The Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a September open house and a continued commitment to give back to the community.

The TCGHS is inviting all people in the community, including nonmembers, to its 40th anniversary open house being held from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 16 at their building, 719 N. 11th St., Pekin. Along with refreshments and prizes, there will be a tour of the facility and collections of information.

The TCGHS first began when Connie and David Perkins sat at a table with Carol Haize Taylor and discussed the beginning of an organization to celebrate their ancestry. Later, they teamed up with Mary Fouts and consulted with other societies and groups in the Tazewell County area to help develop the basis of the genealogy society.

“I always said that if I’m not finding information about my ancestors then the next best thing for me to do is helping others learn more about theirs,” said Connie Perkins. “I first got interested in history back when I was in third grade, and we always had a collection of orange biographies of people from American history in the classroom. And I loved reading and learning more about people like George Washington and Eli Whitney; it was their histories that first sparked my interest in genealogy.”

Through the efforts of many volunteers over the years, the library has grown exponentially with physical indexes and books that they’ve published on their own to preserve the many materials of Tazewell County. The TCGHS also has a very active website for people interested in genealogical research, and people can also call or stop by the TCGHS library in their building, where genealogists can help people with their research. 

“We love doing the research, and we learn more by helping others with their ancestry than we would just learning it on our own,” said TCGHS genealogist Susan Rynearson. “People will always ask us questions that would’ve never occurred to us, or we might run into a situation that we might not have ever had when learning about our own family histories.”

TCGHS is a nonprofit organization that only continues through the dedicated efforts of its volunteers and members. With the efforts of these members and volunteers, the TCGHS hosts a number of projects, such as annual nut sales, Carolyn’s Closet rummage sale, as well as remembrance objects and other donations from generous supporters.

“We used to host different fundraisers over the years, such as cemetery walks, as well as dinner theaters that included skits of Tazewell County history,” said Rynearson.

In 1978, TCGHS was finally able to purchase its own building at the current location, which was in part due to the generous donation from Virginia Ehrliche, who supplemented fundraising efforts. Gladys Wolfer later on contributed to the fundraising effort by constructing an addition to the original building.

“When we first started, we were told that organizations like ours usually last only 20 years and we have doubled that,” said Perkins. “I believe we have been able to continue our services for 40 because TCGHS has always been gifted with a great number of dedicated, hard-working volunteers.”

At 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month, TCGHS features a guest speaker, followed by a business meeting. TCGHS always welcomes the community to attend these monthly meetings, including the upcoming fall workshop where volunteers for projects — from typing, assembling the newsletter, or donating articles for the newsletters to helping within the library — are welcome.

“It’s very important for us to help people learn more about their ancestry, because we want to help them learn more about where their ancestors came from,” said Perkins. “And it has always been our main goal to give back to the community and help others.”

For more information, call 309-477-3044.