Interested in Volunteering? Read this volunteer's story to learn about interesting projects you can help with.
It is not an
exaggeration to say that the Godfrey could not function without our dedicated volunteers. From greeting patrons and
helping them find their ancestors in our resources to adding books and
documents to the Scholar+ Online Library, volunteers are essential in nearly
every aspect of our operation. Wendy Berlind is one such volunteer who
began offering her services at Godfrey in 2011 when she retired after 30 years
of teaching. She has worked on indexing information from a number of our
collections to make it searchable online.
Wendy has worked on the
Ed Laput Cemetery project from the beginning, typing information from the Charles
Hale Collection of Connecticut Cemetery Inscriptions (a record of headstone
inscriptions from every Connecticut cemetery that existed in 1932) to be used
in creating the searchable database we provide on Godfrey Scholar+.
The Cemetery Project appeals to Wendy because she can work on it from home,
allowing for greater time flexibility. She typically takes on a single
cemetery at a time, typing all the names and appropriate data from the Hale
into excel spreadsheets. The amount of data she types varies from
cemetery to cemetery. Inscriptions for a cemetery she is currently working
on take up more than 100 pages of Hale. At approximately 30 headstones
per page she will be adding about 3000 entries to our cemetery project database.
While time consuming,
Wendy enjoys spending her spare moments working on the project. The tidbits of
information she learns from the headstone inscriptions help her to imagine the
lives of people whose names she is preserving. One cemetery had a staggering
number of children and young women, illustrating how precarious life was for our early ancestors. She also discovers stories in burials of
family groups which may show a number of children dying in infancy, remarriages,
or longtime widowhood. Sometimes
inscriptions carry a message, a place of birth or indication of
Wendy has found equally
fascinating information when she has indexed church records for us. Often these contain causes of death such as phthisis,
dropsy, and old age. Once in awhile
there are unusual or suspicious reasons for deaths. Unique to one Middletown church, there were a large number
of people who drowned in the nearby Connecticut River. "Negro servants", their families and
the families they worked for are documented in these records and possibly
nowhere else. Wendy says the fact that this is all local
history makes it that much more interesting and intimate.
Wendy's interest in
genealogy began when she was young, visiting a family home in New Hampshire every
summer which was filled with artifacts that belonged to her ancestors.
Her grandmother readily told stories about the family members in pictures and
to whom some of those artifacts belonged. Since then she has always loved
collecting and preserving family history. She had the good fortune to
have older relatives who were also avid genealogists and were happy to pass
their research on to her. One aunt in particular was an incredible
researcher who loved genealogy and, even before the advent of the internet and
digital research, was able to find a huge amount of information.