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Delving into the past with local historian Nancy Kayser

July 10, 2014
By Jim Krajewski ( ,

How did you become interested in local history?

"I've always been into history. When I was in school, we had extensive history. As I look back, maybe I should have made that my major. I've always just wanted the answer, 'why.' It's what I enjoy the most. To find answers and tell people about it. I document as much as I can and share it wherever I can. Through the paper, through presentations, if someone calls and needs to know something I'll take the time to find out about it and share it."

What do you have to do to find those answers?

Article Photos

Nancy Kayser at the Depot Museum

"You just have to be patient. I have one project I've been researching now for six years and I've just barely touched the surface on it because it's going to require research in about six other states. You have to know to ask the right question to find the answer. Sometimes, if you're doing online searches or talking to people, you ask one question and get nothing. So, you have to come back and rephrase that question. You have to find clues and follow those clues and verify them. To be a historical researcher, I think you have to like jigsaw puzzles. You have to put the pieces together."

How do you feel once you find an answer?

"You never finish research, but when I've brought something to a point where I can tell you somewhat of an answer, I'm always sad because that means the chase is over."

How has technology impacted your work with local history?

"It's moved us forward immensely. You can't trust everything you find on the internet, but it can be very useful. I used to have to spend hours reading through old newspapers or scrolling through microfilm looking for clues. Now, I can search through decades of many local newspapers on the Digital Archives of Hamilton County website."

What resources would you recommend for people interesting in digging into local history themselves?

"Visit Kendall Young Library. They have all of the local history books starting back in 1889. You have to read, you have to take the time to read, but you can find a clue or an answer. The library also offers online access to genealogy sites. They're trained and very knowledgable and can point you in the right direction toward an answer. There are also many other resources right there on the shelves."

How can community members contribute toward furthering local historical research?

"Many people have donated and shared collections of photos. People may not think that a picture they have is historically significant, but every picture is significant. It might give you a clue to tie it together with another picture where the two of them apart are just a question mark. With technology, you don't even have to give your picture away. We can scan it and you can retain that original document for your family which is wonderful."

Anything else you want to mention?

"Share your history. Hamilton County is unique. We have a lot of unique stories and we should be proud of what we have here and how our forebearers paved the way for us. We should be proud of that and remember it."



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