By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A local Boy Scout has finished an index for the Havre-Hill County Library to help people researching their family past.
Seth Hinckley's Eagle Scout project is a computerized database of nearly 20,000 births, deaths, marriages and divorces from editions of the Havre Daily News published from 1940 to 1950.
Hinckley, the son of Roger and Heather Hinckley, finished his Eagle Scout project Sunday and took the finished project to the library this morning.
He and nearly 100 volunteers spent months compiling the data from microfilm of the Havre Daily News at the library, then entering the data into a Microsoft Excel database.
Hinckley designed and oversaw the project from start to finish.
"We had a system going. It was pretty good," Hinckley said.
Library director Bonnie Williamson said she expects the index to get a lot of use. The Fort Assinniboine Genealogical Society and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints each hold classes of about 25 students who use the library, and about 100 people from out of the area come through each year to research genealogical questions, she said. Local people also use the library for research.
"Every Saturday there's half-a-dozen people in the genealogy section digging around," she said.
Hinckley said his mother is a genealogist and uses the library regularly. When Williamson suggested indexing newspapers for his Eagle Scout project, he decided to tackle it.
Williamson said she is happy that Hinckley chose to create the index.
"I think it's wonderful. An index is hard to compile," she said. "I was tickled Seth was willing to take this on."
His first step was interviewing local genealogists to find out what information they would like to have in the index. The final product includes the person's name, the date of the event and the nature of the event.
He said each broad category includes several subcategories. Marriages, for example, includes engagements, marriages and anniversaries.
He then recruited friends from Havre High School and members of genealogical societies, Friends of the Library and the local Pachyderm Club as volunteers.
"He worked very hard to get the word out," Williamson said.
Hinckley said about 95 volunteers put in more than 800 hours of work over four months to compile the information and enter it into the database.
That doesn't include people who helped out when asked things like, "'Honey, can you watch the kids?'" he added.
The program will save countless hours of poring over years' worth of microfilm to find a particular entry, Hinckley said. The database can be sorted by fields like name, date or type of entry, and the user can use a search engine to find something specific.
"It's not searching for a needle in a haystack," he said.
He said it also can be a tool for members of Friends of Genealogy, an organization across the country that will do research for people looking for specific genealogical research in a town.
The promotion to Eagle Scout would be the high point of Hinckley's Scouting career, which started when he was 11. An Eagle Scout board of review will be convened to review his records and his project, with a decision within three months.
The project had to be completed before his 18th birthday. Hinckley turns 18 Wednesday.
The new index adds to the library's other resources, Williamson said. Toni Hagener made a book indexing the contents of local newspapers, with an emphasis on historical events, published between 1893 and 1953, and the Fort Assinniboine Genealogical Society compiled a computerized index of old papers that the library has hard copies of, Williamson said. That index has 2,683 entries.
Williamson said she hopes other Scouts or other people or groups will continue Hinckley's work.
"We still have years of papers that need to be indexed," she said.