RICHARD F. SNOW browses through the Snow Index in the Genealogy and Local History Room at Curtis Memorial Library.

RICHARD F. SNOW browses through the Snow Index in the Genealogy and Local History Room at Curtis Memorial Library.

BRUNSWICK

The past can be elusive, its contents fleeting. Often it takes a concerted effort to dig through some archives.

Enter retired history teacher and historian Richard F. Snow.

Snow — who grew up in Brunswick and resides in Topsham — has put together an extensive index of articles, pictures and obituaries from the Brunswick Telegraph and the Brunswick Record — forerunners to today’s The Times Record — and donated his work to the Curtis Memorial Library. The Snow Index will give locals and folks from away a chance to delve into their family’s pasts by accessing the library’s website, a substantial shortcut over previous practices like coming into the library or browsing newspaper websites.

“Doing an index of the newspaper for a library is not very common, and it makes everything much easier,” said Library Director Elisabeth Doucett. “For genealogists and local historians, the Snow Index is invaluable.”

The origin of the Snow Index began by accident. Snow had been toying with the idea of writing a book on Brunswick’s local history in the 1990s, but didn’t dive into the writing process until after he retired from Mt. Ararat High School in 1999. Snow spent 10 years researching, reading and compiling notes from the archives of the Brunswick Telegraph dated from 1850- 1903, and Brunswick Record archives dated from 1903- 1960 for his books “Old Sagadahoc,” “A History of Birch Island” and “The Snows of Casco Bay.”

“While researching and writing three books, I decided to index the newspapers as I used them for my research,” said Snow. “The goal was to enrich the culture of the Brunswick area, and that works hand in hand with what the library is doing. Doing this for the library made sense.”

Snow put in countless hours of scanning articles and snapping pictures of old photos to build the Snow Index, which can be found on the front page of Curtis Memorial Library’s website.

“I used over 12,000 pictures from the Brunswick Record,” said Snow, who noted that many of the articles and notes compiled from the Brunswick Telegraph do not come with pictures because, prior to 1900, newspapers used mostly drawings.

Snow said that while the photos are easy to access online, he is happy to provide high-resolution images himself.

“What I say to everybody is ‘just call me, and I’ll send a picture to you,’” said Snow. “It’s just a PDF file. I’ll send it for free.”

Another perk for genealogists is access to the plethora of obituaries from 1850- 1960.

“For people looking for obituaries, the Snow Index is amazing,” said Sarah Brown, Adult Services Manager and Librarian at Curtis Memorial. “You could find them before, but it’s far easier now, especially for those who live across the country and want to locate a relative online.”

Snow is also working on interactive maps of local cemeteries. He has recently completed maps of Pine Grove and Riverside cemeteries in Brunswick, and is now working on St. John’s.

“It’s very hard to find people out there,” said Snow. “I’m now in the process of making a big map of every gravestone. You can start at a particular point and walk directly to the gravestone, and then look up every fact about that person in an annotated index. It will all be in the library database. I always give everything I do to the library.”

Snow’s work ethic should pay dividends for the Curtis Memorial Library and Brunswick residents for years to come, Brown said.

“We are so lucky to have someone like Snow contributing to our library,” said Brown.

For Snow, it all comes down to helping future generations.

“So many of us want to get in touch with our history,” said Snow. “Brunswick has changed a lot, but the Snow Index is what it was, what it is and where it’s going.”


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