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Sharon Lass Field
2007 inductee into the
Ruth C. Bishop Volunteer Hall of Honor

 

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) has chosen Sharon Lass Field as the 2007 inductee into the Ruth C. Bishop Volunteer Hall of Honor. The Cheyenne Genealogical and Historical Society nominated Sharon for this honor. The Ruth C. Bishop Family History Volunteer Hall of Honor is the most prestigious annual award recognizing volunteers in the genealogical community. The criteria for choosing the winner is based solely on the amount and type of volunteer service rendered.


Sharon will receive a registration to the FGS conference in Fort Wayne , Indiana August15-18, five (5) complimentary hotel nights (Tuesday through Saturday) at the conference hotel, airfare to the conference, and a ticket to the FGS banquet. Sharon will also merit a cash award of $1,000, donated on her behalf, to the Cheyenne Genealogical and Historical Society.


Sharon joined the Cheyenne Genealogical Society in 1968, serving as president from 1974 to 1976. She was instrumental in moving the genealogy collection from the Wyoming State Library to the Laramie County Library. In addition she was on the Society committee to design and build the glass wall enclosing the genealogy collection.


Sharon 's real passion, however, is improving the genealogy collection. She has served as chairman of the acquisition committee of the Society since 1972. Even when she goes on vacation, she scouts local bookstores for genealogy and western history books. She's donated several dozen books over the years.


Sharon has been a Society volunteer in the genealogy room at the library since 1972. She has contributed over 10,500 hours helping people find their ancestors. Along those lines, Sharon taught beginning and intermediate genealogy classes through Laramie County Community College for 10 years. Many of us owe our success in researching our family histories directly to her.


For over 10 years Sharon led a cemetery walk through Lakeview Cemetery . She did the research on each gravesite that would show the crowd something unique about the well known and rich, and the everyday and infamous persons that reside there. Three years ago, the Society asked Sharon to rewrite the script to include members of the society portraying those residents. Sharon rewrote the script and the Society presents the “ Living History Cemetery Walk ” at the cemetery during Frontier Days.


Sharon has been called a “fierce defender” of the genealogy collection and resources. When the society learned in 1997 that the Wyoming legislature was considering a bill to digitize documents and destroy the originals, Sharon and 3 other Society members compiled a notebook of “horror stories” about the destruction of original records for each member of the senate committee studying the issue. The bill did not make it out of committee.


Since 1955 Naturalization records have been open to the public, but the Wyoming county clerks of court were not allowing access. Sharon took it upon herself to rectify this. It took her 8 years of phone calls and letters to find the documentation that allowed public access to naturalization records. Sharon requested and received a copy of that documentation, and subsequently sent a copy to every clerk of court in the state.


When Sharon discovered the Laramie County clerk of court office had no records of any naturalizations being filed in their offices, she knew this had to be in error. She relentlessly looked until she found a very old flip-card index in the back of the courthouse with “naturalizations” imprinted on it. The current clerks didn't know how to use this index as it referred to district court journals. They maintained their office didn't keep records like that. Sharon went to the Wyoming State Archives, located the microfilm of the journals and made copies to prove her point. Sadly, in Laramie County , most of the declarations, petitions and applications were destroyed. The index cards have been microfilmed and the original cards are now housed in an archival-safe box at the Wyoming State Archives.

A former Laramie County librarian ordered the books in the Mary J. Carpenter Collection of Western Americana the collection be inventoried and many of the books sold on a “ten cents” table, or added to the circulating collection. Many eager collectors snatched up those priceless books. Sharon and Ellen Mueller protested to the librarian and the final result was the collection being moved into the genealogy department where the genealogy volunteers could keep a watchful eye on them.


Sharon and Ellen Mueller became known as the “grave ladies of Wyoming ” because of their efforts to record graves and cemeteries in Wyoming . Sharon says she spent so much time in cemeteries that her two children thought it was perfectly ordinary to take a picnic to a cemetery and watch Mom write down information on tombstones. Sharon also read hundreds of trail diaries recording any names, dates, and approximate location of burials that occurred on the many trails that cross Wyoming . Ellen has retired, and Sharon will donate her hundreds of files when she completes a database and index. This work has spanned over 40 years, taken thousands of hours and is still ongoing.


Sharon is a published author. She wrote Fort Fetterman's Cemetery researching and documenting the burials there and History of Cheyenne . During the two full years it took her to compile and edit the book, she had to suspend her own family history research.

Sharon is frequently asked to speak at the CGHS meetings and around the area. She has amassed a large repertoire of informative and entertaining topics. We always look forward to one of Sharon 's presentations.


Sue Seniawski, President
Cheyenne Genealogical and Historical Society

Summer 2007