By 1812Blockhouse

Welcome to the 19th post in our “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About” series, where she share background information on Richland County places, attractions, organizations, and more. Each time we seek to look “under the hood” to find out information you may not have known.

Today, we take a look at the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS), founded on August 15, 1959, which stands as the largest state genealogical society in the United States. With its vast resources and dedicated mission, OGS, based here in Richland County, has become an indispensable hub for both amateur and professional historians tracing their Ohioan heritage.

A Legacy of Preservation and Education

The society was initiated by pioneers in historical preservation, including Dr. William R.M. Houston and Louise Krause, who aimed to foster interest in Ohio’s rich history. From its early days with 52 charter members, OGS has expanded its influence and membership significantly across the state and beyond.

Central to OGS’s mission is the acquisition, preservation, and dissemination of genealogical and historical information. This objective supports a wide array of activities, from safeguarding historical manuscripts to publishing genealogical materials that highlight Ohio’s historical narrative.

The Samuel D. Isaly Library: A Treasure Trove of Ohio History

Named after a notable patron, the Samuel D. Isaly Library, located in Bellville, Ohio, is a cornerstone of the OGS’s operations. This facility boasts over 70,000 books, 23,000 Ohio yearbooks, more than 300 manuscript collections, and over 250,000 ancestor cards. Such a collection makes it the top repository for genealogical research in Ohio, offering a deep dive into the state’s familial histories and local lore.

Expansion and Evolution of the OGS Library

The OGS Library began modestly in 1971, occupying three rooms in Dr. Houston’s home. By 1972, the first microfilm reader was acquired through a novel method—collecting S&H Green stamps donated by members. The initiative to collect over 200,000 ancestor cards started in 1971, alongside significant projects like the organization and indexing of Bible records by Anne Dallas Budd in 1974.

Throughout the decades, OGS has undertaken monumental indexing projects, including the 1850 and 1860 Ohio census indices, indexes of Ohio soldiers from multiple wars, Ohio marriages, and comprehensive surveys of Ohio cemeteries and church records. These efforts marked the beginning of many large-scale projects that have since defined the society.

Growth Through Strategic Acquisitions

OGS’s journey includes significant expansions and relocations to accommodate its growing operations. A notable move occurred in 1976 with the initiation of a building fund drive, leading to the purchase of a home at 419 West Third Street. Subsequent acquisitions included a neighboring property and the Bushnell House in 1987, which served as the society’s headquarters for a decade.

In 1997, the society moved into a former furniture store at 713 South Main Street, which offered a handicap-accessible facility with ample space for the library collection and offices. The move to a new library building in Bellville in 2010 marked another milestone, providing modern facilities for staff and volunteers alike.

Community Engagement and Future Outlook

OGS is bolstered by a volunteer force of over 300 individuals who assist with special projects like the Ohio Civil War Index. The society is governed by a board of trustees that meets regularly to ensure the society’s goals are met and its legacy preserved.

With a full-time staff and an extensive network of volunteers, OGS remains a vital institution committed to preserving Ohio’s genealogical heritage and educating the public on the significance of family history. Learn much more at the OGS website.

Image by Jarkko Mänty from Pixabay

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