Stateline Travelers Part 2 – Traveling North and South and North, and Me

Stateline Travelers Part 2 – Traveling North and South and North, and Me

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

August 13, 2016

Continuing series – Stateline Travelers.

My particular family history, of many residences, is an example of how to find your ancestors.  You can “map” your relative’s life using a timeline, or downloading Google Earth (with David Rumsey Historical Maps).

When my father could no longer support his growing family of four children on his father’s farm, (Stateline Travelers – Part 1 – My West Central Illinois Farm Home and Me), he moved us north to the startling new world of “city”.  There were libraries, stores, church, etc., and Loves Park school (half of first grade through third grade) close enough to walk to!   (Oh, and a regular paid job for my Dad!)

My brother was born while we lived in that first rental house for two years, in Loves Park, Illinois – named after Mr. Love’s farm which became a recreational park for Rockford Illinois folks boating up the Rock River.  Our residence there is not in an U.S. Census, or property records, but may be in phone books or city directories.  Smaller localities may not have a City Directory, and may or may not be included in a larger nearby city’s directory.  The newspaper birth announcement for my brother, school attendance, and Church membership records would reflect our presence.

Youngest sister child six was born north while in our purchased North Park, Illinois house, where I spent the rest of my childhood.   North Park was a nondescript name – just north of Loves Park and Rockford; which was renamed after its 1981 incorporation to Machesney Park after Mr. Machesney’s small airport there – with a root beer barrel-shaped refreshment stand that I remember. Hint – unique location photo in an archive  newspaper database? The airport had been the Rockford airport until a new one was built at the south edge of Rockford, and this old one became the site of Machesney Park Mall which furnished the incorporation finances.  And the Mall now is almost nonexistent.

I attended public school at North Park Annex Elementary, (which no longer stands), then next door at Hamilton JR High (which had been Harlem High School and now no longer stands), then Harlem High School (which became Harlem JR High School, and moved to a new building).   Hint – building uses, location functions, and names change now and in your ancestors’ times also.  Learn as much as you can about the area histories.

My family had enjoyed frequent Sunday car trips across the stateline to view the free scenery of rolling hills and cows.  It probably helped all of us to be out in the country again.  It reminded me of the hillier west central Illinois scenery that I think of as home.  I can see why the Swiss immigrants had settled into Wisconsin’s’ rolling hills.  Hint – What relocation areas would your ancestors pick to remind them of home?

Some of northern Illinois is flatter, and certainly the east central Urbana- Champaign University of Illinois college campus (south move again) has flat waves of corn, which made me homesick for hills.   College meant a dormitory, and after marrying (the first time) a move north of campus to an apartment in an old house, (which was razed for a new apartment building.)  So we moved farther north in town to a small duplex to finish my Bachelors degree.

For my husband to finish his degree (and to get away from a dicey neighborhood) we moved north again to an Illinois State University married student housing apartment in  LaSalle Peru, Illinois.  Then back home north again to Rockford, Illinois to decide what to do, while temporarily owning a mobile home by the Interstate,  that we sold.

Now south again to University of Illinois married student housing for my Master’s Degree program.  North again with a new baby to stay at my sister’s small basement Rockford apartment while looking for an affordable house to buy.  Next a very small  house farther north in Rockford on a corner with noisy bus stop, public school problems, and rising mortgage interest.  That, and corner snow shoveling, “made” the next move north to a larger house in Loves Park, Illinois.

Each child meant a bigger house, further north.  Our second baby was born while living beside the  (no longer there) fast food restaurant’s, “any fries with that order?” beside busy highway.  Next house (north in Machesney Park, Illinois) was the third child, then a chance to build a new, bigger house (north) with a bigger yard saw the fourth child.

A divorce, and a house fire, meant an almost 2 year temporary move further north to a Roscoe, Illinois apartment (by the busy Interstate!)  Back south to the newly built site of the Machesney Park house.  So ownership would reflect Machesney Park, even though living in Roscoe, Illinois. The children could attend the same schools, as that part of Roscoe was our school district.  Hint – ownership may not equal residency, and school districts may not match the city boundaries, and U.S. Census records may reflect only temporary residency.

My next move was to a historic house in Roscoe Illinois, see –  Stateline Travelers Part  3 – This Old House and Me.

Meandering mostly north, enjoying many locations, I finally wandered across the stateline from northern Illinois to  north of  Elkhorn, Wisconsin.  Hint – the mailing address may not be in the actual town boundaries.  Although I have worked at the Beloit Public Library, Wisconsin for many years, I had not traveled across the stateline to live in Wisconsin until a few years ago upon my second marriage.  However, my house in Roscoe, Illinois did not sell for two years in that housing downturn so residence records are confused again.   Phone/address databases with “may be related to” people, may be wrong. Hint – take what you see in the directories and phone books with caution.

An address book with each person’s previous address and phone number crossed out at each successive move, would be a  valuable document and not junk!  It might even have dob, dom, and dod  in it.  Scan it and throw away the original if you want 🙂



When aged, some people may move at least one more time, to be near family.  I have found several examples of my elderly ancestors moving to (and dying in) a different state.  Burial can be there, or back in the home state.  Or it may be in any cemetery-  the  husband’s family, the birth family, or even with other relatives.  (See a later Post Stateline Travelers –  Part ?  William Graydon, a War Hero Mystery Solved and Me).

My Dad  lived in several Illinois cities, in Minnesota, then died in Florida.  His obituaries were in Lady Lakes, Florida; Rockford, Illinois; and Macomb, Illinois newspapers. We had memorials for him in Florida, and Loves Park, and a burial of ashes in the Macomb family plot six months later.  There had been another Machesney Park cemetery possibility, but we sold it.  Hint – look for all clues to see where your ancestor was actually buried and when.  Follow the moves of their children.

Each cemetery has its own rules for how many remains (casket plus 0 – 4 urns of ashes) can be buried in each space.  There may or may not be headstones for each person.  My first baby brother died at 10 days and was buried, without a headstone, beside our Jewison Great Grandparents.  For whatever reason, it was not in the Ruthe family Macomb cemetery plot .

A cemetery index can be held by a cemetery sextant with no office hours, or in a nearby public library. (The Beloit, Wisconsin Eastlawn and Oakwood cemetery indexes are on-line on the City website.)  I know of an index that incorrectly listed another deceased baby as the child of the actual father’s brother, and was moved from one burial site to another .   I also know of an obituary written by the family that states, “she lived most of her life in …town”, but I know that she lived most of her life in the country. Hint – be persistent, and don’t always stop at the “official” documentation, even if it is a “primary” source.  there may be more to the story.

In some ways I wish that I would have lived in one place like some of our ancestors.  Or did they?  What were some of the reasons that our ancestors moved around?  My story may be more similar in history than we assume.  We will explore that further in:

Stateline Travelers – part ? Common Early Migration Patterns in the US, and

Stateline Travelers Part ? – Common Migration Patterns to the Midwest.




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