Saturday, June 25, 2011

I came, I saw, I conquered

What's a maroon, anyway?

We made it to Clinton, Illinois, home for many generations of my family!  What a thrill and I am so thankful we were able to spend some time there.

As suggested, I did my homework and contacted the DeWitt County Genealogical Society prior to our visit so I could feel fairly prepared for what was ahead of me.  The primary suggestion they had for me was, if possible, to visit on a Thursday as that was the only day volunteers were present and able to help.  As luck would have it, our road trip had us in Clinton on Thursday.

We arrived at the Vespasian Waner Library, home of the DeWitty County Genealogical Society at about noon on Thursday.  Imagine my surprise when we walked in and there were three people in the library.  Clinton is a fairly small town and I was surprised that three people were already there researching.  But I was even more surprised when I realized these people were volunteers and were all just waiting to help me research.  And boy did they help!

Charlotte was the first to ask "how can we help?" and I stammered something silly like "I'm looking for my family".  I mentioned the surname of Waller and she quickly jumped up and took me to a file cabinet while explaining "we have a file on them".  So it was a small file and half of it was copies of e-mails I had written to them but I sure was impressed with her memory.

Within minutes there were books and binders everywhere and all three of them were throwing questions at me.  When was he born?  Is this your relative?  What year did she die?  Were they married here?  More and more books arrived and then I stopped dead in my tracks - there in the probate book was Salmon Waller.  Deep breath.  Salmon (or Solomon) was the father of my elusive Emery Waller and my 4th great grandfather.  He is also the next punch I need on my DAR application ticket.  In fact, my primary goal while visiting DeWitt County was finding Salmon's burial site.  But I knew that there were several Salmon Wallers in my line as several of Salmon's ancestors named their children Salmon (who has the name Salmon, anyway?). 

I asked about the probate record - was it here, how difficult would it be to see, and some other ridiculous questions, I'm sure.  Charlotte explained that when the County digitized their records recently, they were going to throw out all of the corresponding material so the Genealogicial Society took everything, organized it, and put it in boxes downstairs.  Downstairs!  All I had to do was tell them which records I wanted to see and John would go downstairs and get them for me!  After another deep breath I said "this one, I want to see this one!" and off he went.  And about 5 minutes later he came back into the room, huffing and puffing just a bit, and presented me with Salmon Waller's probate record.  Another deep breath while I opened the file to see the specifics and IT WAS MY SALMON WALLER!!!!!  I had seen the digitized copy of his will online but there was more in this file.  Before I could even speak, Charlotte was off to the copy machine to make copies of everything in the file for me.  And the questions kept coming!  John grabbed microfilm and started scanning, Charlotte was copying, and Jan was looking in more books to find something - anything - that would be important to me.  It really was amazing (and almost overwhelming) to see these people scurrying around looking for treasures for me. 

We were almost finished here
It's going to take some time for me to really go through everything and figure out what I have but knowing these people are anxious to help is such a relief.  I can't say enough about these wonderful volunteers!

Oh, in pouring through the probate record when I got to the hotel the main piece of information I learned was that Salmon's wife was still living when he died and lived for some years afterwards.  And since Emery was the executor, I was able to see his signature on a few things!  But still no record of Salmon's burial site.

Next stop was the County Clerk's office to see if I could find the marriage record for my 2nd great grandparents, Rebecca Moriah Waller and William Warren McAboy, who were married January 10, 1864.  We walked into the office and a nice woman asked if she could help.  I explained what I was looking for, she took a few notes, and then said she'd be right back.  A few minutes later she returned with a piece of paper in her hand and asked if it was what I was looking for.  And there it was - the ORIGINAL marriage license from 1864.  Oh my!  I was tempted to throw a 10 dollar bill on the counter, stash the certificate in my bag, and run from the building but instead I acted all grown up and said "could I get a copy of this?" which sent her scurrying to get me the copy before I made a mad dash for the door.  When she returned I stared at the original again and remembered my handy dandy mobile flip-pal scanner in my bag and asked if I could scan it.  I should have practiced more with the scanner but I did what I could and will spend some time stitching it together when I have more time.  And then I remembered the camera in my bag and asked if I could take a photo.  I'm sure this lady thought I was nuts but she humored me and even helped me find a good spot to place the document to get a photo.  I know it's not perfect and I know I need to practice more with the scanner but here it is.

And it cost just 50 cents!

I also found a piece of information that isn't as exciting which I will share later.  It does remind us, though, that we can't discriminate as to what type of information we find and have to take the good with the bad.  Sigh.


  1. Debi, I am so glad you had a good experience with your research! Kudos to those wonderful volunteers - they deserve a raise! :) Your story had me giggling with excitement for you. Have fun going through all of your new information. Congratulations!

  2. Don't you love being genealogically overwhelmed? Sounds like a very productive field trip...I love volunteers. As for maroon, I don't know what kind of mascot it is but I do remember Bugs Bunny saying it all the time: "What a maroon, what an ultimate maroon!"

  3. YAY! I am so glad it went well. I'm excited, and I'm not even related to these people!

  4. Sounds like you hit a goldmine ....... with the researchers that enthusiastically helped you.