In March of 1990 a few persons gathered at our community building to discuss the possibility of establishing a county genealogical society. Enough people came forward to help us get started so officers were elected and we started to have monthly meetings. We also began our bi-monthly newsletter. At first our meetings were held at the Bureau County Senior Center and later at the First Methodist Church in Princeton. We became incorporated in 1992 and received our non-profit status in 1993.
After a year as a society, our collection began to grow and we needed a place to store our books and records so the public could easily use them. We were given a small space on the second floor of the Matson Public Library in Princeton. We purchased a microfilm reader and many rolls of our old local newspapers on microfilm.
In April of 2002, one of our members offered to purchase the building we now occupy for the Society to use. The board agreed to this and the purchase of a commercial building on Princeton’s Main St. was made. It was formerly a children’s clothing store.
It was agreed that no rent was to be paid but the Society would pay the utilities and general maintenance expenses on the building. Large expenses such as the new roof, tuck pointing and large painting jobs have been paid jointly.
We took possession of our building June 15, 2002, and purchased a microfilm reader-printer, office furniture, book shelves, chairs and a sound system using the Society’s money and donations from our members. Our volunteers painted the interior of our building. We were able to open the front part of our building to the public on July 1st. By October of that year we had a new bathroom on the first floor, new heating system, new kitchenette and electrical changes were completed. The owner of the building paid these expenses. In the next seven years we improved the lighting, replaced the roof and did extensive tuck pointing to the exterior of our 1904 building.
Once we had more space our members were willing to volunteer and help out. We had lots of visitors and attendance at our meetings increased.
Over the many years we have operated our Society our collection has become very large and diversified. We are fortunate that our past Circuit Court and County Clerk and Recorder gave us 848 record books to add to our collection in 1997. We also received the records for our former County Farm which operated from 1858 to about 1959. If we didn’t have our own building we would not have been able to accept these.
Our volunteers help our visitors with their research so they can gain the most from their visit. We also do a lot of research for a fee for persons who are unable to travel to Princeton.
We feel we have become one of the best genealogical societies in Illinois with an outstanding collection of genealogical records and books. This is possible because of the generous donations we have received and the countless hours our volunteers have given to our Society.