Curt Witcher is truly passionate about local history and helping people find their stories. Currently the manager of the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library, he says, “I just get excited about helping others find their families’ stories.”
Everyone has a story, and with today’s tools, everyone can find their story. That’s Curt’s message!
An Early Passion for History
You could say that Curt got an early start on genealogy and family history. Growing up, he had a strong interest in reading history and biographies. He admits that as a child, he would sneak biographies into his bed and read, chancing getting caught by his parents and having the books taken away.
Curt loved stories—when he could get them—about his grandpa Valentine Witcher and his father, Charles. The Witchers were German and immigrated through the Cincinnati, Ohio, area to southern Indiana. “The Witcher family is pretty much still a mystery to me,” he sadly states. His parents didn’t talk a lot about their lives and their challenges, as they both grew up in very poor homes during the Great Depression era. What stories he found about their lives and his grandparents, he eagerly consumed.
Librarian and Genealogist at the Allen County Public Library
An early genealogy job that Curt remembers is an entry level position at his local public library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He liked it so much that he made it his career. As Curt got started on his family history and genealogy journey, a local high school asked him to assist a large group of students who expressed an interest in family history. He brought not only his interest but also the resources of the library. Community support helped build and maintain the Genealogy Center, and today the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center is the second largest genealogical research center in the country.
Curt Witcher boasts about the Genealogy Center, saying that it has 42,000 square feet of public space, 1.2 million items for researching, and technology for scanning and preserving documents and images. At the Allen County Public Library, Curt is the Director of Special Collections and the Genealogy Center manager. He is one of many capable librarians at the library, as noted on the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center web page, which boasts, “Our librarians aren’t just librarians—they’re genealogists!” You can learn more about Curt and his impressive genealogy credentials on the Center’s webpage.
Partnering with Other Family History Resources
Curt talks of his association with other influencers and libraries in the genealogy space. He has a strong relationship with David Rencher, the recent director of the FamilySearch Family History Library, and the current Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch. Curt has been a long-time participant and contributor to the annual RootsTech conference and has enjoyed engaging individuals in the “live exhibit hall.” You can check out his content on RootsTech.org.
Curt Witcher’s Excitement for the Upcoming Release of the 1950 U.S. Census
Curt is very excited about the recent release of the 1950 Census. The U.S. Census is taken every 10 years, with no census released to the general public until 72 years have passed. Many archive groups are partnering to get the 1950 census data into the hands of people everywhere who waited in great anticipation for the census release and the information it contains. He is anticipating a personal opportunity for him and the library he works at to get involved.
Getting Young People Involved with History
Curt Witcher is passionate about teaching younger generations about family history. He says we need to help our children develop a passion for history, and more specifically, their personal family histories. They could start by looking up their own surnames in records, for example. Family history is more than just historical facts, and by participating in family history work, children can see their ancestors as real people.
Curt’s 7 Steps to Get Started with Your Family History
Curt Witcher admits that discovering one’s family stories can be challenging, but the effort is rewarding and satisfying. He talks of the personal joy of getting old family journals written by his great aunt. Journals are a great way to learn details about your family and what they went through.
Curt suggests using a seven-step process to get started on your family story.
- Just get started! Don’t procrastinate and wait for the perfect time. Start now!
- Truly listen to your living family members. They are a thread to more family discoveries.
- Record the living history of your family members. Today it is easier than ever to do using a smart phone, a computer, or other technology you have.
- Share it! The best part about discovering family stories is sharing what you learn with the rest of your family. Photos and diary entries can really bring your story to life.
- Discover the family stories together. We can accomplish much more when we do things together.
- Get out and explore—visit the family homestead, go to the cemetery, go wherever your ancestors may have been.
- Enjoy your journey and everything along the way!
Curt makes genealogy and family history exciting—it radiates from him! He becomes animated and enthusiastic with any opportunity that he has to talk about it, and his words can be a great catalyst to get others excited about family history.
And just a reminder from Curt: “Everyone has a story. And with today’s tools, everyone can find their story.”