The Jo - Ho's
On the third Friday of each month our group of family history enthusiasts gets together, either at one of our homes, or at some public place where we can use genealogy resource material. Sometimes we meet at a library, or a town hall, and occasionally we collect at a cemetery where the headstones with their names and dates of birth and death provide reliable information we can use and preserve for other searchers.
Our meetings start at ten or ten-thirty in the morning or whenever people arrive. Before noon each of us makes use of the resource material available to seek more clues for the ancestral lines we are working back. Often there is another member present who can help or will have suggestions for where we might look. Even if you can't find what you need for your project at the time, looking through the books and files can familiarize you with sources that may be valuable another time. Of course, this is a great time to compare progress with another Jo-Ho who may be working on a related family line.
About noon we stop for lunch, which each of us brings in a bag. Often the host offers cookies, or fruit, and coffee or tea. But if we are meeting some place where there isn't a kitchen we each bring our own beverage.
One of our purposes in meeting together is to talk to other people interested in genealogy and to tell someone else what we have discovered. We use our roll call, when most people have finished their lunch, as a time for everyone to be heard, to tell of their genealogy interests and to introduce themselves to the other members. Each person has an uninterrupted 2 to 3 minutes to say anything they wish. Not to interrupt becomes very difficult sometimes when someone mentions a name you want to know more about.
At the time of the roll call many of the regular members report on news of general interest. Bim Van Etten always brings us the news of what is going on, or about to happen, at Steele Memorial Library and at the Chemung County Historical Society, both in Elmira, though Bim lives in Big Flats.
Betty Smalley comes from Dresden. She is historian for the Town of Torrey, in Yates County, and she does a lot of research work for people who contact her.
Shirley Robbins from Rock Stream has information on Pennsylvania Germans and is familiar with resources in Pennsylvania.
Jim Hope, who was historian for Steuben County for many years, and who worked to have the county vital records computerized so that printouts would be available for searchers, is very familiar with all of the cemeteries and genealogy sources in Steuben County and so helpful to everyone.
Nancy Machuga from Corning has published one book on her family history and is working on another branch of her family. She has done research by mail, tracing family ancestry in Germany and Poland.
Marian Howell Ellis has been doing genealogy longer than the rest of us. She was a school teacher and is now historian for the Town of Orange. She is one of the founders of the Jo-Ho's and has always been helpful to everyone in the group and to anyone who comes to her or writes for information.
Mr. Leon Stiles is the Stiles Family Historian and he always brings many books and much information to our meetings. He lives near Penn Yan and devotes much of his time to collecting and entering into computer files records from all over the world of the many branches of the Stiles family.
Ruth MaGill is a librarian and has charge of the Steuben County Historical Society Collection that is housed in the Davenport Memorial Library in Bath.
Mr. and Mrs. Pierce come from Lindley, New York. They are newer members, and have taken the responsibility of our traveling library.
I have mentioned just a few of the Jo-Ho's to show you what makes a meeting so interesting you can hardly wait for the next one to come.
Here is a list of the meetings we held in 1990:
We met at the Corning Library which has a good selection of books as well as census records and maps. They let us use one of their meeting rooms. Mr. Stiles came and brought, as he usually does, some of his many books on families which are not often available in libraries.
This was our Birthday Meeting. Twenty people came. We are 8 years old. I have always had this month's meeting at my house. I have a few books, and scrapbooks, some genealogy magazines and cemetery records. My Mother's Day gift this year was The Red Book published by Ancestry. It lists all of the states with a brief history of that state followed by a detailed chart where all vital records can be found. The book gives street locations and is a must if you are going to another state to do research. I carry this book with with the Jo - Ho material to every meeting.
We met at the South Corning Town Hall. Fourteen were present and several brought material to be reviewed.
Mr. and Mrs. Leon Stiles entertained us at their home near Penn Yan. Thirty people came to make this our largest meeting ever! We were all eager to search our lines in his extensive library of over 400 books, in addition to his computer files. Everyone enjoyed meeting the Stiles' mothers—wonderful ladies with fantastic memories and delightful stories.
This month we went to a favorite place, Marian Howell Ellis's home on Six Nations' Hill. Marian is the Town of Orange Historian and has local material on that area and on Tyrone and Bradford. She always has a treat to go with the coffee she serves. Fourteen were present.
We went this month to Bath and the Davenport Memorial Library where there is a very well-fitted room for genealogy study with books covering New York, New England, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ruth MaGill and Jim Hope were our hosts. Fifteen people came.
Twelve members met this month at the Rural Home Cemetery in Big Flats, New York. The purpose of this meeting was to "read" the cemetery, carefully recording all the names on stones in each row and checking to see if there were empty lots. This was one of the hottest days of the summer, but our job was made easier by Mr. Duane Hills who is sexton of the cemetery. He had trimmed every blade of grass, and he brought us iced tea. The problem was that over the years people had been buried in the aisles, and unrelated people had been buried in the same lots because sometimes people bought only part of a cemetery lot. We covered half of the cemetery that day. Two people went down each row and recorded all the names from the markers.
The caretaker was very appreciative of the work done, and wanted to pay the Jo-Ho's. Bim Van Etten explained that the group didn't have a treasury and would not know what do to with pay. We did promise to come back in October to finish the job. The willing workers that day were: Jeanette Denson and Betty Smalley of Dresden, Ruth Siswick of Ithaca, Bim Van Etten from Big Flats, Nancy Machuga, Pauline Whitehead, and Helen Baird, all from Corning, Ann Brewer and Ruth MaGill and Inez Albee from Bath, and George Miller and myself from Reading Center. We ate our lunches that day in the Big Flats Museum.
Our meeting place this month was the Wayne Town Hall. Fourteen were present. Don Rowland who is the Town of Wayne Historian was our host. He has done an unbelievable amount of work recording everything related to the area, and mapping it, too. He has all the events and personalities of Wayne's past chronologically documented. Don has also measured and mapped all of the local cemeteries and then located these on larger maps so that a cemetery lot can be quickly found by his map reference system. Don also makes good doughnuts.
Twenty-one people came to meet at the Montour Falls Memorial Library that is one of the beautiful and historic buildings in the "Glorious Tee" section of Montour Falls. In addition to a good reference library there is a small museum in the same building. Ed Harris from Rochester entertained us with one of his great stories of research adventure.
Nine of us were back again at the Rural Home Cemetery in Big Flats on what seemed the coldest and windiest day of the season, and we finished the job! In appreciation of the checking and recording of the markers in the cemetery, the Big Flats Burial Association placed in the Steele Memorial Library the County Courthouse Book by Elizabeth P. Bentley. This book contains the names, addresses, and dates of organization of the 3351 county courthouses in the United States.
We met again at the Corning Library. Nancy Machuga was our hostess. Eighteen were present and several brought new material.
This is our annual luncheon meeting when we go to a restaurant and try not to talk too much "business" because we have brought our husbands or wives along who may not be much interested in family history even though we have probably run their ancestry back as far as our own. This year we ate at The Switzerland Inn on Lake Keuka. Don Rowland says part of the building is one of the oldest structures in Wayne. The old part was moved to its present location to make room for the Keuka Hotel which is gone now.
Twenty-six came for the luncheon and everyone enjoyed good food and pleasant conversation. Now we are anticipating another year of monthly genealogy get-togethers.
© 1991, Helena Howard
Mrs. Howard is Genealogy Chairman for the Schuyler County Historical Society and is at the museum in the "Old Brick Tavern" in Montour Falls every Thursday from 1 to 3 pm to help people start their research and learn how to chart their ancestry. Blank charts are available there for 5¢ each.