Genealogy Research Intern Talks about His Time at KHS
Greetings everyone! My name is William Burchfield but most people just call me Bill. I am a Master of Science in Library Science student at the University of Kentucky. I am currently in my final semester and will graduate very soon. It took me a long time to figure out that the library was where I belonged, but I finally did and I love every bit of it.
I have had the privilege of being the first genealogy intern at the Kentucky Historical Society. I came on board to help with the research and production of the pilot program for Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall. This amazing project allowed me the opportunity to research the genealogies and histories of many families, helping to narrow our field to three for the production day. For months, the team and I researched through “brick walls” and eliminated mysteries that we, unfortunately, could not solve until we had narrowed the field of 111 entries down to three very solid family mysteries that we could solve.
Then the most exciting part came: the Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall. Part of the Boone Days celebration, KHS brought in noted “Genealogy Roadshow” host D. Joshua Taylor to host the event. We had information sessions, booths and educational sessions intermixed with family “reveals” of the mysteries we had managed to solve. We had an amazing turnout that exceeded almost everyone’s expectations. I think the best part for me was having someone as well respected in the field of genealogy as Josh give huge compliments to our research. It made me feel really proud of all of our effort. I just have to give a big “thumbs up” to everyone involved with the project.
Besides the amazing work on the Town Hall project, I also did a few other things while at KHS. One of the first projects I worked on was a Piecing Together History project at Buffalo Trace Distillery. We invited many local, knowledgeable people to help us identify photographs related to the distillery and the distilling process. Staffing this event was a unique activity for me, but I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot and got to meet some great people along the way. One of the more notable for me was Freddie Johnson. Freddie, a third-generation distillery worker, is well known in the area, and it was great to finally meet the man I had head so much about. I learned a great deal about bourbon and whiskey from Freddie that night.
Interns cannot have fun all of the time, although we do try. There were a few other duties I had while interning at KHS. One thing that I am grateful for is my time sitting on the reference desk. For non-librarian folks, reference is not a scary word. For us library types, reference can be a very scary thing. I was grateful for my time on the desk as it allowed me to feel more comfortable with an area of librarianship that brings fear to a great many people. And, finally, I was privileged to be able to do some other smaller, but nonetheless important, research projects during my time with KHS. I worked on several reference and research requests from people who needed information from our resources but were unable to come to the Martin F. Schmidt Research Library themselves. This is a great fee-based service the library offers that allows individuals to obtain research they would not normally be able to obtain for a nominal fee in comparison to the research gained. The final bit of research I was able to do was to into the history and some genealogy of Brown-Forman and the family of J.T.S. Brown, the distillers of Old Forester bourbon, to help confirm its year of establishment. This was an interesting small project that, like all of the others, I enjoyed tremendously.
I learned a tremendous amount while interning at KHS. I have learned about and how to use sources that I never knew existed. Before starting my research efforts with KHS, I had only done small and very amateurish genealogy research. After my time with KHS, I feel much more capable and confident researching genealogy. I have gained a new outlook on paths my career might lead me. I am now “hooked” on genealogy and feel it will always affect me, my life and my career much like aurora sauce on pasta.
Photo: D. Joshua Taylor (back right) joins the Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall research team, William Burchfield, Cheri Daniels, Linda Colston and Louise Jones.