DONATION STORY

I am very happy to share you with you one of those "People Do The Nicest Things" stories that just cheer our hearts no end!  This one really made my day -- for a lot of days.

I fairly frequently (but not frequently enough, I'm afraid) make a systematic search of eBay looking to see if any poorhouse records or memorabilia are up for sale.  When I find the original (yup, the original old hand-written, nobody-else-has-a-copy and they-were-never-printed) records, it's a frustrating Good News/ Bad News situation.

Near the end of June someone put up for auction a volume called 
CITY OF OSWEGO DEPT. OF  CHARITY JOURNAL 1903. 
There followed many photos of the journal itself as well as several entire pages with some details shown in close-ups. (Click here to see eBay write-up.)
 
I stumbled upon this eBay item on July 3rd.  Only one bid was shown on it so far ... and that was likely the opening bid which the seller had posted.  The auction was due to end on July 5th. Now, I knew this was a wonderful chunk of history which would also contain tons of "genealogical gold!"  But it was a holiday weekend.  In situations like this in the past I had been frustrated when I would frantically try to locate and contact appropriate "official" local entities -- ie. historical societies, genealogical societies, local historians, librarians, state archivists, etc. etc. etc. --  and they would generally give me either the big ho-hum (after all, who is interested in poorhouse stuff, right?) or explain that saving such records for the public domain was really "not their job", or tell me there was really no money in the budget for such purchases. And that was before our current budget crisis in every state and county government in the country!

This time, I knew I couldn't afford to buy it myself ... as I was able to do once in the past when I contacted a seller who generously offered to sell it to me at his cost once he understood it's historic value.  He did that on condition that after I was through with it I would donate it to an appropriate archive...which I had the pleasure of doing.  (See previous story at  http://www.poorhousestory.com/poorhouses_in_massachusetts.htm )

I also knew there was not time (because of the holiday weekend) to contact local officials. So, I did the only thing I could think of:  I posted an alert about this auction to the Rootsweb e-mail list for Oswego County NY.  (Drumroll, please!)  Wow! Did they ever respond. (Unfortunately they may have wound up bidding against themselves to the same purpose; but we have not yet figured out how to avoid that in such cases.)

At any rate, what resulted is a wonderful story.  Diane & Barry Colby are a "simple" (their word, not mine) married couple who live in Buffalo NY.  (That's not even in Oswego County! Don't ya just love the internet?)  

On July 5th, Diane excitedly posted the following to that list: "I just wanted to let you know that I bid on the Poorhouse Records from Ebay and WON! Instead of keeping the book, I would like to return the book to Oswego and was wondering where this book should go to???  Let me know what you think." Lots of folks made suggestions and Diane decided to donate it to the genealogical society and let them decide where to archive the journal.  

But I was very curious about how they came to make this purchase and donation. Diane simply explained: 

"My husband and I were married 33 years on the 4th of July and this is my anniversary present from him. When I saw the email regarding the book this is what I asked him for and he made sure that I got it!! Thank you Barry!

My reason for donating the book to back to Oswego instead of keeping it is: My grandmother was from Oswego and my grandparents met, fell in love and were married there. In fact I believe I still have family there."

And we all say, "Thank you Barry!"  (I checked the eBay results and the final price was about $241.00. It's pretty certain that not many official archives or historical/genealogical collections would have been able to pay that price.  I know I could not!)

I have done a little arm-twisting (these folks didn't do this for fame or acknowledgement) ... and Barry & Diane have agreed to let me write up a photo story about the saving of this journal for our next newsletter. The only thing that convinced them to let me do that was when I told them ...

I know you don't want to make a big splash. But I think what you have done so generously can help other people see how they could make a similar contribution. With state and local governments having such severe budget problems right now, I am afraid that it will only be private citizens (just simple people like you guys) who can step up and make the difference to help us preserve much of our history. Otherwise ... these kinds of records may be lost to the public if they are sold to collectors who may not know (or care) that they would be of help to many many other people. ...  Remember, this is not to praise you (which I think might embarrass you, even though it  is certainly deserved!) but to praise the IDEA of what you did -- so that it may catch on and others may become enthusiastic about saving history themselves.

Please consider this. It could make the good you have already done multiply ... by a lot.

Thanks,
Linda

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