Home News Local News Roswell has the only independent genealogy library in the state

Roswell has the only independent genealogy library in the state

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Charles Berry does research at the Wilson-Cobb Genealogy Library. (Curtis Michaels Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

When you’re trying to learn about your family’s history, or how far back you can trace your ancestry, you want to get to know a genealogist and you want to gain access to a genealogy library. Fortunately, Roswell has a number of genealogists and the only independent genealogy library in the state of New Mexico.

Kay Lewis, the secretary for the Wilson-Cobb Genealogy Library, and Suzanne Lamontine, the second vice president for the library, told the Daily Record a little about the library.
“Work on the library began in 1999,” Lewis said. “That’s when we first started thinking about having a library. A lady was getting older and she said none of her children were interested in any of her books or any of her work and she just hated to see it go in the trash.”
Sharie (Wilson) Chesser and Katherine (Cobb) Stewart founded the library. For a while, they had no place to keep everything.
“It took us about a year to come up with a building,” Lewis said. “It was on West Second Street. We were there for about two or three years. It belonged to General Knowles. He and his wife were very kind to us. When they sold the property we found the building we’re in now. It has worked out well. It’s divided up well for us to put things where they work best. We moved here about 14 years ago.”
The library relies on volunteers to remain staffed.
“Volunteers are assigned today,” Lewis said. “We have a policy that there will always be two people here. We get donations of books and periodicals or journals all the time. Trying to keep track of them, getting them accessioned, getting them catalogued takes a lot of time. The books are on a Dewey Decimal System.
“If we do ever catch up with the work of the library we’re allowed to do our own personal genealogical work.”
Donations of histories as well as money have made quite a difference for the library as well.
“We started out with four sections of shelving,” Lewis said. “Over the years, we’ve added more and more. It’s getting to the point that we’re going to have to do some thinning out of our bookshelves.”
They like to present one major speaker in the field every year so that Roswell’s family researchers can learn a bit more about how to effectively research.
“We rent the Civic Center and have a day-long seminar there,” Lewis said. “We furnish lunch, snacks and tote bags. We always get someone who is well known and established in their field to get the best education we can for genealogists in this area. We had Josh Taylor from Genealogy Road Show come a few years back, and we had the best turnout ever.”
Last year they had Judy G. Russell, known as “The Legal Genealogist,” come in and talk about DNA.
This year they’ve got someone to expand on search engine knowledge.
“This year, the event is Oct. 21,” Lewis said. “We’re having Lisa Louise Cook who has a genealogy blog with over 2 million followers. She’s going to teach us how to use Google for different things. She’s written several books on the subject. We thought that this would be a good time to invite somebody like her to come in and talk to people about how to do those kinds of searches.”
The library works with the local Mormon church in their genealogical works.
“We maintain a good relationship with them,” Lewis said. “They always donate items for our tote bag at the annual event. It’s important that all of these organizations work together. They have things we don’t have and vice-versa. They’re doing away with microfiche records. More and more of that stuff is on the internet.”
Lamontine used to be a volunteer there, so she can advise researchers on what’s available there.
“I volunteered at the Mormon church for several years,” Lamontine said. “We’re open Monday, Wednesday and Friday and they’re open on Tuesday and Wednesday all day and on Saturday afternoons. I tell people they’re available. There’s more and more on the internet, but some of the information won’t be on the internet for years yet.”
As is all too common with the internet, it’s caveat emptor all the way.
“When you’re doing research online you have to be careful,” Lamontine said. “Some people will see a name and put it on their family tree without bothering to look at any details. It could be the wrong person. When you see research that doesn’t site any sources, be careful.”
Anyone interested in researching their family heritage is invited to become a member. Membership benefits include a newsletter, reduced workshop fees, and a chance to serve on the Board of Directors. Memberships are from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
The Wilson-Cobb library can be contacted by phone at 575-622-3322, online at wilsoncobb.org or by going to the library at 301 S. Richardson Ave.
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.