Visitors catch up with their past at Athens County Museum ...
(Athens Messenger, Sunday, December 10, l995.)
The Napoleonic wars and several years of poor weather left much of the Europe in 1819 destitute, providing incentives for scores of emigrants to leave for United States. Among the thousands of people who undertook the long passage across the stormy Atlantic was a young man, Frédéric Louis Junod, whose ancestors had lived in Lignieres, Switzerland since at least the 16th century. Along with about 60 of his countrymen, Junod journeyed from Bern, Switzerland, to the coast of France, by ship to New York, overland to Pittsburgh, then by flatboat down the Ohio river to the wilderness of what is now Ames Twp. There they had purchased more than 5000 acres along what is now known as Dutch Creek Road.
Those Swiss men, women and children settled and began farming and other endeavors. Many of their legacies are evident around Athens County today. Early in November this year, a kinsman of Frédéric Louis undertook a similar journey from Lignières, but instead of spending weeks at sea, Nicolas Junod flew overnight to Cleveland, where he was met by distant relatives, Charles and Laurie Junod of Castalia, near Sandusky.
The group traveled to Athens to learn more about their ancestors who were among Athens County's pioneers. On their arrival at the Athens County Museum, they saw their family name emblazoned on the side of a building at 88 N. Court St., the site of a former mill owned by the Junods of Athens County. The building is now owned by Alan and Stephanie Goldsberry of Athens.
The Junods are among growing number of travelers to Athens bent on discovering their families' pasts. Most of these visitors trek to Southeastern Ohio with one goal: to visit the Athens County Museum and the extensive collection of genealogy records housed there.
"We decided to come down and stopped here at the museum and at the university's archives, and we were amazed at the records that were here," said Laurie Junod, who with her husband began researching their family history about three years ago. "In the matter of a few hours, we found almost 90 percent of the information we were seeking," Laurie Junod said of the records at the museum, which include U.S. census counts, birth and death reports, military records and other items.
Nicolas Junod's visit to Athens was part of an extensiv search to find his entire family tree.
Specifically, he was determined to find out what happened to Frédéric Louis. He has tracked his family back more than 500 years, and has discovered several branches which emigrated to this country during the past two centuries. He met Laurie and Charles by accident, each researching their families from different directions and countries.
"The purpose is to come up with the history of our family, and what happened to them," Nicolas Junod said. According to Joanne Prisley, executive director of the museum and the Athens County Historical Society, researching family histories and genealogy becomes a passion which is difficult to escape.
"Genealogy begins as an interest, becomes a hobby, continues as an avocation, takes over as an obsession and, in its last stage, is an incurable disease," Prisley said. "That's our biggest business people who are obsessed," Prisley said. The museum owned by the society on North Court Street has a steady stream of people using its genealogy records, considered some of the best and most complete in Ohio.
Recently, the society purchased a microfiche scanner to make viewing microfilm records easier. People travel from all over the country - and in the case of Nicolas Junod, the world - to conduct research at the museum.