Dear Karla Pitcher,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
While it may be possible to identify the insignia as presented, more information/a higher resolution image may be helpful. If it is possible to scan the original image as a hi resolution file, you can upload to Google to search based on the image, on the off chance that this image has been uploaded to the internet previously. A higher resolution image will also hopefully provide a clearer view of the insignias/ribbons, which could make identifying them easier. More information would also make searching for these easier, such as if your Great-Grandfather John also lived in Westville, IL. Additionally, we suggest that you contact the State Archives and Historical Societies for additional information - they may be able to help.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!
Thank you for your interest in History Hub. While the photo is a big difficult to zoom into, it does look like the hats may include a Christian Cross. If so, they could be part of a religious society. Also, depending on their ethnicity, they may belong to a group celebrating their heritage. If the photograph seems to be held in just by the corner tabs and not glued, it may be possible to look behind the photo for more information. If you are to try this, using something flat like a letter opener you can start with one corner and see if you can pop a corner out, then it should be able to be extracted. Rubber gloves are best to handle photographs, so you don't leave finger prints.
Another option is to write the local historical society and see if they have any listings on local groups from that time period. Westville is in Vermilion County, and they do maintain a website with information and contacts.
If you know his ethnicity, it might be helpful to search it with terms like "fraternal order" or "society".
Hope this helps in your research!
The uniforms, insignias, and ribbons are those of the Greek Catholic Union (GCU). The GCU was a fraternal organization formed by ethnic Rusyns, but Slovak immigrants could also join the organization. The GCU was closely associated with the Greek Catholic Church. The lodges provided unity, camaraderie, education and assistance for members. Most importantly, the GCU served as an insurance company since American insurance was not usually available to Slavic immigrants. It provided needed financial support for births, sickness, medical expenses, funerals, unemployment, etc. The men in the news clip below are coal miners. If you search for Greek Catholic Union insignias and ribbons, you will find examples of them for sale on the internet. You can also find the location of the lodges. One was in Illinois.
The description in the news clip states: "The hats...bore a three-bar cross...." This is also known as the Eastern Orthodox Cross and is used by the Eastern Rite or Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church.
Thank you so much for this information! It makes complete sense given my great grandfather's ethnicity...the few records I have found for him say his parents came from Austria, or on a census record the word "magyar" is written above Hungary.
This really helps a lot for piecing together his background...he has been my "brick wall" ancestor, so I am thrilled to find a new path to go down to learn more about him.
Again, thank you so much!
In many of my family's documents, Austria was commonly used as an abbreviation for the dual monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Central Europe. The Empire was dissolved after World War I in 1918. So I would not take it literally that your ancestors came from the Austria Empire. As your census record suggests, they could have been from the Kingdom of Hungary.
Rusyns were also called Ruthenians, Rusneks, Carpatho-Rusyns, Carpatho-Russians, etc. Rusyns lived in the area now known as eastern Slovakia, southern Poland, and the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine, but Rusyns never had a country of their own.