|Our history as remembered by a few of our Past Presidents
Ilsa Lezgus, Past President and Founding Member
I had been working on my own genealogy since 1980, alone, learning from the ground up from “How to” books borrowed from Central Avenue Library. I called Jane and met her at her home near Orange Tree. We were both working on German records. We put our heads together and got a group together, made up of former students and people who called her about the newspaper article.
The first meeting was at the Golden Gate Library next to the firehouse. We met in the evening when the library was closed, jumped thru hoops to get the key, and were only allowed in the front children’s room, with no access to the reference area. There was no air-conditioning on at that time, it was summer and HOT. We had children’s chairs and tables. As much as I can remember, these people were present: Leland Boyd, Jane Ruck, Jim Beauchamp, Margaret Najork, Kathy Nourse, Fraydelle Parker, Phyllis Breen, Pastor Woomer, Esther Fraats, Alberta Sheldon, and Ilsa Lezgus.
We decided to meet once a month. Probably the next meeting, we elected officers: Jane Ruck, President, Leland Boyd V P, Sec…… & Treas. Ilsa Lezgus. Dues were set, I think at $4 yr. Jane wanted the name: Golden Gate-Naples Genealogical Society and the mail went to her house.
The Treasurer’s report from December 19, 1984 had a balance of $38.58.
Jane Ruck was president. January of 1985 dues increased to $7 year. In February of 1985, we had 8 paid members and $94.58 in the bank. April 1985 we had 11 paid members. In February of 1985 we joined the Florida State Genealogical Society and have been a member ever since.
Jun 19, 1985, by-laws passed.
Jane had insisted all along that she wanted to keep the group meeting in Golden Gate and would not accept the move. She reluctantly came to the meeting; we presented her with “The Source” Book and thanked her for her work on our behalf. This meeting was the turning point for our society. We had 40 people attend, many of them joined.
Don Dixon was elected president. We had 20 members, dues increased from $7 to $10 single or $15 husband and wife, (One address).
In February 1986, we were told we could no longer meet at High Point Clubhouse; not enough members from High Point. Don Dixon was an executive at Marine Savings and Loan, and made arrangements for us to use the bank meeting room at 2400 N Tamiami Trail, Naples beginning March 1986. At the same meeting the name was changed from Golden Gate-Naples Genealogical Society to Genealogical Society of Collier County. Betty Grissinger suggested this name because it would be easy for people of Chamber of Commerce to find on their list. (Beginning w/genealogy), and Collier County covers larger area. Society Banner name had to be changed. In December 1986, we had 47 members.
Wally McCoy was elected president and we had 59 members. Anne Kane suggested we open a post office box for our mail, which we did. P O Box 7933, Naples. In April Anne Kane had been librarian, and the books were getting too heavy, so she switched with Leland Boyd, who was handling AGLL film orders. At that time, Pastor Woomer invited us to his church: North Naples United Methodist Church, Parish Hall, 600 Seagate Dr., Naples. Our first meeting there was November 18, 1987.
Janet Larson was elected president and in February 1988 we had our first paid outside speaker: Angus Baxter, author of many genealogical books.
Ilsa Lezgus was elected president and in March 1989, we have our bookcase, with tables and bulletin boards.
Ilsa Lezgus is president and the newsletter began to be mailed to members, instead of postcards.
I became a member of the Collier County Genealogical Society sometime in 1989 shortly after I moved to Naples on a full time basis. I phoned the number that I was given and Jeannie McCoy answered all of my questions and convinced me that I should become a member.
Back then we were meeting in Founders Hall of the North Naples United Methodist Church. Senior Pastor Woomer was a founding member of the Society.
The Society library consisted of perhaps a hundred books and magazines which were housed in a folding, wheeled bookcase. At the beginning of each meeting, this heavy bookcase was wheeled out of its storage area into the meeting room, unlocked and swung open into an “L” shape to display the books. A member could select one or more books to take home for a month, with the expectation that they would be returned at the next meeting. Each loan was recorded in and out in a log book that sat on top of the library or at a nearby table. At the end of the meeting the library was folded up, locked and wheeled back into storage. The wheeled storage rack of folding chairs shared the same storage space, which often had to be moved before we could get at our library. When we could no longer meet at North Naples United Methodist, our books were donated to the Collier County Public Library to begin the expansion of their collection into what it is today.
The society also had its own microfilm reader. Anne Kane handled the orders for microfilm to be rented from the American Genealogical Lending Library.
Back in those good ol’ days, Ilsa Lezgus was not only president, but she served as newsletter editor and as a one person Program Committee. Some of the programs included Angus Baxter to coming to tell us about researching in foreign countries and George Everton, of Everton’s Genealogical Helper magazine, arriving in a huge motor home and unloading box after box of books and other material which we helped carry in to be set up for sale. His wife presided over the sales while he presented programs on various genealogical subjects. Other speakers of note included Fran Carter, James and Paula Warren, and George Chapman.
Helen Eckhardt, President from 1998 until 2002
I joined the society about 1993 and was hooked from the start! At that time we were meeting at the United Methodist Church. Bob Holbrook was president and Ilsa Lezgus was the Editor of the Heirloom.
I was impressed by the set of “rolling” shelves which contained books that had been donated or purchased by the society. These were rolled out at every meeting and members were permitted to borrow the books between meetings.
