14 June 2024

History reborn: Town library revives services of Griffith Genealogical Society

| Oliver Jacques
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three people holding photo

Library staffer Rina Cannon flanked by former historical society volunteers Bob Turner, 86, and Marlene Gras, 88, holding a photo of Banna Avenue in 1924. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A volunteer-based group dedicated to preserving Griffith history that was wound up earlier this year has been revived by the town’s library.

Griffith City Library will take on the documents, records, photos and services that had been stored and provided by the Griffith Genealogical and Historical Society Inc since 1981.

“It’s disappointing that we folded but by the same token coming to the library has got its advantages. It’s more accessible hours-wise for the public,” society stalwart Marlene Gras said.

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Ms Gras’s group was previously based in a tiny building across from the Griffith Visitors Centre. It held subscriptions to websites ancestry.com and findmypast.com; a collection of old photos; land title certificates dating back to the 1800s; cemetery inscription copies as well as a host of other historical records and documents.

School students in 1949

The society held all sorts of historical photos, such as this one of a Griffith High School excursion to Scenic Hill in 1949, which included society member Clive Polkinghorne. Photo: Wendy Polkinghorne.

The society was wound up as it was struggling to remain viable, with costs outstripping revenue.

But now, anyone interested in tracing their family roots or researching the local history can visit them at the library for help.

“Some of the volunteers that were part of the society will now be based at our library. They’ll be here Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 1 pm to 3 pm,” the library’s Rina Cannon said.

“If you come in when they’re not in, our library staff can try and answer your question, but if we can’t we’ll take down your details and refer it to the volunteers, who’ll try and get back to you within a week.

“The society kept over 15,000 photos; we’re currently transferring them into our collections. All of the resources they had have been moved over to us. Marlene also donated us a panoramic photo of Banna Avenue in 1924, with all of the shops that were there then.

“In addition, we have the Area News and [former Griffith newspaper] Riverina Advocate digitised. The newspapers are archived on our public computers, going back decades. You just need to be a member, login to our PC and select the year you’re looking for. We’ve got 14 computers; you don’t need to book, as usually one is free.”

Ann Langford and Marlene Gras holding a long piece of paper

Ann Langford and Marlene Gras hold a plan of Banna Avenue on the street itself. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

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

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Ms Gras alongside other members 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.

“Christina Morris is also a whizz on family history,” Ms Gras said. “She’s done a fair bit tracing my husband’s Spanish roots and she can help you with your family history too.”

Griffith City Library, located at 229 Banna Avenue, is open Monday to Saturday.

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