The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 9, 2012

Take time to record your family’s stories


Five years ago, StoryCorps established a new national holiday, The National Day of Listening, as an “alternative to ‘Black Friday’ shopping sprees.” That big shopping day is past, but it does not take a special day to encourage family members to take part in some of the activities recommended at

One can listen to a variety of interviews by clicking on the Wall of Listening. For example, Yvonne talked to her Dad on his 90th birthday; two friends talked about the hurricane, Sandy. Perhaps listening to others’ interviews can provide an inspiration to do likewise.

This website has lists of questions to ask family members and friends to encourage story-telling. In addition to questions for anyone, there are questions to ask grandparents and/or parents on a variety of topics, such as growing up, school, love and relationships, marriage and partnerships, working, religion, serious illness, family heritage, war, and remembering a loved one.

The four-page do-it-yourself instruction guide tells how to conduct an interview and also provides helpful recommendations on equipment as well as possible questions to ask. You may even wish to share your listening experiences on Facebook or Twitter. StoryCorps’ mission is to “provide people … with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their stories.”

Mosler’s diary

In recognition of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art has launched a digital exhibition at of Henry Mosler’s Civil War diary. Although the diary has only 37 pages, it provides a first-hand account of the suffering of that war.

Henry Mosler (1841-1920) had been in the 9th Indiana Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War and kept the diary in 1862. He had been an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly. In his diary he wrote about being an aide-de-camp to General R. W. Johnson — his first professional position as an artist.

At the website one can read the transcription or the diary itself (which is sometimes faint and difficult to decipher) or download the entire document. The website allows one to “follow his trek on a historic map of Kentucky” (where Mosler and the army marched more than 275 miles), see more than two dozen of his published illustrations, note events of his life on the timeline, and read of more of his activities on the blog.

Mosler began his career in Cincinnati, Ohio, lived in Germany and Paris, and eventually settled in New York. At one can access Mosler’s other documents that were digitized in 2009 and total more than 2,000 images.

Open house

The Illiana Genealogical & Historical Society will host a Christmas open house from 2-4 p.m. today at the Genealogy Library, 215 W. North Street, Danville. All members and supporters are invited. Light refreshments and holiday music will be provided as a “thank you” for supporting IGHS. Bring an appetizer for all to enjoy, and share the joy of Christmas.

Queries, as well as a general exchange of genealogical material that readers would like to share, will be printed in the column for free. Contact Joan Griffis by e-mailing