23 February 2024

Griffith historical society winds up after 42 years, but services will continue

| Oliver Jacques
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Sue Wade, Clive Polkinghorne and Anne Gribble with Tom Sandberg.

Society members Sue Wade, Clive Polkinghorne and Anne Gribble helping young Tom Sandberg trace his family roots. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A Griffith volunteer group that has spent the past 42 years preserving the history of the local area has officially wound up, but their work is set to continue in a different guise.

The Griffith Genealogical and Historical Society Inc, founded in 1981, also helped residents trace their family roots and identity.

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At its final annual general meeting on 8 February, a special resolution was passed to voluntarily cancel the registration of the society.

“Over time, it became more and more difficult to get members to run the society due to the ages and medical issues of the active members, and our membership was dwindling,” president Christine Gavin said.

“The majority of our assets and resources have been donated to the Griffith City Library.

“Many photographs went to the Griffith Pioneer Park Museum, and anything to do with the wars was donated to the Griffith War Memorial Museum. Those resources that the library did not want, usually because they already had them, have gone to the Leeton Family and Local History Society.”

Founding member Clive Polkinghorne said many of the volunteers who had spent four decades researching and writing about historical events weren’t ready to fade off into retirement.

“The society has wound up but the services we provide will continue,” he said.

“A lot of us have volunteered to do duty at the library; we’ll do a roster and get going once we organise it with the staff there.”

History buffs John Robinson and Graham Slingsby will also continue to post photos, articles and documents preserved by ex-society members on the Facebook page Old Griffith NSW Album.

“Clive and I went to school together; he is fabulous,” Mr Robinson said. “He continues to beaver away finding information for me to put on our page.”

School students in 1949

A Griffith High School excursion to Scenic Hill in 1949, featuring Clive Polkinghorne, preserved by the society. Photo: Wendy Polkinghorne.

A popular project launched by the society that is set to continue is mapping a complete history of the town’s main street.

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Marlene Gras, Ann Langford, Christina Morris, Marg Hare, Anne Gribble, Marg Tucker and others have researched the stories of every residence and business that have been on every block of Banna Avenue for the past 108 years.

Over the past few decades, the society did their work in a tiny Banna Avenue building opposite Il Corso Restaurant.

People could wander in off the streets and ask any of the amateur detectives on duty to help them find out about their family history.

“Sometimes people came here not knowing the names of their own grandparents … we don’t always find the answers but we try our best,” Ms Wade said.

“There’s now an online network of people who have done DNA tests. We can help you connect with others to solve family mysteries.”

The group maintained subscriptions to websites ancestry.com and findmypast.com, a collection of old photos, land title certificates dating back to the 1800s, cemetery inscription copies and a host of other historical records and documents.

The extent to which former society members will be able to continue providing genealogical services is yet to be determined.

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