Payette Student Research Becomes Idaho Genealogical Society Pilot Project

While researching the named beneficiaries of the Canyon County Drainage Number Two System, Mary Trail began to wonder who were these farmers and what has become with their families and land in the nearly 90 years since Payette County was established?

In 2002, while researching the E.† B.† Cox farm for eligibility as a an Century Farm, Mary wrote an article for IGQ about one of the farms and the family that worked it for over 100 years.† It is hoped interested researchers will be encouraged by Mary's work to write about some of the other families from the irrigation drainage list.

Because McCain Middle School library has microfilm of a number of pre-1900 newspapers and librarian Mrs. Kay Stauff encourages students to use it to do research, Mary asked Kay if students might be willing to research some of these early North Payette farmers and their stories.† Readers may recall that Kay presented a workshop on historical research by students at the IGS annual meeting and statewide conference held in Caldwell in May 2002.

In February 2005, Language Arts instructor Mrs. Teresa Dillon told Kay that her Advanced Writing students would like to undertake the project.† The students had already studied essay writing with Connie Webster, a writer in residence at the school, who was sponsored by the Boise Log Cabin Literary Center.† Though it was a little late in the year to start a new writing activity and mandatory testing was underway, the students were enthusiastic about the project.

Mary prepared the list of names, found maps, and made copies from the George Ogle atlas of 1915 and the Charles F.† Metsker atlas of 1939, both of which published names of owners of parcels of land.† These materials were provided to the students, who then chose a family to research.

It was offered the elders of North Payette who still lived in the community could talk with and perhaps become mentors for the students, but because of time constraints this didn't happen.† A field trip through the area was also suggested, but this failed to materialize, as well.† Nonetheless, by early March, the project was underway.

Idaho Genealogical Society Pilot Project Emerges

IGS member Gerrie Stults, who like Mary has North Payette connections, wondered if the top-ranking student papers could be published in the IGS Quarterly.† While talking about the student history-writing project with Lynda Smithman, past editor of IGSQ, Mary learned that the IGS board was looking for a a pilot project involving young people engaged in family history research and writing.

It was agreed that the essay could be limited to the biography of one person or the story of an entire family.† If students elected to write about a relative, they explained why that person was selected.† Each essay should be the studentís best effort in writing and presenting genealogical and historical research.

Students were encouraged to contact relatives and visit libraries, cemeteries, and places that collect family information, such as local museums and web sites.† Interviews with parents and grandparents were encouraged as a means to document their lives.

† Interviewees were asked:

      Where did the family come from?
      Why did the family moved to where we live?
      What occupations that they have?† How long did they go to school?
      What are the interesting stories about members of our family?
      What vital statistics can be copied to verify some of the information?

† In addition to the essay, at least one primary document was to be included to verify research:

      Census records, noting the page where the family appears in the census
      Vital records, including copies of birth, marriage or death records
      Newspaper articles
      Books containing information pertaining to the family
      Cemetery records
      Court records
      Land records

Additionally, students were encouraged to include copies of photographs and other supporting records of their family genealogy and history.

To assess results, a panel of persons familiar with family history and research-based writing read the student essays.† First and second place winners were to be considered for publication in IGQ and awarded bookstore gift certificates by the Idaho Genealogical Society, who made a a donation of back issues of Idaho Geological Society Quarterly to the McCain Middle School library.

Copies of all essays are to remain on file with the Idaho Geological Society at the Idaho State Historical Society Archives and Research Library, the Payette County Historical Museum (family research files), and the Warren E.† McCain Middle School library.

The Results

In February 2006, six papers done by 13 students were received, reviewed, and ranked by Idaho Geological Society members Gerrie Stults, Cecelia Sachtjen, Lynda Smithman and Mary Trail, all with roots in Payette and Washington counties, and by Mrs. Dillon and Mrs. Stauff.

The submitted articles:

"Leroy Vernon Patch" by Mary Hershey and Jessica Mclay
"Morris W.† Watts" by Zech Bauer, Hillary Byars and Kendra Knighten
"The Durham Family" by Chelsea Barner, Brandt Buckner and Jeana Jeffries
"The Thurston Family" by Chelsea Turpin and Kelly Kindall
"The Osters" by Jordan Goff
"Robert Hamilton Woods" by Kelly Higby and Michael Grigg

One essayist, Jordan Goff, summarized the purpose and goal of the pilot project very well: "Ö† I am pleased to have the chance to research the family I quite literally never knew."

And Jordan's research paid off, because Jordanís essay, "The Osters," was deemed second place by the reviewers.† It was close on the heels of the first place article, "The Robert Hamilton Woods Family of Payette County, Idaho," by Kelly Higby and Michael Grigg.

Idaho Geological Society wants to thank everyone involved in the project, especially the teachers and students who put so much time, skill, and passion into it.† It is with pleasure that the Idaho Geological Society presents the two winning entries immediately below.

† From the Idaho Geological Society Quarterly, Summer, Fall, Winter 2006, Volume 49, Number 2, 3, 4, Page 5-6

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