By SHAWN RYAN, Press-Republican
---- — DANNEMORA — Sitting quietly in the Village of Dannemora’s new Community Center is the largest genealogical resource library between Montreal and New Hampshire.
The Northern New York American–Canadian Genealogical Society has found a home there.
Founded in the mid 1980s, the organization was formerly housed in the Keeseville Civic Center. Then, two years ago, when the Civic Center closed, the society found itself homeless.
When the Village of Dannemora purchased the former Dannemora Elementary School to move village offices there, the chance arose for a new site for the society’s library collection.
With the help of several volunteers and a loan pickup truck, the society moved into the school’s former library.
“This has been a great facility,” said Richard “Dick” Lynch, the society’s head librarian. “It’s safe, handicapped accessible … As far as our books are concerned, the temperature control and environment is much better than before.”
The Genealogical Society houses a large assortment of records and resources for tracing family roots, locally, regionally and, in many instances, internationally. The lineage of many North Country residents took a path through Canada, so having access to Canadian records is crucial to local research.
“We offer a resource library that has all the major documents for Canadian research: marriage indexes, parish records, baptism, census and notary documents,” Lynch said. “We have cemetery indexes, inscription books for most of the cemeteries in Clinton County and Vermont and Quebec.”
From whichever direction a family came, Canada or New England, the library has resources to help. It also has an extensive lending system with other organizations around the country, should the branches of a family tree lead the searcher elsewhere.
Five volunteer librarians assist the society’s approximately 400 members; Lynch hopes in the near future to train three more.
WHERE TO START
Society membership is $30 annually for an individual or $35 for a family. That includes access to the library resources, help from the librarians, the ability to borrow resources from other genealogical societies and a yearly published journal.
There is even space for family members who may come along but aren’t actively engaged in research — or who are just looking for a quiet place sit with a book.
The society offers help to members wishing to publish their research on a small scale, will assist assembling those documents and even provides help in binding the work for them.
Because it is housed in the village’s building, there is no charge for residents. Other non-members are welcome to access the resources for a $5 charge.
For those interested in getting started in genealogical research, Lynch recommends attending one of the beginners seminars offered by the society.
“You learn where to start, how to fill out the documents, how to use the library. Then it’s a matter of documenting your recent history.”
Lynch is especially looking forward to a class on the Palatine history in the area. The society also has a large collection of Acadian research and may feature a class on that history in the future.
According to Lynch, however, tracing a family tree starts much closer to home, well before consulting either the Internet or any genealogy resource.
“Interviewing older relatives is the most important thing you can do,” he said. “It’s hard to get that generation to talk, but any little story is a clue.”
The sooner you can get an older family member’s stories on paper the better, he said. Having as much background information as possible will make it easier along the way.
Along with dues, the society survives strictly on donations, financial and also documents.
Lynch urges those who have historical documents, or even artwork, that they aren’t sure what to do with to consider donating them to the society.
The materials will definitely be put to good use, he said, and may help others discover something about their own family tree.