Looking to the past

Posted on July 27th in Feature Story,News

Library offers genealogy resources with Western History Room, oral histories

The Claire McGill Luce Western History Room offers an extensive array of resources for those researching family histories. (Photo by TAMMY DOWNS)

By Tammy Downs
Burns Times-Herald

Preserving one’s family history doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task if you have great resources on hand.

For those who have roots in Harney County, or are just interested in researching some of Harney County’s history, a great place to begin is at the Harney County Library.

The library is home to the Claire McGill Luce Western History Room, which is a unique resource available to  anyone wanting to learn about local and regional history.

The library has more than 150 individual and family history files, including diaries and genealogical information relating to past and current residents of Harney County. Other genealogical resources include indexes of birth, death and marriage announcements dating from the late 1800s, and the Harney County cemetery records. Also available are census records of Harney County from 1880 to 1930 and burial listings for all of the cemeteries in Harney County.

The library is also home to the Chester and Helen Felt Oral History Recording Room. This is a sound insulated recording room, that is equipped with the latest digital technology for recording interviews.

The recording room is available for public use, free of charge, with the assistance of library staff.

Appointments for recording oral history interviews can be made by contacting the Western History Room.

Currently, there are more than 500 oral histories focusing on Harney County settlements and pioneers available. The oral history project began in the 1970s, and continues to add new interviews with Harney County residents.

The Western History Room also provides three computers and a printer for research use, along with work tables and a comfortable reading area. Access to www.Ancestry.com is provided on one of the dedicated research computers in the room.

The library also provides access to historic photographs of Burns and Hines and the people and communities of Harney County. Early history on a few of the old houses in Burns has also been documented.

A small collection of genealogy information from different counties and states can also be found at the library. Other references available are various magazines on genealogy, including family chronicles.

Karen Nitz is the primary archivist for the collection and is available to help library patrons until 5 p.m. during regular library hours. The Western History Room is open Saturdays and evenings by request. Visitors outside of regular hours are welcome with advance notice.

The library staff encourages people to record oral histories. Once family members have died, the history or stories they could tell will be gone if it hasn’t been documented.

How do you start? According to www.family search.org the following are the beginning steps:

• Identify what you know about your family.
• Decide what you want to learn about your family.
• Select records to search.
• Obtain and search the record.
• Use the information.

For more information about the resources available in the Western History Room contact Karen Nitz at westernroom@harneycountylibrary.org, call 541-573-6670, or go to the library’s website www.

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