Ella Hatfield, genealogy librarian at Citizens Library, recalled how a father and son drove from Anchorage, Alaska, to the library’s Dorothea and Henry H. Hood Local History Center this summer to research their family history.
Hatfield said the man, who homeschooled his autistic son and whose descendants had once lived in the Washington area, told her he had organized the educational trip so his son could gain firsthand knowledge of geography, history and genealogy.
“We’ve had people from New Zealand and Australia, and from all over the United States, come to the history center to look through our records. During the summer, people are waiting in line for the microfilm readers,” said Hatfield.
Last week, the library dedicated the center in honor of the late Dorothea and Henry Hood, longtime board members and supporters of Citizens Library. Henry Hood’s great-grandfather, Dr. Francis LeMoyne, donated $10,000 to build Citizens Library, and the Hoods’ sons, Paul and Henry, provided a large financial contribution for the history center in memory of their parents.
The dedication ceremony culminated a nearly two-year project to build the library’s history room, which opened in April.
“It is only fitting that we dedicate this space and name it for these outstanding community members,” said library Director Diane Ambrose.
The Hoods’ legacy will enable patrons to explore Washington County’s rich history and to search their own histories.
Among the history center’s extensive collection of equipment and materials are two state-of-the-art microfilm reader/printers, scanners, the Washington Observer-Reporter dating to 1808, court documents, wills and deeds.
Access to all of the information in the history center is free and the only cost is a 20-cent per page printer fee. The microfilm reader/printers will enable patrons to email documents and information, or to download information on a flash drive.
Library patron Bill Beitler of Washington attended the dedication and later searched among the books and materials.
“It’s impressive,” said Beitler, a history buff who settled on a book that included information on the brief time that a portion of Southwestern Pennsylvania was a part of the state of Virginia. “I’ll be back here often.”
Ambrose said she knew when she arrived at Citizens Library that the historical resources were valuable and needed to be consolidated and showcased.
Hatfield said that through Nov. 21, nearly 700 patrons signed in to the history center, and 12,415 ancestry.com searches were conducted. She responded to almost 100 emails, and she fields telephone calls daily from people inquiring about historical and genealogical information.
“There are a lot of resources here,” said Hatfield. “My best advice is come here and see it for yourselves.”