Area residents with an interest in family and local history experienced a unique research opportunity this weekend.
On Saturday, the Fenton History Center Research Center - located in the recently opened Hall House - afforded patrons with extended hours for its first ever "library lock-in" fundraiser.
Running from 1 p.m. to midnight, the research center made use of its extensive historical records as approximately 15 lock-in attendees came prepared to sift through countless amounts of data to uncover the mysteries of the past. According to Karen Livsey, research center archivist, the lock-in was intended to serve a variety of purposes based on individual needs.
Sylvia Shelters Lipsey, an area resident, discovers new information about her ancestry while navigating through online records with the help of Janet Wahlberg, a Fenton History Center Research Center volunteer.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"We've got various people working on various things," Livsey said. "Some people brought their own computers, and we've got computers of our own here. We've got people looking at Swedish and Polish (records), some are going through Jamestown city directories and some are just beginning on their own genealogy. We're just here to help and see where people want to go."
Originally located in the Fenton Mansion, the research center was relocated to the Hall House; which was purchased and refurbished by the Fenton History Center, and officially opened last year as the new research center. Consequently, Livsey said the research center now has a much larger space to accommodate the vast number of records in its catalog, which includes: community directories, high school yearbooks, books on local and state history, newspaper articles and obituaries, microfilm, funeral home records, and much more.
The resources available at the event proved to be extremely beneficial to first time genealogists such as Sylvia Shelters Lipsey, an area resident originally from Frewsburg. According to Lipsey, she only recently became interested in genealogy and turned to the research center in hopes of learning more about her ancestry.
"We're just here to help and see where people want to go."
Fenton History Center archivist
"I've made tremendous progress because I had absolutely no knowledge of my father's side of my family at all," Lipsey said. "My grandfather and uncle died before I was born, my grandmother died when I was 8 and my father was the last surviving sibling; and he has passed now, as well. So, because I didn't get into this earlier, they're all gone and there's nobody left to ask. So this has been great, and I'm so glad I came today."
As the first lock-in fundraiser to be hosted at the research center, Livsey said the event was an experiment of sorts; though she noted that the turnout was promising in terms of potential future events.
"We've been talking about possibly having shorter workshops focusing on specific things such as Swedish records or military records," Livsey said. "But we'll see if it's something we can make into an annual event, or even have a couple of times a year."
The Fenton History Center Research Center at the Hall House is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Visitors can utilize its resources for a daily fee of $8, and services are free to members of the Fenton Historical Society.