Digitized Church Records Recover Genealogical Research for Peshawbestown Families | New
TRAVERSE CITY – The Traverse City Area District Library has digitized over a century of marriage, birth and death records from Immaculate Conception Church in Peshawbestown for genealogical research.
As part of TADL’s efforts to increase access to material, the library released a collection of 18 PDF documents scanned from three microfilm reels containing various archival documents collected by the Immaculate Conception Church, also known as the name of St. Kateri Tekakwitha or the Indian Church Immaculate Conception. of Peshawbestown, dating from 1850-1953.
The digital copies were created from a microfilm copy that was donated by Northwestern Michigan College in the Spring of 2020. All original documents are privately held by the Diocese of Gaylord and are not opened to the public without permission.
“Making these documents accessible to the public is very exciting,” said Michele Howard, Director of TADL.
Before scanning, the reel reading process was extremely time consuming and required an individual to go reel by reel, Howard explained. This format makes them available anytime, anywhere with a working internet connection, and she hopes this will help “connect the community with more resources”.
Adult Services Coordinator and Project Manager Melissa McKenna said the idea of formatting them into digital copies was pretty straightforward. “These are not our records,” she said, adding that it is important for families to own their own history.
The project is a close partnership between the Library and the Ottawa Grand Traverse Band and the Chippewa Indians, and Howard and McKenna said TADL is handing over all original historical records to the tribe.
For Vicki Wilson, who has researched Native American families and tribes in Michigan for the past 48 years, this is a monumental milestone for the “information age.”
Wilson has owned a copy of one of the reels for over 20 years and said she liked the idea of making it visually accessible and documented for the community.
Now retired and with a hard drive full of archival documents, Wilson spends a lot of time helping many GTB families research their ancestral lines. She runs a blog titled “Honoring Native Ancestors,” where important historical documents, including photographs and records are uploaded, along with detailed family chronologies on requested ancestors.
Wilson believes that, more importantly, all Indigenous documents should be open to the public.
Samantha TwoCrow, an Anishinaabe federally recognized by the Ottawa Grand Traverse Band and the Chippewa Indians, agrees.
She explained that huge gaps in history and the ability of the Anishinaabek to know where they came from and to trace who their ancestors were become unknown.
“My family suffers from knowing that there are important story boxes in the basements of private collectors or institutions and that we may never see them,” she said.
Ultimately, TwoCrow states that all private documentation regarding indigenous peoples or tribes should be returned to their tribal nations.
“We know what’s best for our people,” TwoCrow said. “Our stories must be in our hands. “
She exclaimed that the accessibility of these particular documents in digital format to the public “is life changing” for herself and her family, and also potentially for other Anishinaabek in the region. TwoCrow became interested in genealogy while in college years ago and began his own research of family records to try and connect more with his identity.
She said she found herself digging through piles of documents over the years, but like many others in her community, she came to a dead end.
“The system was designed not to rebuild us,” she said, referring to systemic oppression, residential schools, children adopted out of the tribe, names changed or misspelled and dates of events. poorly documented.
TwoCrow said she applauds the efforts of the Traverse City District Library and those involved in making these vital historical documents readily available to the public.
“The importance of Indigenous history is vital for all to have a full and comprehensive understanding of our history,” said TwoCrow.