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History has its own rewards

Deborah Scott has always known that the volunteers in the Office of Historical Resources are special. Now, it's official.

The members of the office's Historic Associate program have been honored by the American Association for State and Local History for two of their works, The Historic Cemetery Survey of Citrus County and Marriage Book Facsimile Series, 1877-1969.

The association nominated both works for national commendation in its 52nd Annual Awards Program, a prestigious competition for achievement in state, regional and local history.

The volunteers earned the honor by putting in "hundreds and hundreds . . . thousands of hours," said Scott, Citrus County's director of historical resources.

Their work focused on 18 historical cemeteries in the county. The survey platted each cemetery and identified its plots.

The volunteers are Virginia Schmidt, Esther Yonkin, Vern Gray, Ellsworth Gray, Melba Ward, Ginger Ray, Ruth Oplinger, Maxine Canfield, Elizabeth Weaver, Pauline Lansden, Betty Daniel and Kathy Thompson.

To put together the Marriage Book series, volunteers Nedra Repp, Genevieve Ringeisen and Schmidt spent two years combing through archival books and county marriage rolls. The seven volumes are in alphabetical order and cross-referenced by bride and groom.

Bob McNeil, senior curator of the Museum of Florida History, said historians, genealogists and others find this type of research invaluable.

"It takes such a lot of work," he said. "It's no small feat."

Organized in 1940, the American Association for State and Local History initiated its awards program in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of local history throughout North America.

Deanna Kerrigan, director of programs at AASLH, said, "We primarily look for projects that reflect a commitment to state and local history . . . for individuals and organizations who are doing excellent work in regards to their means.

"Much of the outstanding work being done (in historical preservation) is being done in smaller communities," Kerrigan said. "I think people feel much more connected to their history in small communities. It has a more personal nature."

Scott agreed, saying her volunteers all possess "their own sense of awareness of why we need to preserve a community's local history. These are our roots."

The 1996 awards will be presented at a banquet Sept. 12 as part of the AASLH annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.