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Ligonier library introduces digitized Echoes

| Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 5:24 p.m.

Nearly 4,000 visitors a year visit the Pennsylvania Room at the Ligonier Valley Library in search of family histories and other research project information .

The library will officially unveil its new digitized research system, providing faster, more efficient research capabilities, during the Genealogy Forum meeting 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Pennsylvania Room.

“We now have a powerful tool that saves a lot of time and extensive research,” said Janet Hudson, the library's director. “What would have taken hours and hours to complete through our old system, can now be done by simply typing key words to find references to the information needed.”

Acquired through a $25,000 grant from the Allegheny Foundation last year, the upgrade includes a new microfilm system and the digitization of the Ligonier Echo, from its first issue in 1888 through December, 2013. The upgrade to digital version will provide a valuable resource when researching birth, marriage and death information about ancestors.

“We are very grateful to the Allegheny Foundation,” Hudson said. “We would never have been able to do it without their assistance. We plan to use any money left over to create microfilm of the 2014 Echoes.”

The Allegheny Foundation concentrates its giving to the Western Pennsylvania area and confines most of its grant awards to programs for historical preservation, civic development and education.

A new set of the original 48 microfilm rolls of the Ligonier Echo was purchased from IMR Master, the company that maintains the original set of microfilms. Sixty new rolls of microfilm were created from editions of the newspaper that were not previously saved to microfilm (editions 2000 through 2013).

Images of each page of every edition was then digitized using Optical Character Recognition. This process converts the images to searchable texts and provides a more efficient way to locate a name or topic in the archives of the Ligonier Echo.

A ViewScan II Digital Viewer-Scanner provides a newspaper size view of each page on an oversized screen.

“We would really like to acquire digitized Echoes from 2014 and 2015 through the current issue,” said library archivist Shirley Iscrupe. “You would be surprised how many people come it to look up something from last week or last year. It would be a shame if we had to go through a stack of back issues to get this information, when we have everything else digitized.”

Iscrupe said she is excited for patrons to come and find out they can do a very quick search of the Ligonier Echo — a process that took a long time to do before the new state-of-the-art system was installed.

“It will be exciting to watch their reaction and see how much more research they can discover,” said Pennsylvania Room assistant archivist Theresa Schwab. “Our patrons are expecting the latest most technologically advanced methods that will help them do their research.”

When the Genealogy Forum started in 2002, Iscrupe said the group had 29 members.

“Of those 29 people, we soon discovered through our research, that six of us were related to the same ancestors,” Iscrupe said. “If your family has been in the Ligonier Valley for several generations, you will find they are probably related.”

Iscrupe said genealogy is the second most popular hobby after gardening. Interest in Ligonier is growing, she said. She credits an extensive collection of resources in the PA Room.

“We have every Echo since the newspaper was established. Not many communities can say they have that,” Iscrupe sad. “We also have a collection of family histories, an online genealogy database through ancestry.com, published books of cemetery records and tax lists. We are continually building up our resources.”

Tuesday's forum will feature a tutorial on the digitized Echo files and a revisit to ancestry.com. The event is free and open to the public.

The Pennsylvania Room is open 12:30 - 8:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or dbrehun@tribweb.com.

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