It was an amazing, accidental find.
As boxes filled with old documents at the Summit County-owned, now-closed Edwin Shaw Hospital were being set aside for shredding a few years ago, one broke.
Out spilled admittance records complete with names of former patients at the one-time tuberculosis facility.
“Wow,” thought Teresa Corall, the county records manager. “They don’t keep records like these nowadays.”
As she explored further, she found old employment cards, burial records for the small cemetery on the property, photos and even movie reels.
Recognizing their historical and genealogical value, Corall set them aside. That was in 2009. They have been sitting in the county records center ever since.
But today, the county and the nonprofit genealogy group FamilySearch are partnering to release thousands of Edwin Shaw patient and employment documents, along with Briar Hill Cemetery records dating from 1915 to the 1940s.
FamilySearch also has released county coroner records from 1882 to 1922.
The documents are available for free online at www.FamilySearch.org.
Edwin Shaw Hospital, originally known as the Springfield Lake Sanatorium, opened in 1915 in Lakemore and treated patients with tuberculosis. Decades later, the facility was taken over by Akron General Medical Center and used for inpatient rehabilitation. The complex has been vacant since 2010.
FamilySearch volunteers Lynn and Albert Mooney and William and Beverly Pace organized and scanned the records. FamilySearch, a free service funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is considered the largest genealogy organization in the world.
The Salt Lake City-based website has more than 3 billion documents online from more than 130 countries. Millions of those records are available from Ohio alone. Many, but not all, are part of a searchable database.
FamilySearch has been gathering and preserving records since 1894. Thanks to a cadre of about 500,000 volunteers worldwide, the group adds about 10 million historic records to the site each week.
“Technology has definitely broadened the reach of family history and genealogical activities,” said Paul Nauta, a spokesman with FamilySearch. “The growth of content online has made it equally compelling for people who want to search their family history.
“It’s a very addictive hobby for people,” he added.
The Edwin Shaw records are detailed. They include dates and sites of births and deaths; names of the cemeteries where people were buried; names of family members; and occupations — all information vital for people searching for family histories.
In the coroner’s documents, which are unrelated to Edwin Shaw, people can track the cause of death for individuals.
“It’s really interesting to see,” Corall said.
Plenty of people died on the railroad tracks in Akron’s Summit Lake neighborhood and by ingesting rat poison, she said.
Corall still has the photos and movie reels, and hopes they, too, will one day be released to the public.
“I would love to share that with everybody,” she said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.