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Rhea Public Library
400 West Washington Street
Paris, Tennessee 38242

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Rhea Public Library
Rhea Public Library
W.O. Inman Genealogy Room

The W.O. Inman Genealogy Room is designated for, and used by, individuals tracing their family's history in Henry County and the surrounding counties of West Tennessee and Kentucky. The books, microfilm, CD's and Periodicals found here provide enormous amounts of information regarding our history and demand for them continually grows. It's visited annually by more than 600 researchers from all over the United States and even recently as far away as Australia, Finland and the Netherlands.

In the past, many individuals and groups, seeing the need to preserve our historical records worked hard to do so, but finances have always been limited and continue to be. Their forethought and concern for perservation was the foundation for the genealogy room becoming a reality. With the support of a trust from the W.G. Rhea estate and financial assistance from the Friends of the Library, minimum operating funds have been made available. But the support given by its volunteers and the generosity of the visitors who realize and appreciate their endeavors, provides additional funds through donations and copy costs so we can continue to grow in activity and resources. Records dating back to the formation of the county, (1821) and even the state, (1796) can be found. Many discover how their ancestors came to be here and from where they came. Newspapers, (as early as 1827); marriages, (1838); military service (1776), deeds of properties (1822) owned, sold, or traded; wills (1821), civil actions and often times even family histories tell how their ancestors may have helped to establish what we now know as Henry County. Linda Dunlap
    Linda Dunlap

With such rich resources available, no wonder demand for information continued to drain the energies of the librarian and assistant personnel. In addition to our many visitors, volunteers receive an average of fifteen to twenty telephone inquiries monthly with an additional ten to twenty letters requesting assistance by mail. Since the room is now on-line with its own websites, (since November, 2000), we answer an average of thirty to forty e-mail inquiries monthly.

In September, 1999, newly appointed Director, Connie McSwain, along with Freda Reddick, Assistant Director, met with Linda Dunlap, Volunteer Coordinator for the Henry County Genealogical Society to discuss the possibility of training volunteers to assist patrons researching in the room. Guidelines were established which were helpful; not only to the volunteers, but also met the needs of the library. In January 2000, the volunteer program was started in full swing and continues to this day.

Many of the volunteers are genealogy enthusiasts and have Henry County roots. Others are new to genealogy but enjoy learning new things and meeting the public. Many researchers, especially those coming from great distances, know what they are looking for and especially appreciate being shown what's available and how to quickly find it. Those new to genealogy and wanting to know how to begin, are also given assistance. Volunteers receive training to be of general assistance in finding materials for patrons.

Laura Denham
    Laura Denham
The appreciation shown them by researchers is reward enough for their endeavors. Interested volunteers also learn techniques on how to find their own ancestors, even if they aren't from this area. The volunteers can tell you, each time they work, they receive more than they give and always learn something new and interesting by interaction with the patrons.

Each regular volunteer covers a four-hour shift once weekly. Saturday volunteers cover one four-hour shift per month; and substitutes make themselves available when a regular occasionally needs to be away. They represent all walks of life; some retired, others working full time and we even have a husband-wife team who work together on one shift. We're always looking for a few new friends to join us in volunteering. Won't you consider it? Just call Linda Dunlap at 593-5592 for further information or stop by and visit with one of our volunteers to learn firsthand what its like. No obligation involved, but you just might find another reason to enjoy your local library!