McDonough County’s (IL) rich history spans all the way back to 1830. The County is named after Commodore Thomas McDonough, who was known for leading a successful battle against the British on Lake Champlain in the War of 1812. McDonough County is in Western Illinois, and isn’t far from the Missouri-Illinois border. It is also made up of 10 cities, and the population of the county is over 32,000 people.
We spoke with Julie Terstreip, the President of The McDonough County Genealogical Society about the recent project we completed. She walked us through her experience with Advantage Archives, some feedback from patrons on using the site, and why they decided to digitize their local history.
Julie had the following to say about the digitization of their local history, “In regard to the digitization at the Genealogical Society, we had so many microfilms. Our board had exressed concern about their deteriorating condition and wanting to preserve them. We also had discussed the cost of replacing our microfilm machine. Digitizing the microfilms of historic county newspapers solved both problems AND it gave access to this vital county history to our members who don’t have the ability to use our research center when we are open.
Regarding the digitization of the Camp Ellis News, I am aware of only two locations that have copies of these newspapers. They were award-winning newspapers for the whole Army during WW2 and they may be one of the few remaining places where the actual names of soldiers, WACS, and civilians who worked there are named. This is a VERY important part of South Fulton County, Illinois history, and it was slipping away quickly. I’m hoping by digitizing the newspapers, others will find this rich resource and it will spark interest in this area, this era of history, and the contributions on the home front by those in central Illinois. It’s so important to preserve a community’s history so we remember who we are.”
We are incredibly thankful that we were able to build such a great partnership with Julie and this community and ensure that their history lives on forever in a searchable manner. The Patrons of the community have had a great experience using the community history archives platform to search their history for free. Julie had the following to say about the patrons feedback, “We have made the publications available without requiring a membership to our Genealogical Society. We have had individuals contribute funds to help offset the cost based on the usability of the newspapers. We love getting the stories of how someone found interesting information about their ancestor. It may have been a birth announcement, marriage announcement, or death notice, but many times it’s something much more trivial yet heartwarming. Some examples include finding a rare photo of an ancestor in the newspaper, reading about their athletic abilities, or finding a copy of the farm sale notice for their family member. I use a saying a neighbor once coined that speaks exactly to this. He used to say, ‘Put clothes on the tombstones,’ and I believe this digitization project will continue to do that. Future generations will see their ancestors in a whole new light because they can easily search and access articles about them through the Advantage Archives website.”
At Advantage we always love to hear feedback from our end users. We take pride in providing patrons free digital access to THEIR local history. Hearing both positive and constructive feedback is very important to the evolution of our product. Julie had the following to say about how it was working with Advantage Archives and Michelle Maltas, “Our sales rep made things so easy I often thought to myself, “It can’t be this easy. There has to be a glitch or something else we’ll have to overcome to finish this project.” Actually, it WAS that easy!
I was very impressed with the knowledge of our sales rep not only about the process of digitization, but more so for the fact she serves as the person who answers users’ questions. She has a great knowledge of history and can help anyone think through different ways to query for the answers they need using the nomenclature of the era.” She also had the following to say about any institution that is on the fence about digitizing their collection. “To any organization considering using Advantage Archives to preserve your community history, DON’T WAIT! This information is TOO important to delay this project. Find a way to do it a little at a time if need be, but DO IT! You’ll be answering questions that others have been searching for.”