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The Keepers of Stories

June, 2022

Dear Friends,

Growing up in a small Iowa town, the library was my second home, and I've continued to be a devoted patron of libraries ever since. When the history of our civilization is written, I think our descendants will regard free public libraries as one of our greatest achievements.

On a recent trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana, I was pleased to discover a gem of a library: the Allen County Public Library, which has one America's largest genealogy collections (only the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is larger), as well as one of the world's best Abraham Lincoln collections. 

If you've read my book The Soul of the Family Tree, you might remember that in it I speculate about what happened to the daughter of my great-great-grandfather Hans. He'd left a ten-year-old daughter behind when he immigrated to America in 1850 and I wondered if the two had ever seen each other again. 

Thanks to researchers at the Allen County Library's Genealogy Center, I learned that when she said goodbye to her father in 1850, it wasn't forever. Ten years later she immigrated to America and made her way to the small town in Iowa where Hans lived. Who knows the details of how they got along---not even the expert librarians in the Allen County Library could answer that. But it pleases me to know that the two ended up living in the same area.

If you're interested in genealogy, they might be able to help you, too, either in person or online. The library's free resources include 1.1 million physical items as well as access to nearly 40 billion more items through online databases. 

And if you're an Abraham Lincoln fan, their 
Rolland Center for Lincoln Research can also be accessed either online or in person. The collection includes thousands of photographs, letters, documents and artifacts relating to the sixteenth president.

As a great admirer of Lincoln, I was moved to see some of the original documents relating to his life, from family photos to letters written in his graceful hand (remarkable given his lack of formal education). I loved, too, seeing familiar images projected and expanded, giving me the chance to study their details in a new way. 

All of these treasures are the result of a city that knows the value of a public library. "This community has been in a 125-year love affair with its library," said Curt Witcher, director of special collections at the Allen County Public Library.  "They believe it should be at the center of their civic life, and they've funded it generously for many years. Today it's a resource not only for the community, but for the larger world."

If you've been working on your family history, there's a chance you can contribute to those resources, especially if you have a digitized version of your work. I was delighted that the library accepted a donation of a booklet of memories I'd recorded years ago with my father. They'll keep it safe in their collection, joining more than 70,000 other family histories, and maybe at some point it will provide a clue for someone else's research.

The story of the Allen County Public Library is a reminder of how important it is to support all our libraries. They are treasure houses for humanity and protectors of our cultural inheritances.  Fund them, donate to them, use them. You'll be glad you did.

All good wishes,



(image credits: Lori Erickson)

Recommended Reading:

In Running Away to Home: Our Family's Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters, Jennifer Wilson writes about what happened when she and her family move to her family's ancestral village in Eastern Europe.

Lisa See traces one hundred years of her Chinese-American family in On Gold Mountain, a memoir that explores racism, romance, secret marriages and the blending of two very different cultures.

In A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France, Miranda Richmond Mouillot moves to  her grandparents' abandoned house in Europe to discover the truth about their mysterious estrangement. 


News About My Newest Book:

As regular readers of this newsletter know, I'm the author of the new book The Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit. See my website for a full list of reviews and media, including my NPR interview with Rick Steves (my portion of the show begins at 13:25).

Interested in doing The Soul of the Family Tree in a book group? You can find discussion questions here

If you've read and enjoyed any of my books, I hope you'll post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online sites. Your review will help other readers discover my work.


My Previous Books:

Near the Exit: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper is about places that have helped me come to terms with mortality. 

“This book’s journey to spiritual places near and far is worth taking.” Library Journal (starred review)

Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God is a memoir told through trips to a dozen holy sites around the world.  

“Whether describing mystical visions or the rhythms of everyday life, Erickson turns the spiritual journey into a series of exciting transformations.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Recent Media Appearance:

I was interviewed by Karin Stein of Moms Clean Air Force, an environmental group working to protect children from air pollution and climate change. In our EcoTableTalk we explored women's perspectives on spirituality and the environment and how to remain hopeful in a chaotic world.



Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She's the author of The Soul of the Family Tree, Near the Exit and Holy Rover. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world. 

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