Walt Sedlmayer: Interview
By Margaret Curtis, PhD
Saint Patrick's Day offered the perfect occasion to explore how genealogical societies can bring new information to light about lost relatives and ancestors, to celebrate both relationships and community. The interviewer was Margaret Curtis, and Walter Sedlmayer graciously spoke with her by telephone.
MC: What is the official name of the organization which you head in Fredonia, New York?
WS: The Chautauqua County Genealogical Society.
MC: Where and when does it meet?
WS: On the third Tuesday of each month, except for December, January, and February. It gathers in the Meeting Room of the Barker Library in Fredonia. In November the annual Christmas party is held at the Fredonia American Legion Post.
MC: How long has it been functioning?
WS: The society has been functioning since the summer of 1977.
MC: Who can apply for membership?
WS: Anybody from any location.
MC: What is the cost of membership?
WS: Costs are $20 for individuals, $25 for families, $25 for Canadians, and $30 for foreign memberships.
MC: What is the purpose of this organization?
WS: To promote genealogical research and to preserve records of a genealogical nature.
MC: How does genealogical research contribute to the community and families?
WS: It may assist in identifying and locating distant relatives.
MC: What is your position in this organization?
WS: President of the organization. The other officers are as follows:
Vice President: Norm Carlson;
Secretary: Debbie Kotar;
Treasurer: Donna Keith;
Publications Chairman: Ruth Nichols;
News Letter Editor and Membership Chairman: Wayne Leamer;
and Trustees: Lois Barris, George Davis, and Ruth Nichols.
MC: How long have you held this position?
WS: Since November.
MC: What kinds of activities are planned this year for this group?
WS: A genealogical seminar is planned later in the fall.
MC: How many members participate in this group?
WS: About 200.
MC: Does this group go into the schools to attract the participation of youth?
MC: What is the current contact information for the group?
WS: Flyers and person-to-person communication, as well as libraries.
MC: How does the genealogical society interact with local libraries?
WS: Cooperation is very good. Barker has a genealogical room with books contributed by the Genealogical Society. Officers and members of the society are frequently on hand to answer questions. In July of every year the society holds an open house, which runs from 1 pm to 9 pm in addition to its regular meeting to answer questions from the public.
MC: Is the society planning any trips this spring?
WS: Members traveled to Warren, PA, last fall. Other trips may be arranged.
MC: What is the application process for membership?
WS: Fill out the application and pay dues—this is the process.
MC: Why do ancestors matter to Americans?
WS: Because if it weren't for them, we wouldn't be here, and a lot of our personality characteristics we get from them.
Special thanks to Walter Sedlmayer for his time and cordiality. The interviewer appreciates this opportunity to learn how the Chautauqua County Genealogical Society fosters the study of human history in this community. Western New York is fortunate to enjoy the benefits of this organization.