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W.Va. genealogy center planned

October 22, 2000|By BOB PARTLOW

W.Va. genealogy center planned



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A building with deep roots in Berkeley County's past could soon be the place where people come to find their own roots.

The Berkeley County Historical Society is purchasing the 1856 house next to the Belle Boyd House on Race Street near the B&O Railroad Roundhouse complex. The Belle Boyd house serves as the local history museum and repository for many kinds of records.

The goal is to turn the house, originally occupied by merchant Jacob Fuss, into a research center for the thousands of people who come to Berkeley County every year to search for their ancestors and history, said Don Wood, president of the Berkeley County Historical Society.

"We have run out of space," Wood said. "People have been so kind to us, donating things for the museum and the archives."

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He said the four-story structure will be an "archives and research center."

Serious genealogy involves more than learning the names of ancestors, Wood said. Those searching their family's past want to know where their forefathers lived, what they did and to see the places that influenced their lives.

"We have a wealth of information for people to use and we have people in here practically every day who want to use it," Wood said. "I opened up the other morning at 10 in the morning and 15 minutes later I had people in here from Louisiana, Italy and two couples from different parts of Indiana. We get 15,000 people in here a year."

Among the records are deeds, wills, land surveys, births, deaths, marriages and microfilm copies of newspapers back to the 1790s - virtually everything needed to solve the puzzles of the past.

The house was occupied for all but the last 20 years, when it was used to store books. The society is buying it for $32,000, and is using a $2,800 grant from the state Division of Culture and History to begin restoring it. The Community Service Program is helping with labor and has already put in one chimney to replace two that were torn from the original structure.

But Wood said the building needs some serious attention - plumbing, wiring, a new exit and other work that will cost about $60,000 to $70,000. He hopes to raise the money through grants and donations.

"We'll move in when we get the money," Wood said.

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