Our EIGHTH Year as a Local History Site has been another year of progress of which we can be proud. 2004 started with 10,856 pages on the site, and we are ending with 12,784. We have truly become the central storage and display location for countless unique local history artifacts rescued from attics and now made readily available for anyone anyplace in the world who needs to see them. This was my vision once upon a time, and it is real now. Unique school and Bible and legal records relating to the people of our area as well as countless one of a kind photos have come back to us from neighborhood attics locally and far distant "treasure trunks" all over the country. The strangest little oddities sometimes find their way to us and even though we would never have thought to ask for such an item, we find a way to make it fit in this cultural history library we have developed. We try not to think of the thousands of such records that have been lost and destroyed over time, but are grateful instead for those which have survived, and whose continued preservation is ensured by publication on our site. Every new item is a window to the world past and another opportunity to learn more about it.
History Books - In 2004, thanks to the determination of several helpers who wanted to actually FINISH some of the dozens of projects we've started, we did bring to completion several of the major county history books for our area. They are on the site in their entirety. I have heard several people say they have not looked at them because they are only excerpts. WRONG - no excerpts here. The WHOLE BOOK is available to you. We also completed several of the Elmira City directories and published them on the site. I sometimes think we suffer from low expectations. The site has so much more to offer than most would ever expect, that they don't even look and instead spend countless months and lots of money tracking down what is already on the site waiting for them. Just because other county sites haven't done it, does not mean we haven't. The messages on the site's mail list and to me personally reflect this attitude of low expectations when even long time guests ask for materials and resources that are and have been on the site for months or years, all logically arranged both by township and by subject.
Cemeteries & Obituaries - Cemetery reading progress was more limited than usual this year. Many of our long time volunteers were siphoned off by family or health issues that limited their availability. We also had an extraordinarily wet year. I lost count of how many times the fields across the road from here flooded so that the neighbors cows had to swim to the barn for their evening milking. Cows don't like to get wet, and neither do our cemetery volunteers. A couple of our volunteers have taken retirement this year, so we are hoping that they'll want to spend some of their time next summer reading cemeteries. As many as we've done, there are still more to be done. A year ago, I started putting together the obituaries by cemetery and expanded that element intensely this autumn. This gives us an opportunity to supplement and expand existing cemetery listings and gives us at least something for those where we have no available listing. I am finding it a very effective organizational pattern and it has encouraged some people to submit obituaries who had not previously done so. My own success is measured, not by how many use the site, but by how many contribute resources to it. More on this subject later.
Census - We added many new census transcriptions this year. I still have several to format for the site that volunteers have already done. We have made incredible progress in this area over the past years, and someday we might actually finish it. It's possible.
Vital Records - Pat Raymond continues to transcribe records for site publication at the Bradford County Court House and Kelly Kimball is working on the Tioga County front. Hooray for them both. Good stuff !!! They have both our gratitude and our admiration for their stamina.
Special Features - This year I remodeled all eighty township pages (well maybe only 77 so far) that are the foundation of the site, into a standardized format. While not all townships have resources in every category represented in the standard format, the blank sections bring attention to themselves and hopefully will help people see what is missing so they can add to it.
Progress on Related Fronts - Much of my
year was spent developing my Sullivan Township museum. I am thrilled at
what it has turned into and have to thank my skilled and patient carpenters,
Bird and Brett York for that. Brett is able to take my own creative ideas
and develop them into something functional, beautiful and additionally
creative. It so far exceeds my own visualization of it (as did the budget)
that I can scarcely conceive what it will become in the coming year. I
am already dreaming up new schemes for display to challenge my carpenters
skills in implementing them, (and further deplete my retirement nest egg.)
Guests who have visited have shown their support and appreciation of it
by donating ever more artifacts of our local history so that our culture
and residents can ever be remembered. John Barr donated his and his
mother in law's Mansfield & Wellsboro newspapers going back to the
early 1950s, so that will be a wonderful resource to us both for the museum
and the web site. I am still sorting them and getting them into flat boxes.
What a fun thing to do building a museum is. I almost jump out of my skin
in the pure joy of it. Exaggerated as that sounds, it is all true. It's
really very exciting.
|As if that weren't enough I also started building new gardens and planted several hundred day lilies since they will take care of themselves, once established, about as well as anything could. And I further stretched my physical and time resources to the limit by casting molded concrete stepping stones and borders. Yes, I am a mason, too, and my stepping stones are lovely. It's a great way for redeveloping some of those long atrophied muscles. One of my friends calls them Joyce's mud pies. Ok, I can deal with that.|
In our NINTH Year of existence, I hope to continue site development at the same high level pace as we have been doing. I would be less than honest to say that it is always a joy to do it. Eight and a half years is a long time, but I continue to motivate myself by reminding myself of the importance of what we are accomplishing. The results of this massive effort are always a joy both to me and the thousands of people who use the site's resources. The site is truly marvelous, and as much as we have done, it is a mere drop in the bucket of all that can be and needs to be done. My other projects, particularly my long neglected Sullivan-Rutland Genealogy Project, which I consider the most important part of my life's work, continue to tug woefully at my sleeve. It has been on the side line for the many years the site has diverted my time and resources. I keep the idea of our pioneer predecessors always in my mind, and continue with my determination that their lives and culture will be recorded and remembered. They are the most important benefactors of our work although they'll never know anything about it. Fortunately, many others share my vision for the site and are also motivated by its purpose. Our other volunteers are as essential to its continuation as I am. We are eternally grateful to them all whether their participation is large or small.
