"Big Country Journal: Scurry County Genealogy Society becoming history"
Posted August 29, 2012
SNYDER — Joanne Sterling laughed when she described genealogy as a sickness.
"And the sicker you get, the better you like it," she said with a chuckle.
Sterling was the first president of the Scurry County Genealogy Society.
"We started in June of 1988," she said. "I got to start out as their president, I guess I'm ending as their president."
She smiled at her own memories.
"But there's been a bunch of good ones in between," she said.
If genealogy really is a sickness, it seems age is the unfortunate cure. After nearly a quarter century, the group is disbanding for one simple reason.
"We don't have any young people coming in," Sterling said.
"We're just an older group and we can't get enough young people interested to take over what we've been doing all these years," said fellow charter member Jo Thrower.
The group estimated that at its height it had nearly 60 members, local and otherwise.
"For a while, we had more out-of-town members than we had local," said another member, Jo Flynn.
"When we started out, we met at this lady's house. She's been dead for years, but there were eight of us," Sterling said. "We were all really gung-ho about genealogy, we were young."
But in recent times, the group's numbers have dwindled away, numbering between 10 and 12 active members. Dutifully they've met through the years, gathering the last Tuesday of each month to share records, document findings and to discuss publishing their research in their annual periodical, White Buffalo Tales.
"It's really sad because we've put a lot of work and a lot of effort into this," said Frances Pitner. She and her husband, James, beginning in 1985, plotted grave sites row by row in Scurry County cemeteries over a four-year period — the roots of the group's research and formation.
"We thought it would be beneficial if they could find where the bodies lay," Pitner said.
The group has met in different locations over the years but has lately gotten together at the Scurry County Library. The genealogy section there contains a mixture of the library's own books and the society's research.
"The reason we did this was to promote interest in history — family history," Thrower said. "To preserve old records and things that were being thrown away."
While membership may be dwindling, the society's research is still in demand. The group keeps a log of visitors searching its records. Many come from not just Scurry County but as far away as San Francisco.
"We've done many things, we've purchased a lot of books that we've donated to the library," said Thrower.
She laughed and rolled her eyes.
"We did it by having lots of bake sales, those horrible bake sales," she said. "We also had bakeless sales."
"Everybody would just bring the money that they would have bought a cake with," said Sterling, who then laughed. "When you get gray hair, you start figuring out this stuff."
They also sold copies of White Buffalo Tales, the Pitners' cemetery guide and cookbooks.
Most of the reference material will remain where it is in the library when the group disbands, though the society plans to donate their original research to the Scurry County Museum.
Museum Director Daniel Schlegel spoke excitedly about the idea and the possibility of marrying the group's research with the other items donated to the museum by county residents. That way, he said, someone researching family history may discover more than just names and dates.
"We may have artifacts and pictures from those folks," he said.
Schlegel said the data will remain available to whomever wishes to use it for their own research. His ultimate goal is to have a research wing in the museum in which the genealogical society's efforts will play a significant role, much of it digitized for access via the Internet.
But a part of him thinks this isn't the last Scurry County has seen of the group. After all, even the ladies who are its members admit genealogy is a bug with a bite that won't ever be fully scratched.
"What I'm personally hoping is that they don't hang up their spurs," Schlegel said of the group. "Hopefully in a year or two we'll get the Genealogical Society reorganized and back again."
Sterling said the society's last meeting will be next month.
"We're printing our last publication, I'll take it in this week," she said. "That will be the end of that, we're bringing everything to a close."
Sterling shrugged her shoulders.
"It's just a phase of life that we're going through," she said. "Going out of, I guess.""It's been a big part of our lives for 24 years," Thrower said, adding with a laugh, "I'm going to have to join a gym now."
Link to story:http://www.reporternews.com/news/2012/aug/29/big-country-jou...