The Humble Museum’s Research Center houses several Humble ISD yearbooks including this one held by Dr. Robert Meaux and featuring Humble’s Mayor Pro Tem. Can you find Norman Funderburk? Photos by Tom Broad

There is a new kind of “gardening” expanding across America and in Lake Houston, too. 

This “gardening” involves “tending the family tree.” Finding one’s family roots. Yes, researching family history has become the latest pandemic pastime.

Ancestry.com, the largest genealogy company in the world and the authority of all things about the family tree, says next to gardening, family history research is the second most popular hobby in the United States. 

— Center is handy resource for research —

Lake Houston natives looking up their own family tree now have a handy resource, tailor-made for their research – the Humble Museum’s newly opened research center.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone who grew up around here and who would like to research their family tree,” said Dr. Robert Meaux, president of the just dedicated and newly opened Humble Museum. “Having a genealogy collection here in Humble is a unique opportunity for anyone researching their descendants because the nearest genealogy collection is the Clayton Library for Genealogy Research in Downtown Houston, and it, currently, is closed to in-person visits due to COVID-19.”

The genealogy collection housed at the Humble Museum’s Research Center belongs to the Humble Area Genealogical Society, enthusiastic individuals from Humble, Atascocita, Crosby, Huffman, Kingwood, New Caney, Porter and Splendora who meet monthly to hear genealogy experts and discuss ways to learn more about their own family trees.

“In addition to our genealogy collection, we have yearbooks, newspapers and other various documents related to researching the Humble area,” Meaux said.

The research center has some physical copies of Humble High yearbooks, but also has PDF files for several hundred yearbooks from all the Humble ISD campuses that were scanned as part of the Humble ISD Centennial Celebration.

And that is just the beginning.

“We have a collection of Humble Observers from the early 1980s through the mid-2000s,” Meaux said. “We have some copies of the old Humble Echo newspapers but there are others that can be accessed through the Portal to Texas History.”

The Portal to Texas History, Meaux explained, are rare, historical and primary-source materials covering the whole gamut of Texas history from prehistory to the present day, digitized and available through the University of North Texas Library. 

Why the sudden interest in learning about our family tree?

Meaux theorizes that the popularity in the direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits as well as the popular television show, “Who Do You Think You Are,” has put genealogy front and center.

“There was a time when researching your family history was much more difficult,” Meaux said. “Walking through cemeteries. Combing through courthouse records. The internet – and research centers such as ours – have changed all that and made it much easier. Information can be accessed right here in the comfort of our new museum.”

Anyone can use the research center, but strict rules have been established to protect the collections.

“Our center can accommodate three researchers at a time,” Meaux said. “It is first-come, first-serve for walk-ins and there are two computers available in the room. Few things can be brought into the room. A few sheets of paper and a laptop computer. No bags or purses or laptop bags. No food. No pens, Pencils only.

“Great care must be taken with items in the room,” he said. “We do not have a copier, but you may take photos with your phone or camera.”

The research center is located inside the new Humble Museum, the former Charles Bender Band Hall next to the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center near Historical Downtown Humble. The new museum includes two modern, handicapped-designed restrooms, a bigger workplace, office for the museum staff, a lobby, store, and galleries packed with the history of Humble and Lake Houston.  

Meaux has quite a collection of stuff, valuable and historic stuff, in his overflowing file cabinets. His immediate goal is to expand the number of digital files available for research and get all those deeds, pictures, phone directories and other resources in his file cabinets scanned. 

“The museum is free to visitors and free to anyone who uses our research center,” said Meaux, “but there is quite an expense to provide research materials, keep exhibits up to date, and generally just keep the museum running.”

His goal is to get more of Lake Houston involved with the museum. The City of Humble is already an enthusiastic supporter, investing in the renovation of the building. As a fundraiser, the museum is creating a walkway formed with bricks purchased by supporters and stamped with their names. 

“I speak from experience. This new kind of gardening, finding your roots, is very satisfying,” he said, who has used the genealogy information in the past when it was housed at Lone Star College. “Researching your history makes history personal and helps us better understand how we fit into the world around us.” 

To make a financial donation, purchase a brick, or donate an historical item or research material, go to the Humble Museum website at humblemuseum.com.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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