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Monday, October 16, 2017

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Club sunset benefits library

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Aging members and dwindling numbers have led a local club to make a significant donation to the Glendive Public Library. 

After decades of working with the library and maintaining its “Genealogy Reading Room,” the local Tree Branches genealogy club is closing up shop. Its legacy will be a sizeable new donation to help the library add to its genealogical research resources, by donating the remainder of club funds — estimated at just under $10,000 — to the library. 

The club’s donation is designated to be used only to fund genealogical research through the library. The Dawson County Commissioners voted on Tuesday to not only accept the donation, but to create a new Genealogy Fund within the county budget, depositing the Tree Branch’s donation into an interest-bearing account.

Library director Dawn Kingstad praised the remaining Tree Branches members for not only the donation, but all the work they have put in over the years collecting and maintaining the library’s genealogical resources.

“Those ladies are so bright and so brilliant, and they’ve just been very helpful,” Kingstad said.

Over the past few decades, the Tree Branches have gathered a wealth of genealogical research material in the basement of the Glendive library. They put themselves on the map in the late 1980s with the publication of the local history book “Our Times, Our Lives,” the sales of which current club president Edna Boyce said is where most of the club’s money they are donating to the library comes from.

Down in the Genealogy Reading Room you will find immigration and marriage records on microfilm going back to the 1880s, as well as census records on microfilm going back to the 1880s. All of Glendive’s old newspaper editions can be found down there as well, both in bound volumes and on microfilm (at least up to a point).

One of the projects the Tree Branches have been picking at over the years is making copies of the obituaries found in the newspapers and collecting them in binders for easy reference. So far, group members have done that for all the obituaries from the mid 1980s through last year, according to Boyce. She noted that something as simple as an obituary can be a good starting point for researching your family tree.

“That can be a good way to get started, because a lot of times they list survivors, so it can make things easier,” Boyce said of using obituaries for genealogical research.

Besides those materials — what historians would call ‘primary source documents’ — the library’s Genealogy Reading Room also contains a wide variety of genealogical reference books and guides. For instance, Boyce noted there are reference books down there which provide information on how to go about navigating Norway’s records system to help locals track down their Norwegian ancestors.

The Tree Branches have also collected a great deal of secondary source material on Germans from Russia, with multiple volumes of genealogical newsletters and other printed materials from Russian German societies around the United States. Often collectively referred to as Volga Germans, these people were Germans who were invited to settle in Russia under the rule of Czarina Catherine the Great — herself a German princess — in the late 1700s. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their position in Russia had become increasingly untenable, and many began immigrating to the United States, especially to the Northern Plains.

As for what the library hopes to possibly add to its genealogical research collection with the Tree Branch’s donation, Kingstad said her first hope is to use some of the funding to complete the digitization of the library’s old newspaper collection.

“One of the projects we are going to try to do with that is the most recent (newspaper) microfilm we have is from the 1990s, so we need to get that collection caught up to the current year,” Kingstad said.

Boyce also expressed her wish that the donation would be used to finish putting all the community’s newspapers on microfilm. 

Other than that, Kingstad said the donation is so recent there haven’t been any other discussions about what else might be done with it.

“It’s so new, the Library Board hasn’t even talked about it yet,” she said.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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