History research tips | TheFencePost.com

History research tips

In addition to local museums, libraries often have a repository of local history. Hot Springs and Fall River County, South Dakota have lucked out in that department. Two entities started out under the hand of Helen Magee, a local historian. She grew up in the county and worked with her father in the insurance business. She knew everyone, including the maiden names of county women. As historians and genealogists know, it can be a problem to find information on women in past eras as it was impolite to refer to a married woman in the newspaper by anything other than Mrs. John A. Smith or even compounding that by using Mrs. J.A. Smith. Helen Magee knew.

She also kept histories. She clipped from newspapers or copied articles by hand on subjects she deemed important to county history. She had her own “morgue” of old newspapers in her home and a great many books on South Dakota history. Helen answered hundreds of letters every year when people wrote asking for family or local history information. She arranged to donate her works to the Hot Springs Public Library when she no longer was using them. After she died, her niece Barbara Trumbull spent many years of her time and a great deal of money organizing. Barbara typed up all of the handwritten notes and articles and put everything into clear sleeves, then into notebooks. She purchased the shelving for the library to hold the notebooks, donating it all to the people of the county and those who have ties to the area. All of these and the South Dakota history books that Helen owned were moved into the library’s Helen Magee Heritage Collection Room. It is invaluable.

Taking it a step further the library had the information: photos, obituaries, newspaper clippings and much more, digitized. It is online, available for free to anyone in the world who wishes to search.

It’s also easy to use. Go to the library’s website hotspringspubliclibrary.com and scroll down about the middle of the page. Stop when you get to the green letters that say “View the collection here.” Click on that link and you’ll be taken to the page for searching. Type in the name or word you are seeking and off you go. (There is a brief explanation for more complex searches.)

What a boon for those who live away! I know there are many who graduated from this area and now, after many years, have become interested in aspects of local history. Edgemont has their Trails, Trains and Pioneers Museum and Oelrichs has just moved a building into the community to serve as a historical outlet. The best asset of all, the people who lived during past times, are throughout the county and they enjoy telling their stories.

No matter where you live, check with your local libraries and museums — and with older people — to see what historical resources they can offer.

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