July 21, 2010

EDITORIAL: Genealogical Society needs some new digs

Despite protests, disapproval and hand-wringing by many village residents, the former Keeseville High School, now the Keeseville Civic Center, will close on Oct. 1, streeting many occupants in the process.

Gone will be the New York State Police satellite station, the Anderson Falls Heritage Society, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, senior citizen and church groups and space that was allotted as an emergency shelter.

Also having to move will be the Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society, which has become a popular resource on both sides of the American-Canadian border for ever-more-popular ancestral research. It has occupied the space formerly used as the high school library.

It's searching for a new and hopefully permanent location for its ever-expanding collection of local genealogical information. The society has been unsuccessful so far; our hope is that some person, group or business will come forward with a solution.

William Marquis was the society's founder and first president when it was formed in 1983. He had three steel cabinets of research data at that time. The society moved to the Civic Center in Keeseville in 1985 and Gloria Pratt became president. She remains so today.

From three storage cabinets, the society now has two full rooms of research materials in what was the high school library, Finding a place suitable for the group — storage and research area — is a huge undertaking. Handicapped access is limited at the present site because there is neither a handicap ramp nor elevator to the present second-floor quarters. Many people using the resources are older and need the accessibility.

When the Village Board offered the building to any not-for-profit entity for the staggering price of $1, the group sent a letter to the board asking for details and a contract. There's been no response from the municipality.

Meanwhile, talks continue with a few local sources in an attempt to find a permanent location for the Genealogical Society.

Ideally, the group needs between 500 and 1,500 square feet of space and that it be accessible for those who are handicapped. The organization is a 501(c3) and can offer a tax write-off to anyone who offers space on a rental or lease arrangement.

The group's active membership numbers about 400. Each year it sponsors a genealogical workshop that's been extremely popular with researchers. This year's seminar is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will be held at the Battle of Plattsburgh Museum at the former Old Base at PARC.

The society has certainly been beneficial to local residents and our friends across the border in their search for the family tree. We hope someone steps forward to help secure this essential resource.

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