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Pass on Your Family History


A portrait of Ann De Broux's great-great-grandfather, Frederick Siskey, set against a collage of Civil War-era memorabilia

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War provides Americans with the opportunity to reflect on the importance of this pivotal period in our nation's history and to consider the stories of those who time has nearly forgotten. Here's the story of Wisconsin Historical Society member Ann De Broux of Madison, who unlocked the mystery behind her great-great-grandfather's life with the help of our genealogical collections.

In Search of a Ghost

All her life, Ann's parents instilled in her a deep appreciation for her family's history and heritage. As a child, they took her to an old cemetery to see where her great-great-grandfather Frederick Siskey is buried. His gravestone was etched with the years he served in the Civil War, but no one in her family knew anything else about him.

Fascinated by this mysterious ancestor, Ann chose to write about him for her 8th-grade history report. Her dad drove her from Appleton to the Society's Library and Archives in Madison hoping to uncover his story. With the help of a skilled archivist, they discovered original army records, photos, telegrams, letters, diaries and newspaper accounts.

Ann De Broux's 8th-grade report
Ann De Broux's 8th-grade report

Amazingly, her great-great-grandfather Frederick and his world came to life right before their eyes. Frederick served as a Union Army private in Company D, 32nd Wisconsin Infantry. His regiment fought in a number of famous battles including the Siege of Atlanta, Battle of Bentonville and Gen. Sherman's March to the Sea. They discovered a photograph of him taken more than a century ago. They even learned he shook hands with President Lincoln at a White House ceremony. Ann went to the Society in search of a forgotten ghost. Instead, she found her American hero. It was a profound experience that she and her father cherish (and it helped her get an A on her report, which she titled "Coming Home").

Handing Down Her Heritage

Ann is married now with a daughter of her own named Gracie. Recently, Ann pulled out her old school report, which she has saved all these years, and read it to Gracie. In that moment, she realized that the report, and the story of its creation, is a priceless gift she is proud to pass on to Gracie.

Gracie and Ann Debroux
Gracie and Ann De Broux

"Knowing her roots will add perspective and meaning to her life in a way that only history can provide," said Ann. "It's so heartening knowing my daughter, my father and I share an enduring bond that reaches across generations of our family. If it weren't for the Wisconsin Historical Society's vast genealogical collections, incredible resources and knowledgeable staff, my family's history would have been lost forever."

Pass On Your Family's History

With ongoing support from people like you, the Society helps countless families discover their ancestry as one of the top genealogical research centers in the nation. The Society is also home to many other genealogical research materials, many of which are accessible online.

Ann contributes to the Society today because she wants her daughter and future generations to have the same extraordinary experience that she and her father had discovering their roots. You can help preserve and pass on the history of your family for the benefit of your children and grandchildren by supporting the Society, too.

If you are a member of the Society, please consider making a donation today.

If you're not already a member of the Society, please consider joining today.

Thank you for helping to ensure that the Wisconsin Historical Society can continue to collect, preserve and share the stories that chronicle our lives.

:: Posted March 24, 2011

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