Shown are some of the charter members of SCGSI in 1992: Maud Roy Breedlove Gray, Steve Carlisle, Stephanie Carlisle Miller, Jeannie Noe Carlisle. They are shown with John Hamblen from the Bartholomew County Genealogical Society, who assisted in organizing SCGSI.

With many people curious about their ancestry, more and more are using many research methods to discover their family history. While websites such as ancestry.com or familysearch.org can be helpful, Scott Countians have a local resource with an abundance of information. And now, through an endowment fund just established at the Scott County Community Foundation, the research efforts will be given financial support for generations to come.

The Scott County Genealogical Society (SCGSI) was formed in 1992 by Stephanie Carlisle Miller. Her parents, Steve and Jeannie Noe Carlisle, assisted her efforts. Charter members of the organization included many others who were dedicated to the cause.

“We felt there was a need to have a family history group that could help save the family histories in the area along with helping each other with the brick walls,” explained Jeannie.

In the early days, computers weren’t used to the extent that they are today. The “old-fashioned” methods of pencils and paper, microfilm and microfiche were utilized, as were trips to libraries and other states. Visits with genealogical and historical groups and even questioning older members of families were key to getting information. Meetings were filled with guest speakers and hands-on research.

“We searched for clues all of the time,” shared Jeannie. Huge census books and the Kentucky Historical Society Library provided a wealth of information, as many Scott County residents trace their roots to the Appalachian region.

In 2003, SCGSI held the grand opening of its research rooms at the Scott County Heritage Center and Museum. The group has utilized grants and donations to update equipment so that items can be scanned for preservation. Over 70 old courthouse books were recently donated and scanned for safekeeping, along with other old, fragile books. These will be placed on the Indiana Memory statewide collection of historical resources hosted by the Indiana State Library.

Jeannie suggested that those who are researching family history should be careful when documenting family history.

“Always prove the information you find from other sources,” she said. There is a lot of fake information on the internet or unintentional errors that can’t be corrected, Jeannie stated. “Don’t believe anything is correct until you prove it yourself by reading the original writing yourself. Remember, computer sites are just a clue.”

She also shared that DNA is another new way of researching family lines, with Marilyn Hutton Chamberlain serving as SCGSI’s DNA expert.

Researching history can sometimes lead to interesting finds of famous relatives and fascinating stories of bygone times. Marsha Miller-Smith shared how Jeannie got her “hooked” on genealogy after Jeannie invited Marsha to attend a meeting in 1999.

“I started researching my paternal Miller line,” shared Miller-Smith. She did a lot of internet research until finding a relative who was able to help trace further back until they both hit a brick wall.

“I then started looking at the women who married the Miller men,” said Miller-Smith. “That’s when I found a gold mine in genealogy. My third great-grandmother, Elizabeth Green Clark Miller, was the daughter of General Marston Green Clark and Lucy Harper of Luneburg County, Virginia. They were friends with Thomas Jefferson and many of the framers of our country.”

“Marston had come to what is now Clark County, Indiana/Louisville, Kentucky in the late 1790’s and lived with his first cousin, General George Rogers Clark (GRC),” continued Miller-Smith. “Their fathers were brothers. In addition, William Clark was the other famous brother of GRC who accompanied Meriwether Lewis in 1803 with the Corps of Discovery on the Lewis and Clark expedition. “

“In 1798, Marston went back to Virginia and brought his bride, Lucy Harper, to the southern Indiana wilderness,” said Miller-Smith. “Lucy’s family owned Harper’s Ferry, which was recognized during the Civil War when they captured and hung the abolitionist John Brown.  Although my grandfather Marston is what I call the ‘unknown Clark’, he has quite a colorful biography to brag about.  Prior to settling in Salem, Indiana, he served in 1803 in the Territorial Militia and was appointed by General William Henry Harrison as his Staff Brigade Major in the Battle of Tippecanoe.  He also fought alongside Harrison in the War of 1812 and he and Harrison become very good friends.  In 1814, when Indiana was still a territory, Marston served in the Territorial Legislature, then continuously served in both Houses from 1820-1836. He was a scout, surveyor, judge, and a well-known cartographer like his cousins.  William Hayden English described my grandfather Marston as a ‘tall fine-looking man and when dressed in his frontier costume, was a splendid specimen of early pioneers’ in his book, Conquest of the Northwest.”

By having a local organization to share tips and assist in research, Miller-Smith was able to discover her interesting family lineage. Having this organization is crucial to so many people who have different reasons why they search for ancestors. Some of these include determining if family stories about ancestors are true, finding out if you are related to someone famous, gaining a better understanding of an ancestor’s involvement in a famous historical event, tracing medical conditions, family inheritance and land ownership, or even finding birth parents. These and many other reasons help fulfill a desire to learn more and pass on a legacy to future generations.

SCGSI has hosted many events and fundraisers over the years, from music fests and dinners to commemorative calendars and books. Members have relied on these fundraisers to pay for rent of the research rooms at the Museum, as well as other expenses needed to preserve family histories. After a recent business meeting, members decided to establish an endowment fund at the Scott County Community Foundation to ensure their mission would be supported for years to come. With an endowment, the donations are invested, and only a portion of the earnings are used for grants each year, allowing the fund to last in perpetuity.

“The Scott County Genealogical Society members are in a unique position to truly understand the affects that each generation has on the next one,” said Scott County Community Foundation Executive Director Jaime Toppe. “Through their research and preservation of family histories, they allow people to learn about the impact of decisions made long ago. We are honored that the members have entrusted the Foundation to provide a way to support their mission for many more generations.”

Interested persons can join the other 150 members of SCGSI who are living all over the United States. The membership fee is only $12 per year and provides access to many local resources.

Those who are interested in researching family histories are invited to attend SCGSI meetings, which are held on the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Museum. Visiting and refreshments are held first, with the business meeting starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by a program. You can also go in person to research on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., excluding holidays. Appointments may be scheduled for after hours. Any questions can be directed by calling 812-752-3388 or emailing researchrooms@scgsi.org.

To donate to the Scott County Genealogical Society endowment fund, you may send your tax-deductible contribution to the Scott County Community Foundation at PO Box 25; Scottsburg, IN 47170. You may also stop in the office at 60 N. Main St., Scottsburg. For more information on giving now or through a planned gift, please call the Foundation at 812-752-2057 or email info@scottcountyfoundation.org.