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State Honoree

Joseph Blecha


Joseph Blecha, 17, of Munden, Kan., a member of the Republic County 4-H and a junior at Belleville High School in Belleville, collected data from more than 500 tombstones in a local cemetery as part of a nationwide effort to make genealogical information from every state and county available on the Internet. After having difficulty finding information about his own family lineage, Joseph learned about the USGenWeb Project, and through its Web site was able to find the data he needed. He then decided to volunteer his time and knowledge to help others by supplying burial information from his local cemetery to the Web site. He obtained the approval of the cemetery’s board and was given access to all of the cemetery’s records. For the next several months, Joseph created collection sheets for each burial site containing the name of the deceased, date of birth and death, marital status, family information, military service history and the gravestone inscription. After collecting all the data, Joseph entered it into a spreadsheet and uploaded it to the Web site. “It was a great feeling to be able to give something back to the volunteers who have helped me in my document searches,” said Joseph. “It is in helping others that we mature and become better citizens and adults.”