By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER — After about 30 years, the Dubois County Genealogical Society is getting a physical space where people can come to learn about the history of Dubois County or maybe even learn more about their own family roots.
The nonprofit organization has been setting up a location in the Dubois County Museum since late 2020 that will soon be open to the public, said Tom Kellams, who heads the society.
“The organization has been around since 1992, and it’s just been worked out of homes, but we wanted one location where they could come and get family histories and any other information they need,” Kellams said. “A lot of the older people have told us that, with everything being digitized now, a lot of them don’t get on computers … and they just like to see the actual books.
The location, which is filled with donated shelves from Fifth Street Elementary before it was demolished, already has hundreds of books about the history of Dubois County — from high school yearbooks to church directories, to marriage licenses and obituaries, to family trees and personal artifacts from locals dating back to the 1800s.
There is also a section where people can bring in miscellaneous family documents and file them under their name so they can be accessible to everyone.
The nonprofit has already gained several members from across the country since word got around that the location was opening, Kellams said, including some from as far as California and Texas.
Most members are older, but that’s not out of the ordinary. Some say their children aren’t interested in genealogy, he said, and that they want to donate their books and documents to the organization before they end up getting thrown out.
But the interest of family history is still present in the younger audience, he said. Kids always inevitably ask their parents questions about their family, and when they get older, they often decide that they want to get involved in genealogy themselves. The desire to know more about your family, and therefore yourself, is pretty universal, he said.
Mike Humbert, who largely helps with the digitization of family documents, said the organization keeps track of hundreds of thousands of family names.
“We’re here to help people try and find their family roots,” he said. “We can help, whether you’re brand new to genealogy and have never done it before, or if you’ve done it for 20 years.”
One aspect of genealogy that both the older and younger audience tend to take interest in is DNA testing, often using kits from companies such as AncestryDNA or 23andMe. Those at the nonprofit and the museum can help people make sense of their DNA results and use them to dig deeper into family history.
“It can be a very good source for doing research,” Humbert said. “When you come to a dead end on genealogy, a DNA test can sometimes reveal all kinds of things for you.”
Although the location isn’t officially open yet, the nonprofit is still taking new members and accepting genealogical books and documents, either to make copies, download from a flash drive or to donate altogether.
The Dubois County Genealogy Society is located near the entrance lobby of the Dubois County Museum and is typically open during museum hours but can also be open during other times upon request.
It runs entirely off of volunteers and donations, so it’s always accepting both.
Those interested in joining, learning more or submitting genealogical documents can contact Dubois County Genealogy Society member Rosie Stewart at 812-639-9361, Tom Kellams at 812-309-9132 or email dcgenealogical firstname.lastname@example.org.