Got Roots? 3

Research Them Here

The Roman god Janus, closely associated with the month of January, is always depicted with two faces, one looking forward to the future and the other looking back at the past.

Anyone seeking to look back, particularly those interested in genealogy, has a wonderful resource available in the Cleveland County Genealogical Society research library. Among its almost 6,000 items on paper, microfilm and digital data lies a wealth of original source material.

The group was established in 1980 as the Moore Pioneer Genealogical Society and took as one of its first tasks the creation and publication of indexes of the earliest Cleveland County courthouse records. Members also canvassed and published indexes of all county cemeteries, with the exception of Resthaven in Oklahoma City.

By the late 1980s, members became interested in the establishment of a research library. Norman Public Library didn’t have room for their growing collection of materials, so they set up a research area in various locations around Norman, moving over the years as they needed more space.

“Instead of shelves, we started with boards on cinder blocks where we could stack things,” said Jean McCracken, current society president, laughing. Eventually, members helped build regular shelves, and the collection continued to grow.

McCracken said it is estimated that only 10 percent of genealogy source material is available online, so it can be very important to an individual doing research to have a site such as the library.

Although the major focus is on Cleveland County, research materials are by no means limited to that topic. Also collected are Native American records and materials; information on Oklahoma Territory, Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma; items pertaining to other states, particularly those along common migratory routes to Oklahoma; and items of a general nature such as military history and immigration.

In addition to the cemeteries, the society has indexed Cleveland County divorces, Civil Court records, land patents, marriages, naturalizations, tax books, widows’ pensions and funeral home records. The records available begin in 1890.

Scrapbooks contain clippings on marriages, engagements and obituaries, indexed by surname. Other files contain information on surnames, localities and general subjects. The library also offers city and telephone directories, many school yearbooks, even some school grade books, and some county church histories.

The Native American collection includes some tribal rolls, marriage records and vital records such as births, marriages and deaths, mostly for tribes that have resided in Oklahoma. While the library does not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage on this topic, volunteers will guide researchers toward appropriate materials and teach genealogical skills to help them.

“We encourage those who wish to find their ancestral roll numbers to visit the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City,” a society brochure says, “where the records they seek may be found and the staff is familiar with the resources.”

The microfilm collection includes early-day Cleveland County newspapers, some volumes of Indian pioneer history, Oklahoma tract books, census records, probate files, mortgage records, deeds records, tax lists, marriage records and divorce records.

Currently, the research library is located just inside the south entrance to the Community Services Building on the northwest corner of East Main Street and 12th Avenue Northeast. It is open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. All research is free of charge except for the cost of copies, and member volunteers are on hand to direct searchers to the materials most likely to be of use to them.

The society will be moving its collections to the new Norman Public Library, to be located north of Andrews Park, when it is completed in about three years. At that time, the library staff will take over the administration of the collection. Society volunteers currently are weeding out books and materials that will not go into the library collection. Kathryn Ramsay, Norman Public Library genealogy librarian, is cataloging the books to NPL protocols.

To learn more, check the society website at ccgsok.com or call 701.2100 for current information.