The Grand Prairie Genealogical Society was formed in the fall of 1967 by several patrons of the Grand Prairie Memorial Library. With the encouragement of Mrs. Harry Taylor, the first organization meeting was called “around the Xerox machine” and an organization was formed. The first meeting of the GPGS was held on October 20, 1967 in the Trimble Room. These first years formed a solid foundation for this organization now celebrating more than 50 years. And what a bargain it has been. With the original dues beginning at $1.00 over all these years, those dues have increased to only $15.00.
In 1974 the Society had a name change and became the Grand Prairie Genealogical and Historical Society. However, the addition to the name was changed several years later and we were once again the Grand Prairie Genealogical Society.
The “DAR Patriot Index” was the first book our organization gave to the library, and they placed our books in a barrister bookcase, to keep others from taking them. The Society began raising money by collecting Gold Metal Betty Crocker Coupons and Pepsi Cola bottle caps in order to purchase and donated to the library the city’s only microfilm reader. By 1970, the collection of research materials had grown significantly and a proposal was made to the library that a separate section be established. By 1971, GPGS had not only purchased the reader but 40 rolls of microfilm reels of film and various books for the library, including Watson Cemetery Inscriptions 1846-1970. Information from at least 6 area cemeteries has been abstracted and presented to the library, becoming a part of the genealogical section and several members have recorded and printed their own family histories as the GPGS has helped establish and expand the genealogical section in the library. Over the years, the Genealogical Society and it’s members have compiled and published a number of books. Included in those efforts are two cookbooks: Bluebonnets, Indian Paint and Prairie Grasses compiled by GPGS about 1988 and A Taste of the Past, A Collection of Recipes by GPGS in 2000. Other accomplishments include Ancestor Charts of Members of the GPGS compiled from original charts submitted by Society members (computer entries and format by John Philpott, Jr.; edited and assisted by Ruth Jones Goodman); Place Index to Ancestor Charts of the members of GPGS (compiled and edited by John “Jay” Philpott, Jr. and Ruth Jones Goodman); Grand Prairie Obituaries from Local Newspapers for the years 1997 through 2006 (compiled by Ruth Goodman). John “Jay” Philpott, Jr. also has the following books in the Library: 1860 Census of Patrick County, Virginia; John William Philpott 1853-1928; Josiah Phil(p)ott 1860-1949. Looking Back Into the Family Generations was donated by Roger Lee Thomas in 1992. John and Barb Wylie worked with the First Methodist Church to celebrate and publish a book for their 125th Anniversary. And with faithful attention, Ruth Goodman continues to do extractions from the “Grand Prairie Texan” for our monthly newsletter. Donating research materials to the genealogical section continues to be a major focus for the Society.
Over the years, the Society and the library have worked together to expand local research facilities and materials. Because of the library’s help and cooperation, Mrs. Fred Lambright, head librarian, was named an honorary lifetime member in 1971.
Grand Prairie’s first Historical Marker was the culmination of efforts of the Genealogical Society in 1972 when the Texas State Historical Society dedicated the marker at the Jordan-Bowles home. This early stagecoach stop was built in 1845 and is the second oldest building in Dallas County. Many Historical Markers have been added since that first one, with a total of 67 currently listed on the city website.
In addition to the materials provided to the library, the Grand Prairie Genealogical Society has sponsored a number of workshops. The first workshop was “How to get started in Genealogy” held on Saturday, February 3, 1968. Some others included “Family Tree Climbing Can Be fun!” in 1977, A Civil War Workshop in 1988, “Organizing & Managing a Genealogical Project” in 1990, “Texas Our Texas” in 1997 and “A Day with Lloyd Bockstuck” in 2005.
We have also enjoyed countless informative programs at the monthly meetings. Over the years many of the themes of the speakers have been repeated because of the importance of the subject. Librarians, Professional Genealogists, Authors and a wide variety of other speakers have presented programs including:
- Genealogical Research In Regional Archives
- Historical Films And Programs By The DAR
- History To The Mayflower Society
- Trails Of Migration
- Organization Of Genealogical Information
- Genealogical Research In The TX Archives
- Tips To Beginners And Old Timers On Compiling Family History
- Huguenots And Their Migrations To The U.S.
