Historical Societies – A Researcher’s Paradise
Today I visited the Perinton Historical Society and Fairport Museum for the first time. I was astounded by the amount of research materials available there. One frequently refers to public libraries for research, but the local historical society is an untapped reservoir of information.
Several months ago, I had come across the online edition of the Perinton Historical Society Historigram. George B. Wiltsie, one of my Civil War boys, was mentioned in the newsletter. Apparently, a man named Karl Jost had donated a box full of Wiltsie and Potter documents to the Perinton Historical Society. Included in these treasures was a transcript of George B. Wiltsie’s Civil War diary! During my visit today, I had the good fortune to meet Fairport Museum curator William Keeler. After explaining my Civil War project to Bill, he headed off to parts unknown and returned with the very treasure box mentioned in the Historigram. Unfortunately, Bill is in the process of transcribing the diary so I was unable to view that yet, but the rest of the items were also of interest. There were several photos of homes belonging to various members of the Wiltsie and Potter families. The photo that caught my attention was a black and white 8×10 of the Wiltsie family home in Duanesburg, New York. Pasted to the back of the photo was a long letter written by Charles H. Wiltsie, nephew of George B. Wiltsie. The letter described in detail the house where George’s parents and older siblings lived until their move to Perinton in the 1830s. What a find!
While discussing my project with Bill, I offhandedly asked if he had any information about the local chapter of the G.A.R., which stands for Grand Army of the Republic. This was a national organization that was formed after the Civil War. It is comparable to today’s American Legion or VFW. Bill strode off and returned with more treasures for me. The folders he handed me contained meeting notes and many other interesting tidbits of information about the E.A. Slocum Post 211. For me, the most exciting part was seeing the applications completed and signed in the late 1890s by some of my Civil War boys. The applications listed birth places, service dates, occupations, and even reasons for discharge.
I would invite anyone with an interest in history to visit their local historical society. Their holdings are more precious than gold. Special thanks to Bill Keeler for his assistance with and interest in my Civil War soldiers project.
The life and death of George B. Wiltsie will be discussed in greater depth during my Pittsford Cemetery tour on May 16th. Please visit the following link for more information about my tour, which is featured on page 17. http://townofpittsford.org/files/images/publications/2009_spring_rec_brochure.pdf