What is hiding on the shelves of Fenton History Center's Research Center that could help you with your family history or answer questions about local history? The possibilities are endless and researchers have a chance to find out during the extended hours of the "library lock- in" fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 11.
The library has many printed genealogies and family files by surname. As research continues we often add other surnames to the family tree giving us more sources to look in for that name. The family files are a collection of information gleaned from various sources including inquiries received from other researchers. You may discover a cousin researching the same family. Along with the printed genealogies, there are periodicals with articles and genealogies and local history books full of biographical tidbits.
The Special Collections (Archives) may hold letters, diaries and other materials that include your family. If your direct ancestor did not keep a diary, maybe the neighbor down the road did and mentions your family. Letters were exchanged with family members who had moved away and sometimes these appear in collections where the family members lived or eventually moved to and died. Records from stores and from lodges or other social organizations can add to family history. Often store or business account books can help establish when someone arrived in a place because purchases, most often made on credit, were recorded along with the date. These transactions give clues to the daily life of the family.
Janet and Jim Wahlburg look at one of the books from the Fenton’s Research Center library during the grand opening of the center in May 2013. The Research Center will be holding the first annual library lock-in on Jan. 11 from 1 p.m. to midnight. All genealogy and local history researchers, experienced and beginner, are welcome to attend.
Church records also can add to family history. Knowing what church to locate may be the problem but maybe for early settlers there was only one or two churches close enough to attend services when they were held. Those are places to start. Cemetery records are useful and many of the older cemeteries in Chautauqua County have "been read," meaning that someone has walked through the cemetery recording the information from the tombstones. Some were done many years ago while the stones were still readable. These records are available at the Research Center.
Photographs, city directories and maps can further the research and understanding of a family and the neighborhood in which they lived. House histories or the history of a building can be constructed using these and other sources.
Newspapers can add even more information about a family. There are a number of newspapers available on microfilm and we may be able to turn up some on the Internet as well.
Then the useful tool, the computer, and access to the Internet adds even more possibilities for the researcher. More and more records are becoming accessible through the Internet on various websites both free and paid subscription sites. The Research Center does have access to a few of the paid sites. There is access to Swedish church records and a number of CDs from Sweden of extracted records that can help to trace a family back to Sweden. Some Italian records are available on the Internet and more are becoming available. English, Scottish and Irish records are available also. Other countries are probably available to some degree but have not been explored by staff and volunteers yet.
Staff and volunteers will be present at the "lock-in" to answer questions and help guide researchers to possible sources. There will be food, door prizes, and fun throughout the day and night. The cost is $30. Registration is required. Call the Fenton at 664-6256 to register. The time is Saturday, Jan. 11 from 1 p.m. to midnight at the Research Center located in the Fenton's new Hall House on Forest Avenue. Join us for the extended hours and spend time doing genealogy and history without the usual interruptions of daily life.