Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Ohio Gem" by Olive Lenane

Had I packed everything I needed? Had I contacted everyone I should contact? What had I forgotten? My mind was whirling as I went through security and was getting ready to board the plane for my first genealogical research trip.

Yes, I had written to the Darke Conty Genealogical Society and given them the surnames I was researching Yes, I had responded to their note informing me they would let Karen Besecker know I was coming. I told them no need since she was my niece and I was staying with her.

On the first day, with directions to the Garst Museum where the Darke County Genealogical Society was located, I started out not knowing what to expect. When I arrived I checked in at the reception desk. They were expecting me and a lady from the society met me and gave me the tour of the society rooms. Yes, rooms! My mouth must have been wide open as I followed her to her office, signed in the log book, toured the first book room, and then the second book room and research center.

Two walls of a the second 12 x 20 room were lined with four drawer file cabinets. The cabinets were filled with individual files of families who had Darke County connections. Books, folders of cemeteries complete with burial plots, dates, etc., books from the early 1800s of Ohio births, marriages and deaths , census records,etc. lined the other two walls. Above the cabinets on shelves were family books.

As I started my research the most exciting finds were original wills and all types of legal documents. I was then told the story. The court house had put everything on microfilm and was going to throw out the originals. The lady dynamo who is head of the DCGS heard about the destruction of the original papers and told them “No, you aren’t going to throw them away.” She rented a truck, and had six stacks of boxes from floor to ceiling brought to the museum which graciously let her store them until she and the society volunteers could place them in the individual family files. The volunteers are amazing. They cut obituaries, and other articles of interest from local newspapers and put them in the individual family files. There are usually two to four members “on duty” six days a week. I was there 3 days and wish I could have stayed at least a week.

Luckily, I discovered I had two cousins I had never met that are members of the society and they were eager to share family information and pictures. One of the cousins had the same name as my niece which had caused confusion for everyone when I notified the society I was staying with her. My other cousin was a complete surprise from my mother’s side of the family for which I had very little information. She gave me information which took the family line back to my third great grandfather born in 1755 in Germany. He was a Hessian soldier brought by the English to the colonies to fight the “Indians.” When he discovered he was fighting the colonists, he deserted and fought with the colonists.

What a find. I can’t wait to go back. Just to be able to touch the papers my great, great grandparents had touched was a thrill. To be able to read the newspaper articles from years ago about family members, and to visit graves of relatives I never dreamed I would find was so rewarding. If you are lucky enough to have family in Darke County Ohio, you will find a gem when you visit the Darke County Genealogical Society.
I have been told a few of the other county societies are just as good. Since my ancestors have lived in various Ohio counties since the early 18th century, I can’t wait to visit the other counties and find out.

Note:  CVGS solicited articles from the membership about Research Trips to put in a booklet displayed at the Escondido Family History Fair in March.  The authors of these articles are permitting them to be printed in the monthly Newsletters and on the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe blog.  

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