Couple retires after 8 years assisting genealogists, researchers

Published on Sunday, 3 August 2014 23:38 - Written by ADAM RUSSELL arussell@tylerpaper.com

Cindy Ingram traveled to Smith County from Oregon as part of an annual trip to research her family’s past.

Her first stop was the Smith County Historical Society to search through archives.

Faces familiar to visitors were there to welcome her and assist the search — Sam and Sherry Kidd.

The two have been mainstays at the museum and archive the last eight years, Kidd as treasurer and paid part-time manager, and Mrs. Kidd as a volunteer archive manager.

With their help, Ms. Ingram scoured birth and death records and documents regarding her great, great, great, great grandfather William Ingram. Within the minutes of Smith County commissioners court there was information about Ingram’s role as a county road steward, which gave up clues to the location of original family land in the 1850s.

In the early days of the state and county road system, residents were appointed to act as stewards to keep roads passable along stretches along or near their property.

The search continued beyond regular business hours.

The Kidds assist genealogists, amateur and professional researchers, architects and other professionals, and individuals trying to piece together familial pasts.

But in mid-August, the Kidds plan to retire.

Helping people like Ms. Ingram will be what the Kidds miss most, they said. They both enjoy piecing together people’s family history from decades-old newspaper clippings, photos and historical documents.

“It’s the neatest treasure hunt you can go on,” Mrs. Kidd said. “Helping put those family puzzles together is what I enjoy the most.”

The Kidds were high school sweethearts and have shared interests during 48 years of marriage. Kidd retired from a career with Carrier and as a credit union manager. Mrs. Kidd was a teacher, then homemaker and transitioned into various jobs.

They’ve always enjoyed history and plan to travel to New England to tour historical spots and “talk shop” with other museum and archive directors, Kidd said.

They also plan to continue genealogical research they have put off during their time at the museum.

Both are members of the Sons/Daughters of the American Revolution, meaning they traced lineal descent to a Patriot.

“We grew up together,” he said. “We’ve always shared similar interests, goals and aspirations. We’ll probably just grab a map and go.”

Mrs. Kidd said their favorite hobby they share is sailing, but there is rarely time for it when most weekdays are spent archiving or helping visitors conduct research. She hopes to spend more time piecing together stained glass she collected from her past hobby/work at two stained-glass shops.

The Kidds’ plans to travel, sail and commit time to hobbies won’t keep them away from the museum entirely. They plan to continue volunteering from time to time to fill in gaps during the week, they said.

Kidd said the Historical Society board is considering its options to fill the positions to maintain the museum and archive schedules. The museum and archive is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and typically is manned by the Kidds and various volunteers who fill in to digitize documents, sort archives and help point visitors in the right direction.

He hopes the board can find someone more in tune with technology than he has been, someone who can direct the transition from physical documents and archives to digital. Kidd hopes students specializing in archive management would volunteer their services to gain experience in the field.

Mrs. Kidd hopes the replacements have an appreciation for the items and heirlooms families passed to the society’s care.

“A lot of people have left a lot of items for posterity, and I hope they find someone who will cherish and take care of it as well as we have,” she said.

Randy Gilbert, a local attorney, amateur history buff and society member, said the Kidds represent an integral part of the museum and archive. He said the doors would not have stayed open if not for their day-to-day professionalism and work they provided, giving tours to countless school children, arranging archives and manning the museum.

Gilbert said their dedication is one reason museum and archive visits are on the rise.

“It’s quite amazing what they’ve done for the museum,” he said. “They’ve done yeoman’s work to keep it open.”

Ms. Ingram said other museums are further along digitally, allowing her to research online more but that physically searching and holding a document in her hands has its charm. Having someone knowledgeable to guide her through the maze of archives added to the experience, she said.

“It’s different to visit a place and actually touch the document or photo,” she said. “Tracing back my family’s history is a hobby of mine and it helps when there’s someone to guide me along the way.”