Vernon County has thousands of new reasons to celebrate Family History Month
By Nancy Malcom
Nevada Daily Mail
In 2001, October was designated as "Family History Month" by the U.S. Senate in recognition of the growing popularity of genealogy research across the nation. At that time it was estimated that more than 80 million Americans were actively researching their ancestors.
With more and more material available on the Internet, people become easily enthused about research. Once confined to shifting through unlabeled family photos, dusty attics or basements and piled boxes in courthouse basements; information has become only a click away.
Unfortunately, finding proof of the accuracy of that information still requires access to the original records. Researchers use county courthouse records, state records, newspaper clippings, cemetery and funeral home information and census records as their usual sources of primary source information.
Vernon County is particularly researcher friendly having the long-established Vernon County Historical Society, the Bushwhacker Museum, and the Nevada Public Library's genealogy room attended by volunteers from the Tri-County Genealogical Society (representing Vernon, Cedar and St. Clair counties); located in the Finis M. Moss building, only a few steps away from the Vernon County Courthouse.
As the popularity of research has grown, private researchers have accumulated more and more primary source information to offer their clientele. Precise documentation and detailed accuracy make private researchers a treasure trove of information to those who feel unable to do their own research for whatever reason.
In 2004 an extensive library of research material accumulated over 35 years by a private researcher within Vernon County became available.
Although the material was very desirable, the cost was more than any single member of the local interests could come up with.
An agreement was made between the Tri-County Genealogical Society, the Vernon County Historical Society, The Bushwhacker Museum and the Nevada Library to join together to request a grant from the Finis M. Moss Charitable Trust fund. Finis M. Moss was a Vernon County farmer and philanthropist who established the trust before he died in 1985 to help his fellow Vernon Countians as deemed appropriate by the trust administrators.
Nancy Thompson, Tri-County Genealogical Society president said, "We saw the importance of acquiring this large private collection, so we could keep it together here at the Nevada Library genealogy room and have it accessible to the general public for free."
There was the certainty that if the collection wasn't kept together as a whole, it would be scattered and lost to the public forever.
Terry Ramsey of the Bushwhacker Museum and Vernon County Historical Society said this about the collection, "There is a great working relationship between the Historical and Genealogical societies. Having the collection left in tact and accessible in the Nevada Public Library meant that it would be readily available to the Historical Society as well as to the public in general. Supporting their grant application not only followed our mission statement it was a good business move on our part."
"Genealogical research is a huge segment of the leisure tourism market. There are people who plan their entire vacation around where they need to go to do research. We frequently have individuals in the museum or genealogy rooms who come for a day and end up spending two to three days because we can provide them so many leads." Susan McBeth, library director, said, "Family history research is valuable not only to those who are trying to find out about their background, but it is valuable to the city of Nevada. You'd be surprised to discover how many people come to Nevada to do that sort of research in the genealogy department of the library. Those researchers stay overnight here, eat here, and shop here. It's an asset to the library and good tourism business for the city."
The administrators determined the acquisition of the collection a worthy cause and supplied grant money to aid with the purchase.
Thompson said, "Since we acquired the collection it has taken many man hours and months of work to organize the materials and make them available to the public.
"Many of the one of a kind indexes had to be copied and a copy placed in acid free sleeves and notebooks so they could be used by the public and not damaged.
"Approximately 10,000 items were acquired, books, booklets, microfilm, one-of-a-kind finding aide indexes created by this researcher, specific to our local area. The bulk of the collection focuses on Bates, Barton and Vernon counties with numerous resources from other counties around Missouri and in other states across the nation. We had a wide variety of materials coming to us."
An estimated value of the collection was termed invaluable because it had one of a kind indexes not available in any public library. We were able to make those available in the Nevada Public Library. Some specific things added are extensive collection of microfilm containing local newspapers including the Sheldon Enterprise, Metz Times and Jerico Springs newspapers.
"We know that the value of the newspaper microfilm alone was over $5,000," Thompson explained.
"Part of the microfilm collection we obtained are the old Vernon County official records from 1855 forward. We received 120 rolls of records of Vernon and Bates counties." Ramsey said, "The collection is a treasure-trove of information on Vernon County families. It isn't just a collection of who lived here and when or dates of births and deaths. The indexes of the old county newspapers provide us with opportunities to find articles about the lives of our early family members. That sort of information gives us insights on the everyday lives and personalities of these individuals.
"There is something satisfying about knowing 'where you came from.' Mystery lovers make great family genealogists. It isn't unusual to hear comments like: 'Now I know why Grandma said she would never go back to the farm,' or 'that explains why my grandparents were such yellow-dog Democrats,'"
Thompson added, "The real value of the collection is it's available to the public." There is no charge to come to the library and do research.
People living a long distance away can contact the Genealogy Society and Historical Society for information about volunteers performing research.
The Nevada Library, the Bushwhacker Museum and the Tri-County Genealogy Society all have Web sites listing their services and assets for local researchers and also for those who might travel here to find information listed as available on the Web sites.
Volunteers from the Tri-County Genealogical Society have donated more than 10,000 hours to proof handwritten indexes against the original courthouse records, indexing the newspapers, sleeving and placing pages in notebooks, taking the originals to copy, etc.
Before the new collection could even be added an inventory was taken of everything already in the genealogy room.
Thompson explained, "we had to inventory everything in the room, then reorganize the shelving to accommodate the new items and make everything more available to researchers."
Thousands of pages of new material is on the shelves, hundreds of new rolls of microfilm are available in the genealogy room, countless obituaries are now in the card file, and there are many boxes of research material still being sorted, indexed and made ready for the public.
Tri-County Genealogy Society volunteers are usually available during regular library hours in the genealogy room to assist researchers.
Thompson added, "There is still lots of work left to do and more volunteers are always welcome!"
For more information see the following Web sites:
Tri-County Genealogy Society: http://www.rootsweb.
Vernon County Historical Society and Bushwhacker Museum:http://bushwhacker.org
Nevada Public Library: http://www.nevadapubliclibrary.com/