Interview with Genealogist Ann Winkler Hinrichs

Ann Winkler Hinrichs was born in Charleston, Illinois but grew up in Greenup where both her parents were school teachers. Both sides of her family are from Coles County, as earliest as 1828. Ann has been a RN for 40 years but if she could change careers, she would be a Historical Archivist. She loves figuring out the genealogical/historical mysteries of the past and where they lead us. Ann was Chairperson of the 150th Anniversary of the Charleston Riot and is currently vice president of the Coles County Genealogical Society.

How did you become interested in genealogy and local history?

I loved listening to my Paternal Grandfather and Maternal Grandparents tell stories about their families. At 14 my Maternal Grandparents bought me a family tree book for Christmas, which they sat with me and helped to fill it out. I still have the book to this day. My Paternal Great Aunt wrote a great deal about our family, going back to the Revolutionary War. There is so much Coles County history in her writings since they arrived in 1828. My 3rd GGrandfather who served 7 years in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War is buried NW of Ashmore.

What do you think is so unique about Coles County?

The Lincoln connection is what I think is so unique. When most people think of Lincoln, they think of Springfield. Outside of Springfield/New Salem I think Coles County has the richest Lincoln history. The County was the home of Lincoln’s parents, he was involved in many court cases, one of Lincoln Douglas debates occurred here and the Charleston Riot.

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What is your favorite episode or event from Coles County history

Now Michael you surely know my answer to this one! The 1864 Charleston Riot. It is a fascinating story, little known outside our area involving Lincoln, the Civil War and many Coles county families who still live here today. I can remember sitting around my Grandfather Winkler’s dining room table, spellbound about him recanting his Grandfathers accounts of the day. The back stories of the day continue to be told and are utterly fascinating.

Is there anything about Coles County you wanted to know more about but haven’t been able to find?

That’s a great question. The list is a long one I will be working on till the day I die. For example what on earth happened to my Great Uncle Benjamin Franklin Toland after his participation in the Riot, never to be heard of again? Another is why did my Great Aunt not include the Coles County Poor Farm being built next to their farm NW of Ashmore in her prolific daily diaries? Everyday I do research I create more questions for myself.

What advice would you give my readers who want to become more involved in their family genealogy or local historical preservation?

The best thing you can do is get involved, even if your new to genealogy or learning history and think you have nothing to offer, volunteer at your local historical or genealogical society. I would of loved to of been more involved at a younger age and feel it would of been so beneficial. Many people feel that “everything is on line” but as a member Coles County Genealogical Society is amazing what artifacts we have come forward on a monthly basis. I have learned more about my family by understanding the history of the community and the people who lived there by networking with others, who know aspects of local history I do not know.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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