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New Genealogy Dept building will be a research hub

Mike Watson, Leeann Jessee, Ernestine Bennett, and Phil Hannah of the Adair County Public Library show off the design plans for the new Genealogy and Local history Department. Photo by Casi Blair.

By Jeff Neagle


With the selection of Branscum Construction as the contractor for the new building that will house the Genealogy and Local History Department of the Adair County Public Library, the Library Board is anxious for work to begin.

South Central Designs is the company that designed the new building. “The design adds a modern-day flare to what is here now. It isn’t going to stick out and look like it doesn’t belong here. The two buildings will complement each other,” said project designer Benton Fudge.

The building will be a one story, grade level building of about 3,500 square feet. At this time, the plan is for a 14-foot tall ceiling with exposed duct work in the main area with the rest of the ceiling being 10 feet. Fudge pointed out that those plans aren’t set in stone. “If it comes down to it and we need to cut some costs, we can always do standard ceilings or find other things that may cut some costs.”

Library Director Leeann Jessee is ready for construction to start. “We can’t wait to get started. This is really going to be a big deal. We are all really excited about the prospects this new addition to the library will bring.”

The new building will be a hub for genealogists and historians alike. The department already has seen exponential growth in the number of visitors it receives each year.

“People come in from all over the country, from coast to coast,” said Genealogist Ernestine Bennett. “Just a couple of weeks ago we had a visitor from Fairbanks, Alaska to do some genealogy research. The collection here is already becoming known around the country. We have one of the largest collections of family history information in the area.”

The collection includes family histories, indexes to records, cemetery transcriptions, photographs, and much more. The library currently houses the genealogy department on the main floor of the building, but space has been limited for years.

“We have a lot of material stored in boxes because we just don’t have the room to put it out,” said Genealogist Mike Watson. “When people come to the library to do research, we may have what they are looking for but if it is in storage, that can be a problem. The new space will alleviate that situation.”

In addition to the materials they already have, Watson said that even more could be coming.

“Over the last two or three years, a lot of people have contacted us to see about donating collections to the department. Of course, we want to expand the collection and take anything we are offered, but we haven’t been able to because we just don’t have the room here.”

The new building is going to provide the much-needed space to allow the collection to grow and be displayed.

One feature that Watson is excited about is space for a gallery. “We have so many old photographs that are just sitting in storage. The new building will allow us to display these photos and create a space that will be inviting and educational at the same time.”

The Genealogy and Local History Department of the Adair County Public Library offers many tools to help the public research family, property, and just about anything else that has to do with Adair County. The library provides access to Heritage Quest, a comprehensive collection of American genealogical sources featuring primary sources, local and family histories, research guides, interactive census maps, military histories and more. Anyone with a library card can gain access to the Heritage Quest site.

The department recently added Fold3 for online research. Fold3 features a premier collection of original military records that include stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served in the military. Records on the site come from the U.S. National Archives, the British National Archives, and many other international sources. The name Fold3 comes from the tradition that the third fold in many flag-folding ceremonies honors and remembers veterans for their sacrifice in defending the country and promoting peace in the world. The subscription to Fold3 is paid for by the library and can be accessed from there. is also available for library patrons. The popular site allows one to create a family tree using the largest collection of online resources in the world with over 20 billion records. Access to ancestry is free from within the library.

Even with all of these online tools, the local collection remains a vital tool for historians.

“The information we house here contains primary sources on families, homes, local businesses, the town and county records, and military records. The department will be able to grow its collection even more once we are in the new space. It is going to be an exciting time for us,” said Bennett.


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