Making history: Genesee County Historian’s Office featured on state website

Feb 2, 2018

Starting this month and lasting until early May, Genesee County Historian Michael Eula will be featured on “Meet the Historian” on the Office of State History/The New York State Museum website. Four times a year, a historian will be chosen throughout the state in order to be featured.

“It’s really for the county,” Eula said. “It really advertises this county, which leads into things like grant applications and people just taking us increasingly seriously.”

The department routinely fields requests from around the nation for everything from genealogy to information for academic research. Recently, the state historian of Connecticut showed up to do research after hearing about the county’s holdings. It is due to that academic seriousness, officials said, that the Genesee County History Department late last year managed to obtain personal papers of Gen. Emory Upton, competing successfully against the University of Buffalo for the donation.

“Normally (these types of documents) go to a big resource library, but it’s now ours,” he said. “So this stuff keeps building.”

Eula said through the statewide “Meet the Historian” feature — as well as a distillation of a talk on Italian-Americans in Genesee County and The Daily News interview with him published in Western New York Heritage magazine — Genesee County will start receiving more recognition outside the county about the seriousness of the work the county historians are doing in terms of research and writing. That will translate into a status for the department and county and people will travel to Batavia to do research and spend locally during their stay.

Genesee County History Department acts as a repository for the entire county for legal and historical documents. Walking through the building, Eula said the department gets everything from high school yearbooks to family scrapbooks.

It recently received several dozen boxes worth of legal pleadings from the 19th century Genesee County Courthouse, which tell the historians about the day-to-day activities in the county at the time. The archives also have other interesting donations — gravestones, files from the Linden murders in the 1920s and a section of a wooden waterline pipe.

As the department becomes more respected, Eula said he wants to get funding for an oral history center where Genesee County residents’ life histories are taped before their stories are lost. He’s also spearheading a general cultural history of Genesee County, which has never been done. This would look at everyday life — what kinds of movies did people see, how did young people court each other and things about marriage and death.

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By MALLORY DIEFENBACH, The Daily News