Marieta's Retirement Ramblings

Buena Vista County Genealogical Society, Storm Lake, Iowa


Continuing in the quest to find hidden genealogical resources:

Buena Vista County Genealogical Society
221 West Railroad
Storm Lake, Iowa 50588

Open Thursday 2-4 p.m. and by appointment

Energy! We met with Kristen Watts; she is young and energetic! Kristen recently became librarian after my long-time friend, Janice Danielson, needed to downsize and move out-of-state. Janice had been librarian for years, perhaps twenty years or more. She knew this library backwards and forwards, but we were impressed with Kristen’s knowledge, skills, and ideas.

Located in an old building that is part of the historical society, this library is stuffed to the gills. Two collections are especially large: original probate files and original newspapers.

The probate files occupy many filing cabinets and have been indexed (publication available for purchase from the society).

The Storm Lake newspapers have been digitized by Advantage Preservation and are available on the Storm Lake Public Library website: The Alta Advertiser newspapers have not been digitized, however, the society has created a finding-aid index of births, marriages, deaths, and major events. The library also has copies of the Aurelia Sentinel newspaper published in neighboring Cherokee County.

Kristin explained that sometimes the volunteers feel a little like orphans, accepting whatever someone else doesn’t want. However, this has given them an “edge;” they have a unique collection.

The society’s cemetery survey publications were created in 1988-1990 and desperately need to be updated. Kristen said work is progressing. She is scanning the current publications and converting the PDF files to WORD documents using a free version of ABBYY finereader 6.0 Sprint. Then she is walking the cemeteries and adding the new information to the document. Sometimes the conversion process isn’t perfect, so she has a little cleanup to do, but it is so much faster and easier than retyping everything.

She also had another technology tidbit: she purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.0 to index newspapers. (This is a voice recognition software that automatically converts the words of a speaker to text. It is my understanding that the user “trains” the software for the specific voice.) I asked her if she has any problems with this and she said some words are a problem, but overall it works great for her. Wow!

Other categories of holdings include (my husband estimates up to 12-14 liner feet for many of these categories):

The collection is significant.

When Kristen showed me the obituary collection I was surprised. Each obituary is placed in an envelope and the envelope is labeled with the deceased’s name, birth & death date and the source information: name and date of the newspaper. This was the first time I’ve seen the “envelope” system; I can see some advantages.

This library has moved above and beyond with equipment for library patrons to use: a laptop with printer and a hand scanner as well as the more common copy machine, fiche reader, and microfilm reader.

It was a pleasure to meet Kristen and to pick up several innovative, forward-thinking ideas! While we didn’t see other volunteers during our visit, it was obvious other dedicated people are helping in this endeavor.

Motto derived from the society’s award-winning Fourth of July parade float one year: Got ancestors, we’ve got answers!