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September 14, 2022

A small-town Facebook group and the novel global coronavirus led Michelle Brown-Hollin, recruiting director for Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, to co-write a book about her family’s story in rural Illinois.

Throughout the pandemic, Brown-Hollin, a native of Jonesboro, Illinois, has been following events in her hometown and neighboring Anna, Illinois, on the “You know you’re from Anna-Jonesboro…Facebook group page. The page is a mix of event announcements, old-time memorabilia, and historic photos of the adjacent small communities in Union County, Illinois.

Michelle Brown-Hollin, recruiting director for Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, collaborated with her brothers on a book about their family history. Photo courtesy of Michelle Brown-Hollin
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In 2020, Brown-Hollin collected images from the “Anna-Jonesboro” page and used the online book-making site Shutterfly to compile them into a book she gave to her brothers, Darryl and Rodney Brown, for Christmas. The title of the photo book was “Where I’m From”.

This book became the inspiration for the Brown siblings to research and write about their family history and their lives growing up in southern Illinois.

The fruit of their labor is a book titled “Where We Come From: A Journey to Southern Illinois,” published last spring.

The book details the siblings’ roots in a farming family in Jonesboro, a town founded in 1818 and the site of the Third Lincoln-Douglas Debates on September 15, 1858.

Brown-Hollin was the third child, after her two older brothers. They lived in a farm built in 1900 on a property surrounded by green fields. His family was the fourth generation to live on the farm founded in 1889 by his maternal great-grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Schaefer.

“My family, children and parents, lived upstairs, with our grandparents on the first floor. It’s a really beautiful part of the country where I come from and I’m glad I was raised there,” Brown-Hollin said.

Brown-Hollin’s father sold the farm in 2001. The family home still stands in the same picturesque setting and is now home to a family with young children.

Woman and two men posing in a grassy yard in front of a two-story white house.

Michelle Brown-Hollin and her brothers, Rodney Brown (center) and Darryl Brown, stand outside the house they lived in as children on their family farm in southern Illinois. Photo courtesy of Michelle Brown-Hollin

“He is currently owned by the daughter of a friend of mine from high school. I’m so glad people are still here and taking care of it,” Brown-Hollin said.

Brown-Hollin said she was happy to have had the opportunity to collaborate on a book about her family’s history.

“We decided to just sit down and do it because we realized that once you’re gone no one will know what you had to say or where you came from,” she said. “It was also important to document the family’s predominantly German genealogy for our children, grandchildren and more.”

Union County Historical and Genealogical Research Organizations, as well as a book in which her mother wrote her family’s history – including interesting anecdotes, important dates and events – provided useful information, Brown-Hollin said.

Two men and a woman smile for a photo.

Michelle Brown-Hollin with her brothers, Rodney Brown (left) and Daryll Brown. Photo courtesy of Michelle Brown-Hollin

The book is available for purchase from three locations in Union County. It is not available online.

To purchase a copy, contact one of these organizations:

• PAST Union County Heritage House, Jonesboro, Illinois. Email [email protected] or call 618-697-1870.

• The meeting place in Anna, Illinois. Email [email protected] or call 618-833-6525.

• The Union County, IL Historical and Genealogy Society & Museum in Cobden, Illinois. Email [email protected] or call 618-893-2868.

A portion of proceeds from book sales will be used to support the work of these organizations in researching and preserving the history of Union County.