Families seek Westwood Museum to research family history
The Felions are one of the original Westwood families. They moved west from Akeley, Minn. with the Walkers to build a mill in California. These descendants of Amanda and Hormidas (Raymond) Felion had traveled to Westwood to learn more about their heritage.
In a thank you letter to Church for her hospitality Barbara Tavares, the great granddaughter of Amanda and Raymond wrote:
“This day in Westwood had been planned for about a year. Cousin Rod Felion, of Sacramento, made a written “tour” of Westwood addresses of historical significance to the Felion family. This includes a stained glass window at Our Lady of the Snow Catholic Church in the name of our grandmother/great-grandmother Amanda Felion, the same person whose obituary we were researching. We had a wonderful walking tour of the town. This included admission into the home of Carl Ciaglio. The Elm Street house had been the childhood home of Donelda Vernon, the 95-year-old first cousin on this trip. The day in the late 50s that her parents moved out is the same day that Carl moved in. We didn’t think it could get any better, and then your generosity topped even that.”
Church, who has been involved in genealogy for many years, enjoys helping families research their history. One of her projects at the museum has been to create a database of surnames from the collection of newspapers. She has completed research from 1908 to 1923. The museum has copies of the Westwood Independent, a company newspaper, the Lassen Weekly Mail, Lassen Advocate and Sugar Pine Press.
“When they told me the name I knew it for I had ran across it in the newspapers,” said Church.
One of the members of the Felion party born in Westwood never knew her mother who had died in childbirth so they looked through the appropriate papers and found a short article on the incident as well as the funeral notice the following week. Church later made copies of the article and sent them to the woman.
According to Church, when she helps people in this way she feels as if she is repaying a genealogical debt because many people throughout the United States have helped her in her family research. For example, a couple of women in Charleston, South Carolina have looked through cemeteries and in the Lutheran Church books for information on her German ancestors who settled in the South. They mail Church the information and she reimburses them for their expenses.
In the thank you letter sent by Tavares, she said Church had helped her family make a special memory. However the museum volunteers find that the families who have a connection to Westwood’s past help them construct a richer record as well.
Church said the volunteers keep a journal where each writes down the experiences they have with the people who come into the museum to research family history and learn more about Westwood’s origins. In this way the stories the visitors tell are recorded.
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