertook to discover whose photographs they were and how the album was left forsaken on the street.  Her article “Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street” appeared in the New York Times in January 2017.  It traces the paths that many African American families took from the Deep South to the North in an event known as the Great Migration.  Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a book in the Library’s collection which also illuminates this event in American history.  There are now also other books and videos on display in the Library which document African American history.  If you are interested in learning more about your own family’s history and managing your own family photographic collections, come talk to our Research Services staff who will help you get started.

 

Exploring Demographics with Our New Web Resource

If you like demographics, then we have a great new resource for you, Social Explorer. You can access over 200 years of government data and see it displayed in maps. It’s an intriguing way to discover trends in aging, race, income, employment, election results, health, and crime data. These are but a few of the options. I’ve been comparing where I live in Chicago to where I always said I wanted to live, Nome, Alaska. Where I live now, there are 33,334 people per square mile, compared to 5,695 in the area around MPPL, but only 5.4 in Nome. It must be very quiet. And what is really neat is that much of this data can be compared over time, and some European and UK information is also available.

The History of Santa Claus

The holiday season is full of traditional events and practices, many of which revolve around the figure of Santa Claus.  But who is this figure?  What is his history?  That story goes back to 280 CE in Myra, an area now in modern Turkey, where Saint Nicholas lived and worked as a bishop. After his death on December 6 in an unknown year, many stories developed about his kindness and generosity, especially to children.  These legends were adopted over the years by people in many areas of Europe where Saint Nicholas is still considered to be the source of gifts.  It is from him that Santa Claus as he is known today emerges with some help from Nordic mythology and the Protestant Reformation among other influences.  An article from National Geographic online gives a detailed description of this transition.  Additional information can be found at the Santa Claus entry on History.com and the website of the St. Nicholas Center.  This far-reaching tale reveals how many cultures have added to the legend of Santa Claus, making him one figure that belongs to everyone.

Celebrating Veterans Day

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was first set as a U.S. legal holiday to recognize the end of World War I.  This “armistice” took place on November 11, 1918.  In 1938 legislation was past to formally dedicate November 11 to the “cause of world peace.”  With the urging of veterans organizations, the U.S. Congress amended the Act of 1938, replacing “Armistice” with the word “Veterans.”  On June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans.  In 1968 Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October.  This move was highly unpopular so in 1975 the annual observance of Veterans Day was moved again to November 11.  A more complete history of this holiday can be found here at the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Many Mount Prospect natives have served in the military over the past 100 years.  There are some artifacts of this service in the online collection Dimensions of Life in Mount Prospect.  Among them are a World War I gas mask, a World War I uniform jacket and helmet, and the stole of a local World War II chaplain. 

On November 11 of this year, Mount Prospect will honor veterans in a free program to be held at Lions Park Recreation Center beginning at 10:30 AM.

Color Images of America in the Great Depression

In response to the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt called for the creation of several assistance agencies.  One of these was the Resettlement Administration (RA) created in 1935.  The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created out of the RA in 1937.  This agency was formed to help struggling farmers and sharecroppers.  It’s historical section was headed by Roy Stryker.  He organized a team of photographers who documented hardships across the country, especially in the Midwest and California.  Many of the black and white images they created such as Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” are well known.  Not so familiar are the color photographs that were taken of farmers, workers, and children.  In a new book called New Deal Photography, USA 1935-1943 author Peter Walther has created a survey of the work done by the photographers of the FSA.  These images vividly show the hard life of many ordinary people during a time of great struggle in America.  A few of the images can be seen here.  Walther’s book is currently on order at MPPL.

Women’s Work in World War I

Women have always participated in support work during wartime.  This was especially evident during World War I.  Women served in a variety of capacities sometimes very close to the front lines.  The National Archives holds a vast collection of photographs in its collection of War Department records. You can see several photographs of women at work during World War I in the Unwritten Record Blog prepared by staff at the National Archives.

Women's Land Army WWI

Home Movie Day, October 18

Older photographs and home movies are rich treasures of family history.  Have you been wanting to look at and preserve your older home movies?  The Center for Home Movies (http://www.centerforhomemovies.org/) has designated October 18 as the day to do just that.  Over 100 museums and film societies across the world are hosting special events where people can bring their films, view them with others, and get professional guidance about how to best preserve them.  The free Chicago-area event is being held at the Chicago History Museum on October 18 from 11 AM to 3 PM.   At this event you will be able to watch the films with musical accompaniment by silent film pianist, David Drazin.  For more information about this event click here.

 

Photographs from the Field Museum

Chicago’s Field Museum is known for its notable specimens numbering over 24 million.  Did you know that the museum also has tens of thousands of photographs in its collection?  Many of them are available online at http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/department/library/photo-archives/collections.  The photos include scenes from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and historic photos from Africa, Peru, the South Pacific and the United States.  This collection documents the history and architecture of the Museum, its exhibitions, events, staff and scientific expeditions.

Civil War Images from The New York Times

The American Civil War occurred 150 years ago yet images of its battles remain provocative.  They remind us of what war is really like and how its wounds can resonate for decades.  The New York Times has created a video of still photos which are available in historical archives.  The link to this video is http://nyti.ms/10v0FpL.