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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Digging deep for DeKalb County roots

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................March 20, 2012

Recently, I made a presentation to school superintendents at Regional Superintendent Gil Morrison's monthly meeting for all of DeKalb County's public school districts. I passed out a local historical trivia quiz I had composed in conjunction with my 2010 book "Hybrid Corn & Purebred People."

I invited them to share the quiz with their history teachers and offered a cash prize to any history teacher who could answer any three of the 21 questions. That offer still stands. I was asked later why

A family Bible is seen that was given to Barry Schrader's maternal grandparents for their wedding in 1888. It includes a temperance pledge and handwritten records of births and marriages in the family. (Barry Schrader photo)

the passion for local history. I guess it started with my finding birth, marriage and death records handwritten in our family Bible many years ago. I began asking my aunts and grandmothers about their families and gathered more names of ancestors on all four sides of the Schrader-Cooper and Stryker-Potter clans. I kept collecting data until I finally published a 90-page genealogy in 1990. Most of this was done while we lived way out west.

Then two years ago, I found a loose-leaf from an 1871 DeKalb County plat book on a flea market table at the Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee. On that page, I discovered two farms were owned by my great-great grandfather Johann (aka John) in Victor Township, which made me realize we have six generations of Schraders who have owned farmland or homes during the past 150 years in this county, all the way up to one of our sons who bought a house in DeKalb last year.

On a side note, at age 19 my great-uncle Frederick Schrader enlisted in the Union Army as a substitute for a LaSalle County man who paid him to serve in his stead. I guess it was common in those days to hire a stand-in if your family had the money and did not want a son to risk life and limb on the battlefield. He served in Company G of the Illinois 44th Infantry and survived to marry and have a family of his own. I wonder whether he met his Victor Township neighbor, Silas "Deck" Wesson, during the time they served in the Civil War. My great-uncle Fred and great-great grandfather Johann are buried in Sandwich's Oak Ridge Cemetery, as are their wives, Paulina and Wilhelmine.

Six or seven generations staying in DeKalb County is not unusual, and I would be interested in learning whether there are any families who have kept the same piece of land or homestead from the 1800s until now. Maybe the DeKalb County Farm Bureau centennial observance Saturday will be a good opportunity to find out. Organizers could ask those present who have had the same family farm for 100 years or more to stand up, then add 10 years at a time until the last couple remains standing. This is just a thought for the program committee.

While on the subject of family history, I should point out this county has excellent resources for researching genealogy and other historical records. In addition to each town's library and numerous local museums, there is the Joiner History Room, the Family History Center at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Earl Hayter Regional History Center at Northern Illinois University and the DeKalb County Clerk's Office's new online vital records database.

There is no better time than right now to start tracing your roots.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115