Society Saturday: Volunteered Lately?

A few weeks ago, I attended the Idaho Genealogical Society’s annual meeting in a nearby town, and I carpooled with several ladies from the local genealogical society, which I had heard of, but not managed to connect with yet. Their monthly meeting was this week, so I attended, a bit nervous, but glad to see some of the ladies I’d met and curious to learn more about the group. There was some general haphazardness going on that is found in any group that is both social and business, but I had a very good time and I definitely plan to go again. The evening’s program was a presentation from the local committee/group that is working to reconstruct Idaho’s First Territorial Capitol. You see, every school child that can name their capitols will know that Boise is our state’s capitol, but it wasn’t the first capitol in Idaho. No, in fact, Lewiston was, and the seal and other documentation was stolen and has never been recovered. That is another story, however. This presentation was about the plans to rebuild a replica of the original building that served as the Territorial Capitol building. The original one was lost in the 1910s when heavy snows collapsed the roof during the drafting of plans to refurbish it. Instead, it was chunked for firewood. This group is working hard to raise funds to buy the land and materials to create this replica, which will also house a learning center. If you’d like to read more about the project, you can take a look here.

After this wonderful presentation and the society’s business, one of the members asked for help with an indexing project of chattel mortgages that belonged to the Historical Society. Well, I already volunteer for them, and I thought this would be good experience with another type of original records, so I volunteered. I checked in with her on the afternoon of the next day, but she had a meeting, so things would begin in earnest on Saturday. This was fitting, since Saturday seems to have become my ‘volunteering for the societies’ day. In fact, it’s what inspired this blog prompt.

Here is what this weekend’s Saturday Schedule looked like:

A red gingham apron with labelling card

11-1:30pm – Historical Society: I spent 2.5 hours in the basement with the dark and the creepy sounds and my iPod drowning it out while I sorted and labelled various items. There was a lot of clothing from the mid-1900s, as well as tools, toiletry items and so on. And then there were the things I simply could NOT identify – if you recognize any of the things in the second photo, do leave me a comment and help me out.

While down there, I tried to find the pencil sharpener in another room off to one side, but only ended up finding a couple cabinets of old pill bottles with the medicines still inside. That chemical-laced air was certainly acrid, and I could’ve done without inhaling it.

So, today’s lesson – be careful when opening doors you probably shouldn’t – YUCK.


What the heck?

2-3pm – After I finished at the Historical Society, I went over to visit the new Library location, which is in pre-demo. They were having an open house to look at the blueprints, and it’s all very exciting. The Library has been in a too-small building for far too long, and now it’s being moved to the downtown historical district in a much larger building, with room to expand and really help draw people to the heart of the old center of Lewiston. I picked up the print I’d been eyeing from the

Sesquicentennial committee (which is a museum-quality reproduction of the first known photo of Lewiston taken in 1862), signed up for a new library card with a snazzy design, and then I was off to my other project.

4-6pm – It was time to begin that new indexing project! As it was being hosted at the lady’s house, I showed up shortly after 4pm and we got to work indexing. Her eyesight is failing, so I moved quicker than she did, but I never doubted her determination. She also had wonderful stories of the people’s names we were seeing, which helped them come to life for me. I have no ancestors from the area, although I do have an obsession with the prominent Howe family that features in the letters the Historical Society let me borrow, so learning more about the people in the area from the early 1900s (the era of these chattel mortgages) was good for me. It was also exciting to see the signature of J. Howard Howe scrawled across many of them, as he was serving as the deputy clerk at the time – I keep finding the Howes wherever I go, like a reminder – don’t forget to tell our story!

The project was off to a good start, but this poor lady only has one other individual assisting her who comes Tuesday mornings. While they had done the necessary part of labeling folders and setting up boxes, all of the mortgages are only sorted by As, Bs, Cs, etc. Our first job is to alphabetize and then we’ll be making the index. I got through part of the Bs in two hours. There’s…well, there’s a lot. Someone told me about 1000 items, but I’m wondering if that’s a high enough number, or if there were simply a LOT of Bs. If there’s that many for all the letters…we may be at this for months. But it was very interesting and I cannot wait to continue. Chattel mortgages, crop mortgages, etc…not a resource I’ve ever worked with, and it’s very intriguing. We’ve even found a few marriage licenses tossed in, and we set those aside for special handling. I intended to return to it this afternoon, but a cold has sprung up out of nowhere. Not sure if it’s from stress, those chemicals in the closet at the Society or handling too much old-y, mold-y stuff, but moi is sick. In a couple days, when I’m feeling better, I’ll pick up with it again.

Am I sorry I opened all these doors? Well, the chemical closet one, surely. But the volunteering doors? No. I’m thrilled, actually, to be of use and assistance in important projects. In fact, if you have time, I would highly suggest you look into volunteering for similar projects or organizations. Knowing that I’m helping to make something accessible that would otherwise be moldering in a box is a great feeling – you can do the same with FamilySearch indexing if you don’t have a local society to hang out with or the times don’t work for you. Plus, FamilySearch indexing can be done in small chunk in the comfort of your own home, helping to make more resources available online to all of us for free. So, be it your local society, or FamilySearch indexing, get out and volunteer – what are you waiting for?

© 2011, copyright Genealady & JustFolks

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