Osceola County Genealogical Society disbands

Records and equipment donated to Reed City Area District Library

REED CITY — The Osceola County Genealogical Society announced via email on Nov. 26 that after more than 30 years, the group is disbanding.

Its collection of information accumulated through the years — including meticulously researched indexes of Civil War veterans from Osceola County and residents of Reed City's Woodland Cemetery, as well as census records going back as far as 1884 — was donated to the Reed City Area District Library, where officials are working to make them more accessible to the public than ever.

It's a bittersweet partnership, said Debra Miller-Tossey, a past co-president with the genealogical society. Members of the group are still passionate about the work they do, but an aging base of members and dwindling participation forced the group to act in what they thought was the best interest of the public.

"It's been hard to get younger people involved," Miller-Tossey said. "We continue to help people do research and we're always willing to help. But we can't recruit new members."

Despite the sadness of disbanding a group that was started in the mid-1980s, Miller-Tossey said, she's excited to work with the library.

The genealogical society's records were previously housed at the Old Rugged Cross Historical Museum on Howard Street, but since the group started discussing breaking up about three or four months ago, library director Tom Burnosky said, they were moved to the library. The museum is only open May through September, while the library is open year-round.

"I believe what the genealogical society wanted to do was make their collection accessible throughout the year," Burnosky said. "I know we get inquiries several times a month from people asking where they can do genealogical research. So, hopefully this is a win-win. It definitely gives us a new capability that we didn't have before."

In addition to the indexes and census records, the library also is now home to an extensive collection of Osceola County newspapers on microfilm and the ScanPro microfilm reader, which is on loan from the museum. Burnosky said the library has been given so many new records over the past several months, they still haven't been able to unpack several boxes worth of information.

Thankfully, Burnosky said, members of the genealogical society remain active and involved in their community. The library is even planning an event in February in collaboration with them, in order to help participants start looking into their own family trees.

"They've volunteered to work with us, which is great, because they're a wealth of information," Burnosky said. "We can't let them get too far away."