History of Amarillo Genealogical Society
The Society was formed in 1957. The first formal meeting of the society, according to the recorded minutes, was Dec 2, 1957 at the Mary E. Bivins Library and had 25 members join with Mrs. Woodson Coffee Acting Chairman. It was called the Panhandle Genealogical Society. According to the Dec 5, 1977 minutes,” later other societies were organized and the name was changed to Amarillo Genealogical Society” (this changed happened just before the first workshop in 1960). From the very beginning, the meeting dates were the first Monday of the month at 7:00 P.M. and generally lasted until 8:30 P.M. The Society paid for memberships to selected journals such as the Kentucky Historical Register and the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography and began using the budget to purchase the 1840 Census of Georgia, the 1860 and 1870 Censuses of Texas, some maps, gazetteers and atlases and microfilm readers (their first one cost $50) and microfilms.
Mr. Manwarring newly elected President presided at a special meeting of the Panhandle Genealogical Society on Monday night December 16, 1957 at 7 PM. Guest speaker, Cardin Higley, spoke about the origin of the Portland Society and how they began their organization with three members and $6.00. Dues were $2.00 yearly. The Portland Society had over 200 members.
In short order, a Family Card File was being kept at the Genealogy Room in the library. People filled out a card showing the family lines they were working on. The intention was to form an index. Volunteers from the organization staffed the genealogy room at the library every Saturday afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00 PM.
The group did not formally meet in July and August. Their first picnic was held on July 16, 1960 and records of another in 1965. In the 1977 notes were mentioned that the “social meetings of the year were the picnic and the December dinner meeting.” The picnics were held in the city parks and at the Federated Club. The Society financial statement on Oct 3, 1960 included a balance of $87.20. The group voted to purchase 500 pedigree charts at $4.50 per 500, 250 family group work sheets at $2.25 and 250 inquiry sheets at $2.25 to be placed in the Genealogy Room of the library to be sold at three for 5 cents.
The Society began hosting the all-day Saturday workshops on October 8, 1960. They went from 9:00am to 9:00pm. In March of 1963, The membership was eighty-four; thirty of whom had not paid their 1963 dues. Notices were sent out. They had committees for the workshop: Greeting and registration, exhibits, social (refreshments and noon meal), explanation of exhibits, sales of materials, assistants for advanced class, beginners class. There were three or more people for each committee. The average attendance during the 1960’s was twenty members.
The Society celebrated it’s 10th anniversary in the auditorium of the Wolflin Public School, Oct. 29, 1967. One hundred and fifty-five people came from ten towns despite a cold snowy day. Twenty five tables displayed family records and treasures, past presidents served as greeters and refreshments were served. The membership in 1967 was 135. During the 1960’s several of the regular meetings were held in the dining room of the Colonial Cafeteria. On Jan. 2, 1961 there were twenty members and eight guests that ate and had their meeting at the Colonial Cafeteria, officers were installed on this day as well; 1961 started the Centennial of the Civil War and members were asked for unpublished letters, articles and anecdotes on the lives of their war dead for each issue of the club bulletin for the upcoming year.
Feb. 5, 1961 there was a meeting at 2:30 in the afternoon at the home of Mrs. Coffee and discussions were held on membership, finances, bulletin and workshop details. It was reported that less than half of the memberships had been renewed for the new year. A second all-day workshop was planned during this meeting to be held at the Library on Thursday, May 4, 1961.
It is the custom of the society to place a book in the library in memory of each deceased member. The membership had reached 314 during the 1970’s.The donations of books, microfilm and other materials in the amount of $ 4,557.57 were made between 1957 and 1977. The total expenses for the same time period were listed at $ 5,157.65 and $ 9,000.98 had been paid in dues. $500 dollars was spent on buying books for the collection in 1977. Many books on Heraldry were added to the Library by the Society for more than a dozen countries during the 1960’s.
A Family Tree Spring Festival was held in the Senior Citizens Building, the old Amarillo High School on Sunday March 31, 1974 from 2:00pm-5:00 PM. The open house and display were for the purpose of stimulating interest for genealogical research by the visitors. Guests were asked to register and were served coffee. They then looked at many interesting displays of genealogical books, charts, data, documents, heirlooms and other items of interest. The members wore name tags and were available for questions.
Through the 1970’s the Society co-sponsored Jerry Sinise who was hired by National Sharegraphics of Dallas to write a history of Potter County. The society was to share in the profits of this book. During the 1970’s the Society hosted a six week workshop for beginning genealogists. In 1978 the Society held a two-day workshop with no less than ten committees – most of the committees had ten people serving on them. There was a Friday Noon luncheon ($6.00 each), a Friday night banquet ($10 each) and a Saturday luncheon ($7.00 – Chicken-fried steak!)
The numbers had swelled and by August 9, 1980, one-hundred and forty people attended the annual workshop event. There was even a wine and cheese reception at the Hilton prior to the event. June 18, 1983, a Saturday, the Society held a workshop at the Hilton Inn and the featured speaker was Delece Parmelee. The Society also had a booth at the Amarillo Air Show Oct. 8 & 9, 1983. Family Group Sheets from members were collected in March of 1983 for binding in May. This book is in the collection of the Amarillo Public Library today. In April 1983, the Society’s Board voted to sponsor three delegates to the National Genealogical Society Convention in Ft. Worth, April 14 and 15, 1983: Pauline Thompson, Beth Netherton and Linda Blanton. The first petty cash fund was motioned and set up Tuesday, June 15, 1982. It had $50 in it. The Lifetime membership fee was raised from $100 to $250. Plans for a genealogical tour to the Morman Library in Salt Lake City in 1982, sponsored by the Society were carried out. Forty-One Society members went on this trip; even the bus driver is mentioned in the Society’s notes. The last notebook on the library shelves of the Society’s history ends with 1983.
The challenge for you – please continue to help collect and preserve this historic society’s goals, continue it’s mission of genealogical research and sharing – take an active part in your society and bring a friend!