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I enjoyed your article , "No Place Like Home" in the September issue of Family Tree Magazine. I've been doing genealogical research for over 22 years (mostly Polish & Swedish) and that included visiting "ancestral homes" although they were all in Chicago. I did a lot of research on my Dad's parent's house because almost all of his siblings lived there in one of the apartments at one time or other until the it was destroyed to make room for the expressway. The article I wrote is currently on line on the Polish Museum of America website.
Like the family you mentioned, my Mom's parents lived (rented) in a number of places in the same neighborhood and it was fun trying to develop the time line for those locations and track them down. For the most part though, those visits were made primarily with my Mom and we had some interesting adventures in the process. I was able to photograph most of the locations including the "empty lot" that at one time held the building where my Mom was born.
I thought your article offered some interesting ideas to consider for future visits. I'm glad you mentioned the matter of safety. When my families lived in the areas we visited they were located very close to the old Polish downtown. But ... the expressway changed things. For a number of years now, though it has begun to gentrify and it really is interesting to see what can be done with some of these old buildings other than just tear them down and start from scratch.
I would suggest that especially if you plan to go with a group of people, it might be wise to try to contact the current owners if possible. Even nice people get a little concerned when a group comes by and starts examining the buildings and even just posing for pictures could make some people uncomfortable. Maybe a post card addresed to "Resident" would be enough because they could read the message without having to open an envelope.
I'd also like to mention that when it comes to old addresses, you have to be careful that you have the right place. By early in the 1900s Chicago had taken over some many adjacent towns that the street numbering and names were a jumble. In fact initially the street numbers were counted starting at the Chicago River, which like most certainly didn't flow in a straight line. But in 1909 the city finally implemented a grid system which is used to this day. It was a good thing to do but I've had more than one friend who photographed their "old homestead" only to find it was the wrong house . Now that is one of the first things we mention to new researchers. We know it can cause problems in Chicago and I'm sure the same thing could have happened elsewhere, too.
Thanks again for your article. I will be sure to recommend it to others who might be contemplating visiting the homes of their ancestors.
Rosalie LindbergPast-President, Polish Genealogical Society of America
Note: This email was posted on behalf of Rosalie Lindberg.
Thank you, Rosalie, for sharing your memories of the Chicago neighborhood where you spent your childhood. It's sad to see so many downtown areas lost to highways and development, especially when the promised "new" buildings and infrastructure never materializes. I think the saddest sight must be empty lots and vacant buildings, a picture you share in your original article at the Polish Museum website.
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