A Century of Lithuanians in Springfield, Illinois: A Chronicle of One Lithuanian Community in the US

January 8, 2017

The vast majority of current Lithuanians living in Springfield, IL (USA) come from Lithuanian miners who arrived to America from Lithuania in the early 20th century. In 1914, the Lithuanian community of Springfield consisted of several thousand Lithuanians. The records of Lithuanian St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Springfield show that year, over 500 Lithuanian families belonged to the church, and between 1909 and 1919, 1,063 Lithuanian babies were baptised there. However, these figures do not indicate the actual number of Lithuanians, because quite a number of them were socialists and did not belong to the church or visited other Catholic churches in the city, such as St. Aloysius, St. Peter and Paul and St. Joseph.

Today, when one comes across such names as Sitki, Nevitt, Yoggerst, Ulak or Chesnut, he or she can hardly tell that these people could be of Lithuanian descent. The reality is that the fourth generation of Lithuanians in Springfield does not speak Lithuanian and does not follow Lithuanian customs. Moreover, they are often unaware that their ancestors came from Lithuania.

With each year the number of Lithuanians in Springfield is declining. It is believed that today only 2,000 or so of the first wave of Lithuanian immigrants’ descendants live in Springfield and Sangamon County of 20,000. Therefore, the book, A Century of Lithuanians in Springfield, Illinois by Sandy Baksys that came out in 2015 is particularly valuable for its genealogical and ethnographic information.

The stories in the book are accompanied by photos which the author obtained from Lithuanian families or individuals depicted in the book. According to the author, the photos appeared because she did not want the book to be just the family genealogical tree. In her opinion, the photos provide an extra glance at Lithuanian life, customs and history of that time.

Dalia Cidzikaitė