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St. C. library obits preserved digitally

Library thanks volunteers

T-L Photos/ROBERT A. DEFRANK ABOVE: On Friday, St. Clairsville Public Library thanks volunteers who donated almost 500 hours to digitize obituaries dating from 1984. They include, seated from left, Krystal Spencer of St. Clairsville and siblings Thomas and Virginia Klash of Belmont, the youngest volunteers. In the second row are those who contributed the most to the project including, from left, Katie Tomazoli, Barb Dlesk, Joanne Callahan, Toni Timko and Mariette Webster. In the back row are Library Director Doug Walsh, left, and Information Service Supervisor Preston Tedrick.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Thanks to the work of volunteers, more than 60,000 obituaries spanning more than 30 years have been digitized at the St. Clairsville Public Library

Volunteers digitized a total of 60,575 obituaries dating from 1984 to 2018. They commemorate people who lived in the St. Clairsville area. The workers were recognized Friday with a thank-you celebration from the library. The library staff is in the process of scanning the 2019 obituaries.

“We had 25 volunteers and (490) hours were donated toward this project,” Library Director Doug Walsh said. He said obituaries were taken from all the local Belmont County newspapers.

“There’s probably four or five papers they were taken from. … The library staff have been clipping them from the newspapers for that long and filing them alphabetically in our card catalogues. We have two large card catalogues, but we were running out of space.”

Walsh said the library started to a volunteer project to undertake the process of scanning the obituaries. The library asked for volunteers through its newsletter and Facebook page.

“They were digitized, and they’re going to be made available online … through the Digital Shoebox. Anybody can go to the digitialshoebox.org and search for family and local history,” Walsh said.

Information Service Supervisor Preston Tedrick said users can search for names, categories and phrases in the obituary. He said the digitized records must still be catalogued by staff, which will be several months’ work. So far, obituaries of last names starting with letters A, B and C are available.

Walsh said convenience would be valuable. Researchers and genealogists often make use of the information.

“Especially when there were oil and gas people trying to investigate who owned the land, but we often get people just seeking their family histories and coming to the library to ask for family obituaries,” Walsh said.

Tedrick said there was an average of 45 volunteer hours per month and 11 per week.

One of the volunteers was Kristina Estle, who serves as director of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing.

“I thought it would be an interesting skill to learn,” she said. “It’s something that I’m going to need to do out there (in the museum) as well. … It was a pretty simple process, and once you got a handle of how to use the program in the computer it was very simple.”

Special recognition went to the top five volunteers who contributed a total of 266 hours, 54 percent of the total workload. These were Katie Tomazoli of St. Clairsville, Barb Dlesk of St. Clairsville, Joanne Callahan of Martins Ferry, Toni Timko of St. Clairsville, and Mariette Webster from Belmont. Timko, the overall top volunteer, gave 69 hours.

“We enjoyed doing it,” Callahan said.

“It’s sort of surreal to see all of the obituaries in … the surrounding area. It was kind of sad some days for me, when you came across someone that you knew,” Dlesk said.

“You learned a lot of about some of the people,” Toni Timko said.

Belmont County Eastern Division Judge David Trouten, who also serves as a library trustee, read a proclamation of appreciation.

In the future, Walsh said other volunteer projects might include scanning historical documents, the St. Clairsville City Charter, and information about the Great Western Schoolhouse on National Road.

make use of the information.

“Especially when there were oil and gas people trying to investigate who owned the land, but we often get people just seeking their family histories and coming to the library to ask for family obituaries,” Walsh said.

Tedrick said there was an average of 45 volunteer hours per month and 11 per week.

One of the volunteers was Kristina Estle, who serves as director of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing.

“I thought it would be an interesting skill to learn,” she said. “It’s something that I’m going to need to do out there (in the museum) as well. … It was a pretty simple process, and once you got a handle of how to use the program in the computer it was very simple.”

Special recognition went to the top five volunteers who contributed a total of 266 hours, 54 percent of the total workload. These were Katie Tomazoli of St. Clairsville, Barb Dlesk of St. Clairsville, Joanne Callahan of Martins Ferry, Toni Timko of St. Clairsville, and Mariette Webster from Belmont. Timko, the overall top volunteer, gave 69 hours.

“We enjoyed doing it,” Callahan said.

“It’s sort of surreal to see all of the obituaries in … the surrounding area. It was kind of sad some days for me, when you came across someone that you knew,” Dlesk said.

“You learned a lot of about some of the people,” Toni Timko said.

Belmont County Eastern Division Judge David Trouten, who also serves as a library trustee, read a proclamation of appreciation.

In the future, Walsh said other volunteer projects might include scanning historical documents, the St. Clairsville City Charter, and information about the Great Western Schoolhouse on National Road.

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