Site usage holds steady but no growth this year.. As measured by the counter on the site's main page, we had 147,388 visits in 2004. Compare that to 146,115 in 2003, 115,993 in 2002 and 98,619 in 2001. After previous annual growth rates of 15 and 25% per year, the 1 % increase for 2004 is a disappointment. We understand the concept of the limits to growth, but we don't believe we have reached them. Many long time guests have told me that they check the site's What's New page less frequently than they used to. The growth of the for pay sites has cut into our usage and that was predictable. To counteract that, and to reward those who visit frequently, I have added the Special Postcard of the day feature. This leads people to the site's main page where the counter is located that I measure by whether they enter the site the right way or not. It does not double count if they enter that way and go back to it. If this feature has the desired result of increasing site traffic, I'll continue it. If not, I will discontinue it.
We continue to be grateful for the low cost site storage space from Rootsweb. Without that availability the costs of presenting the site would increase enormously. We continue to use the PICO search engine facility. It performs well for us, but of course, the cost increases with every 1000 pages included on the site. To those of you who have contributed to covering that cost and the many other costs of presenting the site, I express my gratitude.
I also want to thank the historical organizations in our area who are so helpful and cooperative to us and our purpose. Both the Tioga County and Chemung County Historical Societies are supportive of and grateful for our work and willing to share resources to make it happen. Steele Memorial Library and the Bradford County Library System head quartered in Burlington are also supportive and helpful. Bradford County Heritage Association in Troy willingly shares resources. We have established relationships with some of the township level historical societies and with the Chemung County town historians. We thank all of them for their willingness to help us help all of you. Nationally many of the county level historical societies are resistant to the online resources that have been developed over the past decade seeing them as threats to their revenues. Conversely, we believe that the interest in history generated by sites such as mine is a benefit to all historically oriented organizations. The Internet is here to stay and has found its niche in our culture very rapidly. It both records and is part of our history. We thank all those who help us make this site possible.
What's Next? - As you all know, whatever I tell you I am going to do next, usually turns out wrong. I am so frequently diverted off to another equally interesting and equally important project. So much to do - so little time. I promise you postcards, I deliver obituaries. Oh well, at least I keep producing. I am particularly pleased with the Obituaries by Cemetery Project this year. I actually started that well over a year ago but brought it into full focus in the autumn and it has taken off like lightning. With the site's orientation around the many communities within the three counties, the obits by cemetery project really pulls it together. A collection of obituaries for a particular local cemetery IS the community's history. The stories of its residents are the building blocks of the story of the neighborhood. It enhances and develops the concept around which I have designed the site, and it has encouraged people to dig out their obits and start sending them in. So, I am deeply enmeshed in that project and see that continuing in a big way. We have built a good foundation of cemetery, census, and newspaper material to date and now I hope to have more time to devote to the family histories that so many of you have developed both from Tri-County resources and others as well. We have the foundation in place, and now we can build on it. It's a good feeling after all these years. I'd also like to see more articles. Many of you have learned a lot about our little world via this site and many of you are old enough to have some great memories to share with us. If you're not that old, interview an old person. Let her or him tell us about the world they grew up in and the people they met along the way. The site is only as good as you and I together make it. I have never done it alone, and I never will. You are as important a part of this site's development as I. What do you have to offer? Don't be shy.
What is my role ? - Because I have created such a massive resource and made it available, with the help of many others, many people make their own assumptions and expectations about me and what I am doing. Most of the mail I receive asks me for more help than I have already given - often even before they have looked at what's already available. So I have to define what I am doing and what I am not doing. My goal is to create and present a body of knowledge on our local history and people and to make it available on this site. To implement that goal I need to encourage all who have that information, and that may include you, to contribute it to this site so that it is available to others now and in the future. I am the library builder, the collector, the organizer and the presenter and publisher. I am not and do not aim to be the solutions provider for your particular research problem. My own personal project is Sullivan-Rutland Genealogy Project and on that I am willing to give personal attention to you IN EXCHANGE FOR your updates on the present generations. For both SRGP and Tri-Counties Site (which are separate but overlapping projects) if you are not willing to give what you can, please don't expect me to be your personal research guide. Probably 90% of the questions people ask me via email are already answered on the site. For the 10% that are not, they can only be answered by encouraging those who have additional information to get it to us so it is available. My effort needs to go into developing the relationships that enable the site to grow and develop. For those who do not want to be part of that effort, the material is there to be used on your own. I have to spend my available time encouraging the people who work with me to add to the site's resources.
We wish all of you a terrific 2005 and we wish the same to our Tri-Counties site. May it ever grow in both size and depth and continue to be the meeting place of past and future.
|See Also the 2002 Year End Review||Seventh Anniversary Message August 2003||2003 Year End Review|