- Overlooked Details
- Tracing Ancestors Who Don’t Set Down Records.
- Medicine And Home Remedies Of The Confederate Era
- Records Found In The Home
- British Migration To The American Colonies
- UTA Special Collection
- Presenting History In Pictures
- Genealogist Video Guide
- Holdings Of The Ft. Worth Library
- Genealogical Supplies
- Indian History And How To Start
- Family History Centers
- Historic Preservation
- Old Diseases
- Indian Culture
- Researching On The Internet
But it’s not all business and research. Besides all the talented speakers GPGS has benefited from, our members have contributed greatly by sharing their time, “Treasures”, numerous personal research materials and stories of successes and struggles in research. The Annual “Antless” Picnic is held every July and the Christmas Potluck Celebration is always a hit with the members. Members over the years have volunteered their time in the genealogical section to help people interested in learning to research, participated in the many workshops, compiled pedigree charts, birth, death and marriage records and even cookbooks. They have created quilts and contributed in other ways for fundraisers. Though it might sound a bit strange to the average person, “What I did on my Summer Vacation" – or – "What I have accomplished in genealogy lately” is an exciting topic for a GPGS members program.
As technology provides greater resources for research as well as sharing materials and information the Grand Prairie Genealogical Society through continued cooperation with members, the library, the community, and ever increasing resources, we look forward to expanding services and interest of genealogical and historical research. But an expanded service means expanding membership and our knowledge base. Many now focus on how they can use their computers to enhance their research. It also proposes new challenges for resources and equipment and training. Our recent Demonstrations and “Hands-On” tutorials have enabled members to try new avenues for research, publication and storage of their materials.
It is important that we always be vigilant in changing with the times. GPGS did a major revision and update on the Society’s Constitution and By-Laws in 2006. One of the major changes was in the structuring of the Executive Board. Officers of the Society are elected by the full membership. Additional positions for standing committee chairmen and temporary committees can be appointed by the President. Another important change was the addition of Lifetime Memberships. Three of the first honored were Organizing Members, Mary Sinclair and Billie Klug and Charter Member, Peggy Norcross. We thank them for their years of dedication. Ruth Goodman and Kathy Ritterhouse have also been honored for their dedication to the society, the library and the community.
After restructuring the Officer and Director positions and implementing monthly Board meetings, the society began to be more active and grow. Awards for the newsletter and website were pursued and awarded by the Texas State Genealogical Society. We also received a grant that has afforded us the opportunity to survey the Grand Prairie cemeteries for the first time in over 20 years. The results of those efforts are published on the website.
PRESIDENTS (Past & Present)
1967-69 Mrs. Frank (Amy) Bodkin
1969-71 Mrs. C. B. (Mary) Caswell
1971-73 Mrs. Jap (Barbara) Schwartz
1973-74 Mrs. Jim Liepman
1974-75 Mrs. H. C. (Judy) White
1975-77 Mrs. B. J. (Rowena) Dotson
1977-1979 Mrs. Jap (Barbara) Schwartz
1979-1980 Mrs. Saundra McMillan
1980-1981 Mary Mee
1981-1982 Mary Mee/Mary Tarver
1982-1983 Yvonne Clarke
1983-1985 Barbara Schwartz
1985-1987 Faye Chism
1987-1988 Effie Eisin
1988-1999 Faye Chism
1999-2007 Richard Waller
2007-2008 John Wylie
2008-2009 Pamela Knight
2009-2010 Barb Wylie
2010-2011 Regina Shumaker
2011-2012 Cynthia Jones
2012-2013 Carol Franklin
2013-2014 Ben Grimes
2014-2016 Bonnie Steever Cockrum
2016-2017 Mary Ann Hartsell
2017-2018 Richard Waller
2018-2019 Pamela Flynt Knight
2019-2020 Kay Dunbar
2020-2021 Lynn Shumaker
2021-2022 Lee Ann Ayars Stone
2022-2023 Angela Arnold
2023-2024 Sytire Bates