The development of the Genealogy Collection at the Collier County Public Library (CCPL) was entirely due to the tireless efforts of Clara Obern and Doug Reid. They spent hours working on getting a collection together, getting the books cataloged properly and convincing the library that genealogy was popular enough to warrant its own space. Most of the books from the society collection were contributed to the Genealogy Collection of the library about 1994 when adequate space was dedicated by the library for such a collection. Later in 1994 a computer was provided to the genealogy collection and the Family Search program was installed by the Colonial Dames.
I believe it was in April 1994 while we were still at United Methodist we first celebrated our 10th anniversary with a pot luck supper. This is a tradition that has continued.
In January 1995 we moved our meetings to St. John’s (thanks to Bob Geroy’s efforts) and have been here since.
In 1996 we held our first Genealogy Workshop and because of its success, beginning in 1999, I have held Genealogy Workshops once or twice each year at the CCPL. These workshops have been very successful and are always completely booked which indicates a need in that area.
In 1998 the Alliance of Genealogical Societies of South West Florida was founded. Our society had been involved in establishing the Alliance from the beginning. I was President beginning in 1999 for two years. The group held its first GenFair in March 2000 with great success.
In 1999 Ilsa retired as Editor of the Heirloom and I took over and have been editor since. I have always enjoyed doing the Heirloom. As genealogy education is my bag, I enjoy finding information to aid the members in their research.
In April 2000 we began our first Special Interest Group – Brit SIG.
Charles Doebler, GSCC President from 2002 until 2006
What is the future of the Genealogical Society of Collier County? Since we are an educational organization we must constantly be aware what the members need in aiding their research today and what they will need tomorrow. This is the challenge that the Society Board faces as tries to plan a balanced program for Society members.
Personal computers have revolutionized genealogical research. A decade ago computers were used mostly in record keeping and by very few researchers. It was “paper and pencil” on the dining room table. It was trips to larger libraries and government facilities for census records, city directories and hard to find books. It was using the Soundex method of locating ancestors in the census records. Today most of the census records are indexed and on line using the personal computer at home or in a local library. Soundex as a tool may become a lost art to new genealogical researchers. One can find obscure records on the World Wide Web such as World War One Registration Records, pictures of tombstones in a hometown cemetery and tax records at the county court house that were once hard to find and are now on line. There is much more data to come. A member now can write and publish their family history either on paper or electronically. They can use pictures of old documents and color photographs at very reasonable cost. The future of the personal computer is just starting. To add to the present technology a completely new research area will open up to genealogical research. It is the use of DNA.
Using DNA in genealogical research is so new and foreign that most of our members haven’t even considered the options of this new tool. At the present time a researcher can find only living relatives or what origins one’s heritage might be. Our imaginations have yet to focus on the future of DNA in genealogical research yet we are the baseline for future generations to come. Over the next few years this will be an area of research that the leaders of the Society will keep our members informed and up to date.
The future is ours to explore. The beneficiaries are our descendants.
When I joined the Genealogical Society of Collier County at the end of 1999 I never dreamed that one day I would be the president. After my first meeting I knew that I wanted to become involved and help this wonderful organization grow. In late 2000, I was approached by the Board of Directors and asked to develop a website for the society. I secured space through the Naples Free-Net and became the GSCC webmaster. Shortly afterward, I was invited to join the board and have served continuously, holding several different offices, including four years as president.
With an eye on the future, one of my priorities as president was to incorporate the society with the state of Florida and become a federally recognized 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, which was accomplished in 2007. During this time we also ensured our financial future by participating in the Adopt-A-Precinct project where our members volunteer to work for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections on behalf of our organization. I was proud to be a part of this effort and work as the precinct leader for the first six elections.
I also became involved in publishing our monthly newsletter when Helen Eckhardt retired as editor in 2006. In 2008, I became the editor of the Heirloom. It has been my pleasure to serve the members of the society and make a contribution, along with all the other hard working members who volunteered their time and effort to ensure the future of our society.
Arlene Mauer, President from 2010 until 2014
I joined our Society in May 1997 after attending an exciting speech by Bob Holbrook about the Genealogical Society of Collier County. I am not sure he warned us that searching your family history could become so addictive and that it truly was a lifetime hobby. Bill Bergen was President and we were holding our meetings at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Park Shore. I immediately got involved in everything. I served as 2nd Vice President and Membership Chair for four years, Corresponding secretary for two years, followed by 1st Vice President; then on to serve as President for four years.
Our Society holds monthly meetings with great educational programs. We have nine active Shared Interest Groups known as SIGs. They are Brit, Canadian, Family Tree Maker, Genealogy Research, German, Jewish Genealogy, Reunion, Roots Magic and Wales. In 2009, our new meeting place was changed to the Moorings Presbyterian Church in the Moorings neighborhood. We have an informative eight-page newsletter, The Heirloom, edited by Michele Bender who is also our webmaster. Be sure to check that out. It has so much important information plus our surnames database. Marie Overman teaches Beginning Genealogy classes for several weeks in February and November each year. I have the pleasure of dressing our Showcase at the Collier County Public Library on Central Avenue each month with information about creating family histories.
Our Society is run by volunteers in many different functions and capacities. Please be willing to serve to help maintain and extend the vitality of our Society. We need your help. We have continued to celebrate our Society’s anniversary each year in April and look forward to the future.