By Christine Bryant
Tucked away in the lower level of the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society is what local genealogists say is one of the biggest single ancestry collections in Ohio researched by an individual.
It’s all thanks to former resident Eleanor Wilson Shonting, who for decades tirelessly researched the lineage of her family, starting with just a few founding members and branching out family by family, generation by generation.
The result – a record of nearly 50,000 names now makes up “The McNaghten Collection,” a labor of love by the 1941 Reynoldsburg High School graduate who spent more than 70 years working on her family genealogy.
“The branches of the tree just keep growing and growing,” said Jim Diuguid, a trustee at the historical society who is helping organize the collection.
It’s a treasure trove for even the most experienced genealogy researcher, providing not only 300 binders of genealogical research, but several other relics as well, including photos of the McNaghten and Pugh families, books, clothing, high school yearbooks, plot maps, postcards, letters, a utensil set Tunis McNaghten carried during the Civil War when he was a member of the 17th Ohio Infantry, and an extensive Masonic artifact collection.
Some of the items date back to as early as the 1700s, said Mary Stoots, who oversees the production of the historical society’s newsletter and is helping organize the collection as well.
“She documented everything,” Stoots said. “She was an incredible stickler for accuracy.”
Many of the records date so far back that they reflect a shorter spelling of the McNaghten family name, different than the McNaughten many have come to know today. It’s believed the name was changed to include a “u” sometime around the end of the 19th century, Stoots said.
The collection first came into the possession of the historical society after a neighboring friend of Shonting’s recognized her extensive research and knew it would be of value to researchers. Shonting currently lives in Florida in an assisted living facility, and Stoots said she was thrilled when she learned the historical society accepted her decades of work to preserve local history.
Volunteers are now working to organize and prepare the information so that those interested in researching their own family histories can access the collection.
The Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society is raising funds to purchase additional binders to house the hundreds of documents in the collection. The organization is also in need of volunteers to help organize the materials – something Stoots said would be a perfect opportunity for history majors at local universities.
For information, call (614) 868-5354 or go to rths.info.
This article brought tears to my eyes. You did an OUTSTANDING job of expressing how much this collection means to RTHS and it’s a beautiful tribute to Eleanor Wilson Shonting. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Eleanor will be notified in Florida as soon as possible, and she will be pleased.
Thanks my grandfather will be pleased !! To hear this he is a great man .
He IS a great man! He has worked countless hours to organize this collection, and we couldn’t have had a more qualified genealogist to do the job. It’s a HUGE task, and we are lucky to have him!