Are genealogical societies and libraries dying? Some might say so, but after meeting the folks who manage the Lamar County Genealogical Society while attending the Texas State Genealogy Society Conference, I was thoroughly impressed. Libraries and societies still play a vital role in preserving our local, state, and national heritage. The trick is, being relevant to members and patrons. Lamar County sets a high standard of local excellence.
I love red brick buildings. They are solidly built and timeless. The color doesn't fade over time and brightens dreary winter or rainy days. But the magic doesn't end with the brick. Step inside, and you'll be inundated with resources in this far north Texas repository.
The library is packed full of family file collection, Lamar County vital records, black families of Lamar County files, marriage license index books, local school yearbooks, and my favorite, city directories!
For a county just south of the Red River, Lamar County has a great collection of resources. But, how did the county not loose so much content when the courthouse burned in 1918? Apparently, a forward thinking politician misappropriated some funds for the benefit of the county.
Sometimes those politicians do have good intentions when they do things that get them kicked out of office! County Judge Charles S Neathery, we wish you were around to take care of the 1890 US Census!!!
You might think thus far you haven't seen a single thing that makes Lamar County stand out as a genealogy society. And you might be right. Since you've read this far, you're in for the treat.
The library has an ORIGINAL marriage license collection for Lamar County. Descendants may take the original with them as long as they provide the society with a family group sheet and contact information on the couple, for whom the record mentions. The organization makes a copy of original the license and places it back in the notebook with the family group sheet. This way other family researchers can see a copy and contact the owner for sharing info! HOW COOL IS THAT!!! If only I had Lamar County ancestors.
Lamar County has collections with a great story of their own. Imagine you discover your ancestors owned land in North Texas. You'd want to investigate the original land surveys and abstracts, right? Well, that was almost not a reality. Several years ago a young lawyer noticed this collection of books from the Scott-Baldwin Title Company in a dumpster. With his own roots being some of the first settlers in Lamar County, Will Biard retrieved these ancient books and donated them to the Lamar County Library. In so doing, Will saved more than just the land books. He preserved the past.
These abstract books contain the land patents as well as marriages, wills, guardianships as well as divorces that happened before 1900, all the way back to 1840. Because of the 1916 fire, that burned the courthouse, the District clerk's office perished meaning no records including divorce records before that time in 1916 exist... but Lamar County has them!!
Lamar County graciously preserves record collections that modern title companies, or other historic document creators, no longer wants. All you need to do is contact them!
The baptismal dress and the lace head cover were donated in memory of a Lamar County historians. The picture below tells of that story.
Aww. I love that baptismal dress. So much skill. So much talent. And we can view it at the library. I think preserving some of the treasures of our ancestors would be something to consider at libraries in the future. As microfilm readers for collections that are easily searchable online (such as census records and birth, marriage, and death records) finally are discarded in favor of the computer searching, many libraries will have more floor space (and empty cabinets) to use for artifact preservation. Something to consider.
Those shelves contain books for sale. Those books help fund the society but also are written by local chapter members. And what is great is that the society has a volunteer that helps members write their books and then submit them to the Texas State Genealogical Society's annual writing competition. It makes Lamar County's society look good but contributes to curating our collective history. And that my friend is what makes Lamar County's genealogical society so unique.
In 2016, board members helped a member turn her contributions to the Lamar County newsletter into a book. Norma Renfro had written so many wonderful stories she was told she had enough for a book. She kept writing, and Betsy Mills helped her format and publish her book. In time, Remembering Crowley Hill came to life.
Norma Renfro was also known as Candy Crowley. Candy Crowley lived with Mr. and Mrs. Crowley as a youngster on a large working ranch and farm. However, when Mrs. Crowley died Candy was sent to live with her birth mother as Mr. Crowley was unable to care for Candy. When she returned to her birth mother, she did not know her real name as Norma. Remembering Crowley Hills talks about Norma's life as Candy and Norma.
Not only did Betsy help Norma turn her newsletter into a fabulous book for her family to treasure for generations to come, but she also encouraged entry in the Texas State Genealogical Society writing competition. It didn't take the top prize, but the devotion and support of the Lamar County Genealogical Society for its members took my breath away.
When I stop to think about what Genealogy Societies should be doing now, and in the future, it's simple. Managing a library requires a lot of volunteer hours and monetary support. Lamar County has more of both than other groups. However, the one thing they do that every society can replicate is serving their members.
Help members capture and preserve their family history. Encourage them to write their stories, or the stories of their ancestors, and turn them into a project that their relatives will enjoy reading.
My hat's off to Lamar County Genealogical Society in Paris, Texas. Where they actually have an Eiffel Tower replica, but it has a cowboy hat. Only in Texas!
|Replica of the Paris, Texas Eiffel Tower with Cowboy Hat|
During the TxSGS Genealogical Conference in the Vendor Hall
1125 Bonham St.
Paris, TX 75460