SOUTHERN INDIANA GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY CELEBRATES 35 YEARS*
When the miniseries “Roots” blazed onto American TV sets in 1977, it inspired a genealogical movement. Alex Haley’s story of his ancestors was so compelling that thousands of other people were motivated to research their own families. A beginning genealogy class was held at Indiana University Southeast in spring 1979. An outgrowth of the class was the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society (SIGS), founded May 3, 1979 to encourage, gather, and preserve genealogical materials in the counties of Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Perry, Scott, and Washington.
In its 35-year history, SIGS has helped many individuals research their ancestors through its genealogy workshops, fairs, family and local history classes, and published books. SIGS programs, open to the public, always feature an historical or genealogical topic and are held the first Thursday of each month at 7 PM in the New Albany-Floyd County Library.
SIGS members are drawn to the society--and to genealogy--for many reasons. New member David Walton said about SIGS, “The members made me feel so welcome. If I ever run into any research issues, I have a pool of people I’ll be able to ask for help. I am looking forward to the next meeting in hopes I can take away more tips and best practices.” For Donna Foster, SIGS is a place for networking and finding local cousins. “It’s great to be able to talk with folks who share my interest in genealogy,” she explained.
Sue Carpenter recalled a memorable moment when she was working on her family tree. “I was in the library’s Indiana Room when I overheard a couple researching the same surname I was. We shared our findings and became good friends for many years.”
Several SIGS members do not have kinship ties to Indiana, but the society is important to them also. Allison Fredrickson, from Oregon, finds that “Many of the skills taught in SIGS monthly programs can be used to research family history in other states. And programs that focus on local genealogy and history help me feel more connected locally.” Alex Clements, a descendant of Maryland immigrants to Kentucky, also enjoys SIGS programs. “Discovering the life stories of our ancestors gives us a picture of their place in history,” he observed. To Tina Price, Illinois will always be home, but she likes the people and rich history of southern Indiana. “I have helped friends research their families with techniques I learned at SIGS. It’s a way of giving back to my community,” she said with a smile.
To commemorate 35 years and to engage more people in local genealogy, SIGS’ newest project is “First Families of Floyd, Clark, and Harrison Counties,” a lineage society to discover, honor, and preserve the memory of the tri-county pioneers. Membership in First Families is open to anyone proving direct descent from a settler living in the tri-county area prior to December 31, 1840. The First Families Project hopes to document the lives and contributions of some of the counties’ early Native Americans and pioneer African Americans, immigrants, women, and children. Approved applicants will receive First Families certificates and be honored guests at the History and Heritage Celebration in October. Applications will be archived by the society for use by other researchers. Web link https://sites.rootsweb.com/~insigs/FF_2014/ffproject.htm provides applications for the First Families Project.
Library representatives of genealogy and local history departments will present a workshop, “Finding First Families in Floyd, Clark, and Harrison Counties” at the SIGS May 1 program. Guest speakers Melissa Wiseheart, Allison Fredrickson, and Kathy Fisher of the New Albany, Jeffersonville Township (Clark County), and Harrison County Public Libraries will suggest strategies for researching early settlers in the three counties by using common and unique sources. SIGS will celebrate its 35th anniversary at the program.
SIGS members often assist individuals in their research to qualify for membership in the First Families Project. To schedule a meeting with a SIGS volunteer, email email@example.com or phone 812-949-3527.
A History and Heritage Celebration for the First Families of Floyd, Clark, and Harrison Counties will be held October 2, 2014 at the New Albany Library. The public is invited to visit between 6 and 7 PM to meet re-enactors of former tri-county citizens and pioneer artisans, view county history timelines, and enjoy frontier period entertainment. Attendees are welcome to dress in pioneer costume. At 7 PM, First Families certificates will be presented at a roll call of ancestors. The History and Heritage Celebration is sponsored by SIGS and the New Albany Library.
SIGS members are enthusiastic, dedicated, and creative as shown by the achievements of the society’s first 35 years. At the forefront of preserving and presenting southern Indiana genealogy and history, SIGS is a not-for-profit organization powered by volunteers. They have donated numerous hours to organizing and providing family and regional history events. SIGS members, with the assistance of a grant from Caesar’s Foundation of Floyd County, purchased the 2,670-roll microfilm series of Revolutionary War Soldiers Pension Applications. Volunteers have compiled information and published many works including local early will, bond, deed, marriage, census, and cemetery records. The SIGS genealogical collection is in the Indiana History Room of the New Albany Library. Building upon the accomplishments of 35 years, the bright vision of the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society includes an expanding community and online presence, continued family research and local history education, and active participation in Indiana’s 2016 Bicentennial.
*Printed in The Banner-Gazette, April 16, 2014.
(Article by Susan Covey, SIGS Member)
Copyright April 22, 2014 by the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society