“Genealogical Hunt”

Beloit, Wisconsin High School

While the large internet web sites can be full of mistakes, they do make available images of the United States Census reports. Although they can have incorrect spelling or errors from the interviewed family members, they are fairly close to primary sources. In the 1860 census I first found Lucy Durham in Beloit, Wisconsin. William Clark Durham’s account of our family history fleshed out this entry for me.

He had told me that she had been born June 13, 1853, in Beloit, Wisconsin, the 12th child of Benjamin and Elizabeth, attended Beloit High and then went to Chicago to the Chicago Art School. Here she took special training and stayed in Chicago from 1873 until 1892 working as an artist. For the next ten years “she gave herself to missionary labors among the Chinese in San Francisco, learning the language and preparing herself for work abroad.”

From these two initial bits I was given an opportunity to explore her life further. First, what was the “Chicago Art School” in 1873? Secondly, where would she have been for those ten years in San Francisco? My current primary source research is exploring those two openings.

I have located the school of the Chicago Art Institute, perhaps the forerunner of the Chicago Art School. The internet provides access to numerous archives, such as that of the Art Institute, and I am currently connecting with the archivist there to see what was offered in 1873 and also what “special training” might have entailed. I enjoy the connection with my own history of years teaching at a museum connected art college.

I also found an address in the 1900 census for Lucy in San Francisco. Using Google to locate the address, I learned that it is currently the home of the American Chinese Presbyterian Church. It also now houses the American Chinese Presbyterian Missionary Society. This would seem to validate the comment about the “missionary labors among the Chinese in San Francisco.” Now to ask the archivist at the American Chinese Presbyterian Missionary Society what they may have somewhere about Lucy Durham.

The first time I read Durham’s book I had merely skimmed over these details. Looking back now I see the first two major clues pointing me toward further pieces of the story of my great-great-Aunt Lucy. As you can tell from this post, there is nothing quick about research. But I delight in the work and look forward to being able to resurrect more of the story of this intriguing woman.

35 thoughts on ““Genealogical Hunt”

  1. What an adventure to piece together the history of your great-great aunt! I may endeavor to trace some of my more colorful ancestors in the future and I’m happy you’re sharing your methods along the way.


  2. Perhaps you could get the immortal Chinese American detective Charlie Chan to help in the American Chinese Presbyterian search in San Francisco. You may think Charlie is long dead, but because he’s fictional, he lives on forever! 😀

    Kidding aside, this is great stuff. Looking forward to the next ‘episode.’


  3. Your research is slow and detailed, and that is how it should be done. As such, you have gained much information about Lucy. I hope you find out more about the school, and her 10 years in San Francisco before going abroad.


  4. One of the issues my family has with tracing our ancestry is that surnames changed every generation once we get back to 19th century Sweden. But I have a cousin who is doing what you’re doing and she has added valuable information to our family history.


      1. I found that my great aunt was a missionary to those who had Leprosy in the early 1900’s.
        I too was a missionary to those suffering from Leprosy for a period of time & still have a great love for that ministry, mainly through prayer now.


        1. Yes, she was a nun with the Catholic denomination. She came from Sydney, Australia & served in the Pacific Islands off Australia.

          I served with TEAM – The Evangelical Alliance Mission in India & then the Leprosy Mission in Australia both interdenominational mission societies.☺️


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