Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Genealogy Information Is at Hand; Exchange Society Library Has Thousands of Books

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Genealogy Information Is at Hand; Exchange Society Library Has Thousands of Books

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

Tucked off bustling Blanding Boulevard is an unassuming white house where residents can trace the dead.

"Very few people know about us," said Jon Ferguson, who helps maintain its treasure trove of genealogy books.

The building, which houses the Southern Genealogist's Exchange Society library, is chock full of 4,500 books from 46 states, 4,000 ancestral charts, 2,000 microfilm and microfiche records, 300 quarterlies and countless maps, ship passage lists, family histories, newspaper obituaries and surname files.

The library was established in 1964 on Oak Street. Then, for years, it was housed in rented quarters on Blanding near Park Street. In 2000, the society bought a long-vacant house and moved the library to its current location at 6215 Sauterne Drive near Blanding and 103rd Street.

The society's 215 members, who come from throughout the city, can use it free, and it's open to the public for a $3 fee.

The library is a boon to those who want to trace their family ties, Ferguson said.

"You can learn to appreciate your ancestors and satisfy puzzling questions about why did they move from one place to another and how did they get there," he said. "You will even find family members you didn't know you had."

In Ferguson's case, he has tracked down 20 distant cousins since joining the society in 1988. He went to see one in Dallas and had the "thrill" of reading his great-grandfather's diary, in which he wrote of his move from Georgia to Arkansas by wagon train in 1916.

Despite the name, Ferguson said, the society's resources aren't limited to the South. Moreover, the exchange in the name means that it swaps quarterlies with other societies around the nation.

Ferguson, the society's president, spends about 60 volunteer hours a week on genealogy business.

"If I didn't love it, I wouldn't do it," said the retired loan officer for the Small Business Administration. "I'm down here almost every day."

Ferguson said society volunteers don't do the research for non-members but teach them how to do it. "Sometimes serendipity happens," he said.

Once, a man was doing research at the library when a member dropped off a book on Czechoslovakian immigrants that he had bought while visiting that country. …

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