Generating Interest

Group works to preserve
family and community history

Genealogical Society to continue
cemetery restoration work

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(March 2011) – While in many ways genealogical research can be a very personal journey, a Madison, Ind., group is proving that it doesn’t have to be one that you take alone.
Each month, the Indiana Genealogical Society meets to help support members in the mission of tracing their family history and learning more about their relatives from years ago. Society president Joyce Perkins explains that,“We really want to preserve the records and research for people that are going to come after us.”
Once people start the process of peering back into their family tree, they often find that they keeping wanting to know more. Society charter member Janice Barnes says of the research, “It’s like putting together a big historical crossword puzzle.”
Perkins agrees, noting that “You find one thing and it leads you to something else.”
The Indiana Genealogical Society meets the second Thursday of each month at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library, 420 W. Main St. The upcoming meeting will be held at 1 p.m. on March 10. The society invites the public to come and learn more about the group and discover ways of learning more about their own family history.
“We’re glad to help them out and get them started,” says Perkins. The group currently has about 35 members and is always looking to grow. The March meeting will focus on the Genealogical Society’s plans to continue their project of restoring and repairing area cemeteries.
The Indiana Genealogical Society has been very active in working to upkeep a variety of cemeteries and plots that might otherwise be forgotten or neglected.
“Last year, all together we straightened about 250 stones,” notes Perkins.
Not only do the headstones provide an important record of dates and names, but they also serve as a personal link to the past for many families. After the society worked to restore one area tombstone, Perkins became interested in trying to discover whether there were any living relatives of that family. After connecting with a man on a popular genealogical website, she sent him photos of the restored stone.
“He was so joyful to know that someone had found one of his ancestors,” she recalls. “It gives you a feeling of such self worth to think I’m helping someone’s family. It’s just a really good feeling.”
For those just beginning to explore their own past, Perkins has some tips. “There are a world of different ways out there to find research,” she says. She listed the Internet, the library and newspaper obituaries as some of her favorite sources of information. She stresses the fact that over the years many families have changed the spelling of last names and people should be willing to spend some time looking over records where names are spelled a variety of ways.
“As you go along and go back through the years the spellings can sometimes change significantly,” she notes.
Sometimes immigrants would change their names to better fit in to their new homeland. Other times, Census workers might accidentally take down an alternate spelling, particularly if speaking with someone who was illiterate. And sometimes family legends will even attribute the different spellings of surnames to family feuds.
Barnes, who also serves as genealogist and Local History Librarian at the Madison library, advises people interested in genealogy to start off by doing a bit of digging themselves. “I think really before they come into the library they need to do work at home,” she says.
She advises prospective genealogy students to “talk to the older members of the family. Get that basic handle. You need names and dates to start with in the library.”
Once people have a bit of background information. They can make good use of the library’s many resources. “We have newspapers on microfilm from about 1817 through the present,” notes Barnes.
Copies of a variety of courthouse records are also available including deeds, marriage records, and some tax records. Another set of valuable resources are the hundreds of histories compiled by Jefferson County families. Over the years, many people have collected copies of their own research and provided the library with that information.

• For more information, visit: http://jeffersoncountygenealogicalsociety.org.

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