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Research center celebrates 10 years
March 06, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Courtesy Photo - Floyd Smith and the volunteer staff at the West Nebraska Family Research and History Center in Scottsbluff received a certificate from the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce in celebration of their 10th anniversary.

On March 1, 2004, Floyd Smith opened a genealogy research center in Scottsbluff to coincide with Nebraska’s birthday – but because of a blizzard the day before, only two people showed up.

Those people, Ruth and Al Vance, still volunteer at the West Nebraska Family Research and History Center.

Last Saturday, center volunteers celebrated 10 years of providing research tools for the public to trace their family roots.

“We do research for people who call us from across the country,” said volunteer Judi Wiedmaier. “We usually start with names and obituaries and go from there.”

The center also subscribes to the Ancestry.com database, which has information from all over the world. There are three computer terminals at the center and staff is happy to assist those who come in looking for information. And Familysearch.org, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, is also a source of information.

The local research center is also affiliated with the LDS archives, so they have access to the entire library for research purposes.

Judi said they have microfilm of many of the area’s historic newspapers. Copies of obituaries, often the starting point for research, are clipped on a regular basis and preserved in scrapbooks for easy access.

The center has assembled family files of specific families and members often donate materials for inclusion. “I also do research on those families, usually out of nosiness,” Judi said. “I’ll find an interesting article in an old newspaper and want to know more. One of the families I researched had members who were former slaves and came here after the Civil War.”

And through that research, Judi found the couple’s housekeeper had two notorious figures, Jesse James and Cole Younger.

“Many times people give us their family information because no one else is interested,” she said. “We looked through one collection and found a letter home from a Civil War soldier.”

Judi said that researching family roots brings history to life because it involves more than just dates and places. “It actually becomes addictive once you get into it.”
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