Fascination with the true stories of the past began early for Grace. As a child, she heard tales of family connections to the Eastland disaster and the assassination of President McKinley. Several years in Washington, D.C., brought her face to face with pivotal places in the Colonial and Civil War eras.
Moving back to the Chicago area, Grace developed writing and research skills in high school and college. At Dominican University, she studied Chicago architecture under Frances Steiner, author of the Steiner Index to Oak Park building references. She did extensive primary research in England for an independent study project on Charles Dickens. Grace graduated magna cum laude with a liberal arts degree.
Putting her talents to work, Grace became an advertising copywriter. She spent nearly a decade at a collectibles firm writing persuasively on such varied topics as Sioux Indians, St. Basil's Cathedral, and the history of golf.
Working with her husband in renovating his family home, Grace hired a specialist to analyze title papers inherited from his grandfather. The conclusion was that the home dated back to the time of the Chicago Fire. This was verified a few years later by the discovery of an 1872 newspaper in the living room wall.
Knowing that other homeowners and institutions would be interested in learning of their past, Grace launched Heartland Historical Research Service in 1995. The company offers house histories, oral histories, and aspects of family history, such as searching for obituaries and church records. Grace loves ferreting out facts that have not seen the light of day, from the characteristics of Mary Todd Lincoln's Chicago neighborhood, to the relationship between two groups of people buried in the same cemetery plot. She relishes the stories told by senior citizens, creating tape-recorded oral histories that document irreplaceable knowledge.
HHRS has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and on WGN Radio. Past clients include the United States Department of Justice; the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago; and the Niagara Falls Museum in Ontario, Canada. At the beginning of 2001, Grace entered into an association with the Newberry Library in their Local & Family History section. Residing in Chicago with her husband, also a writer/researcher, Grace continues to enjoy making new discoveries and connections.
Grace DuMelle’s Programs and Workshops
"You had the most informed, put-together presentation I've heard,
and I've been doing genealogy for 25 years."
—comment to author after a presentation to the Elgin Genealogical Society, March 1, 2005
Chicago Genealogy 101
Learn the challenges of searching for Windy City relations—such as address and street name changes, and scores of unindexed newspapers—and how to overcome those problems while also avoiding common mistakes made by researchers. Then take a look at some resources few family historians utilize: fire insurance maps, tract books, and inquest records.
Variations for specific audiences can be made to answer questions frequently asked by ethnic groups, neighborhood groups, and various age groups.
Other presentations available
Uncovering Your Past in Land Records (requires overhead projector)
Going Straight to the Source—Pointers on Oral Histories (with overhead projections and audio)
Exploring the Resources of the Newberry Library (incorporating slides)
If Your House Could Talk (requires overhead projector)
Author and historical research expert Grace DuMelle has spoken to groups of 2–125 people at many public and private venues. She is willing to travel anywhere in the six-county metropolitan area and beyond.
Book talks and signings at numerous venues including Printers Row Book Fair, Borders Bookstore, and Chicago Public Library branches.
Presentations and consultations at genealogy events, including: Gene-A-Rama conference of Wisconsin State Genealogical Society, Arlington Heights Memorial Library Genealogy Fair, and meetings of area genealogical and historical societies.
Teaching adult enrichment courses on house history and Chicago genealogy at the Newberry Library and Francis Parker School.