By Judy Reed
For Betty Heiss, 91, doing genealogical research isn’t a job; it’s a passion. And on Wednesday, July 16, The Cedar Springs Historical Society honored Betty by naming their genealogical library after her.
“It’s such an honor,” shared Betty through her tears, after the board surprised her with a plaque reading “Betty L. Heiss Genealogical Library.”
“When we started here 20 years ago, all we had was a bookshelf with a couple of books and they weren’t even genealogical books,” recalled Sharon Jett. “Betty came in and asked if she could help, and she built this entire library over the last 20 years, and so it seemed appropriate to name it after her.”
They now have an extensive collection that Betty acquired a piece at a time—microfilm, microfiche, a civil war collection, census books, surname histories, county histories, phone books, all the school yearbooks, Cedar Springs Clipper newspapers, Cedar Springs Post newspapers, and much more. Betty said a fund was set up for the collection through the research she did. She was frugal with the money and shopped estate sales, and other low cost venues for items.
Betty said that she got the genealogy bug when she was 12 years old. “My grandfather showed me a book that had been written about the Martin family (her family) and I knew I wanted to write a book about our family,” she explained.
She has now written two books, which can be bought at the museum, and helped countless people with their family research. “I liked being helpful to people. When I saw them happy, I was happy,” she explained. “It made me feel like I had done something worthwhile. “
Betty retired last year, but still comes in on Wednesdays to help finish up some of the things she was working on before she retired, such as making cards for the old library cabinet donated from the library. “I just don’t take work home anymore, “ she explained. That gives her more time to spend with her husband Melvin (Jack) Heiss. They will have been married 64 years in October.
But Betty doesn’t feel her work is done yet. “I want to write another book—my memoirs,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye.
We think she can do it.
The Post thanks Betty for her tireless dedication, and all the help she has given to others and us over the years. You deserve the honor!
The Cedar Springs Historical Museum is located in Morley Park, on Cedar Street, and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, and other days by appointment.