January 1990

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The JoHos

A Genealogy Group


Bill Treichler

A genealogy group with participants from Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, and Chemung counties, and from as far away as Monroe County, New York, and Tioga County, Pennsylvania, has been meeting monthly since 1982 at homes, libraries, churches, museums, historical society meeting rooms and even cemeteries.

This unique society of family history researchers got started from the chance meeting in January, 1982, of Helena Howard and JoAnn Sgrecci at a work session in the Schuyler County Museum in Montour Falls. Their enthusiasm for genealogy dominated their conversation, and, from this first meeting, they agreed to seek out other people who shared their common interest in discovering and learning more about their ancestors.

They consulted Marion Howell, Historian for the Town of Orange, and decided to invite others to a meeting at Helena Howard's home near Rock Stream. Seven other women came to the first meeting on February 18, 1982. Those present were: Grace Ameigh, Pauline Fazzary, Ruth Hoose, Helena Howard, Marian Howell, Shirley Malloy, Ethel Perry, Shirley Robbins, JoAnn Sgrecci and Clara Teed.

Searching for a name to call their group, they took JO from JoAnn and HO from both Howard and Howell to combine into JOHO or JOHOs as they usually refer to themselves.

The name fits the casualness of their society and the friendliness and helpfulness of all the members. Indeed, much of the popularity of the JOHO group lies with the fact that the organization is very informal. There are no officers, no dues, no advertising and no formalities. Each person is encouraged to pursue his or her love of family history knowing there are others in the JOHO group who share this enthusiasm for ancestor hunting and will help them with their quest.

The list of associates in this loosely-tied society has grown to about 30 names. These are the people who come fairly regularly to the meetings held on the third Friday of every month.

All of the meetings except for the December luncheon meeting, when spouses are invited and genealogy is not really talked about, are bag-lunch affairs. People come about 10:00 AM to the agreed meeting place with their notebooks and interesting finds to show other members. The morning is spent by examining old records or books, or searching files that are available that day. Meetings held in museums and libraries give the members an opportunity to peruse a lot of material such as family genealogies and old newspapers.

Many of the JOHOs are working on the lineage of several families—their husband's line as well as their own and their grandmothers and great-grandmothers on both sides. Living in the same area, a number of members have discovered that they are interested in a family that another member has studied.

To discover all their parallel interests, as well as to be able to remember just what family name other members are following, should one person come across a reference that might be helpful to another, the members have compiled a list of 427 family names that one or more members is researching. A member's number, acquired in the order of when she became a regular attender of the meetings, is placed on this list next to the different family names each member is studying. Smith, for instance, is followed by the number of eight members.

Along with the cross referencing of members' interests, everyone at the monthly meetings gets a chance to hear what the others have accomplished since the last meeting. About the time that most of the people have finished their bag lunch the members take turns introducing themselves and reporting their finds or problems.

When everyone has spoken, usually a general discussion to choose future meeting places follows. Sometimes in the summer months members go to a nearby cemetery to look for gravestones and check out birth and death dates. These excursions were a favorite activity for JoAnn Sgrecci whose enthusiasm for genealogy and support for the JOHOs is so missed since her death in 1988.

The two other founding members remain steadfast JOHOs and frequent hosts to meetings in their homes.

Marion Park Howell has a long-time interest in history and has done a lot of work on her family lines. She is the Orange Town historian and has lots of knowledge about the history of Bradford, Tyrone and the Six Nations district.

Helena Andrews Howard is the "looked to" head of the group and the authority and teacher. She is the Genealogy Chairman of the Schuyler County Historical Society and a director of the Twin Tiers Genealogical Society as well as a member of seven other area genealogical and historical societies and of two national family associations, as well.

Grace Perry Ameigh of Rock Stream added 800 names to the Tyrone Union Cemetery list by checking old records and newspaper obituaries.

The group is filled with friendly and well-informed people. Several of the members are town historians and librarians and volunteer workers at historical societies. A number of men are active members of the JOHOs now.

Don Rowland, Wayne Town Historian, hosts the group about once a year at his office where he has many files of early Wayne residents and early maps of the town. He has been busy for a number of years locating and mapping cemeteries.

Ruth Waugh MaGill is librarian for the Steuben County Historical Society and is in charge of the history and genealogy section of the Davenport Library in Bath.

Jim Hope is the Historian for the Town of Bath and a former Steuben County historian who has helped many people with their searches.

"Bim" Van Etten is a regular volunteer at the Genealogy Department of the Steele Memorial Library in Elmira, as well as a member of several historical societies and genealogy groups. His knowledge from long experience is freguently sought by other members.

George Miller is very interested in the history of the Town of Reading and has lots of stories to tell.

All of the members are, of course, primarily interested in tracing out their own families, some of them to the far branches.

Nancy Machuga of Corning, NY, has written and had printed A Burk Genealogy that records the descendants of John and Rachel Haire Burk who lived in Massachusetts and Vermont.

Edwin Harris has written a book that traces the migrations of all parts of his family to homesteads near Dundee. His book Harpendings Corners has stories about early times in Dundee and episodes from his own lifetime. It appears in THE CROOKED LAKE REVIEW.

Inez Livermore Albee of Bath tells of her work researching the Phelps family in an article in this issue that begins on page one.

From its Schuyler County beginnings, the JOHO membership has expanded into all of the nearby, and some distant, counties.

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