Welcome to the website of the County Historian!
Browse around to find online resources, request research assistance, and explore Livingston County history.
Research Room Closed. Due to efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 and in compliance with Livingston County and NY State directives, our research room is closed to the public until further notice. Please email or call and we will assist you. Thank you for your patience.
COVID-19 Documentation ProjectThe County Historian is requesting assistance from the public to help document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please consider sharing firsthand experiences, images, and reactions on how COVID-19 has altered your life and community. All information gathered will become part of the County Historian's permanent archival collection and made accessible for researchers. Stories and images may also be used for future exhibits.
Submit your experiences directly here:
March: Women's History Month
The County Historian's Office recognizes the following women and their achievements:
Mrs. June Simms, business entrepreneur
From the early 1950s to 2017, June Simms operated June’s Beauty Shoppe on Center Street in the Village of Geneseo, making her the sole woman proprietor of one of the longest-lived continually operated businesses in Livingston County. June’s widely successful hair salon catered to dozens of local residents in addition to clientele from across the country.
June Simms was born into a large family in Virginia in the 1920s. Both her parents died relatively young and as the eighth of nine children, June was taken in by foster parents, Thomas and Beatrice Robinson. She eventually came north with the Robinsons and like many other women, worked at the Birds Eye-Snider canning factory during WWII.
After the war, June enrolled in the prestigious Harper Method Beauty School in Rochester, established by the famous inventor and entrepreneur Martha Matilda Harper. Here June studied hair dressing and skin care as well as skills necessary to operate a small business.
Upon graduation, June worked at Sibley’s hair salon in Rochester and quickly gained a reputation as a talented hair stylist. In 1951, June married Thomas Simms and soon decided to open a salon in Geneseo. Customers flocked to her newly opened shop, benefiting from June’s expertise and welcoming personality. June also helped form the first Livingston County Hairdressers’ Association and served as an officer of the group for several years.
For decades June’s Beauty Shoppe remained a Geneseo downtown institution. Balancing long days on her feet at the busy salon with four children at home, June relied on family and hired older women in the community to help with the kids. “I just worked hard every day and did whatever needed to be done,” she said recently.
June Simms is proud of her Black heritage, but also refers to herself simply as “American,” as her family is comprised of many ethnicities. In a recent interview, when asked if she, as a woman of color, was the target of discrimination, June replied no. She stated, however, that the subject of race frequently came up in conversation at the salon over the years, especially as customers grappled with changing times in the civil rights era. June often set them straight by explaining that the color of a person’s skin does not reflect who they are inside.
She attributes her toughness and endurance to her childhood and contracting tuberculosis at only six years old. Her long confinement at the Piedmont Sanatorium in Burkesville, Virginia inspired her to be helpful and cheer up others, qualities that likely played a key role in June Simms’ success and longevity in the business world.
(By Amie Alden, County Historian)
Tech. Sgt. Mary E. Phillips Hedman (1921-1975)
In January of 1943, Miss Mary E. Phillips of East Avon made historic news as the first African-American woman from Livingston County to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). A daughter of John E. and Annie E. Carpenter Phillips, she was working as a maid for a family, having graduated from Avon Central School and the Wisconsin Vocational School. As she prepared for her departure for service, her siblings threw a surprise farewell party and it was reportedly"very patriotic." The room was decorated with an American flag, and large, dangling letters spelled "VICTORY."
When she left on the train to Des Moines, IA from Rochester in March 1943, she was part of a small contingent of Black women from the region. After training, she entered the Medical Corps and was promoted to Technical Sergeant in July 1943, serving in a hospital in Fort Dix for the duration of her service. She returned to civilian life by December 1943 and later married Leslie Hedman of Rochester.
According to her family, Mary continued in the medical profession, working as an LPN at the Rochester Psychiatric Hospital for a number of years. Her encouragement and influence led one daughter to serve in the Army for 18 years, and her son to join the Navy. Another daughter became an LPN. Mary also had the opportunity to represent her Rochester neighborhood at the historic March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.
As the first woman of color to enlist from Livingston County, Mary demonstrated courage that exceeded the norm. We honor her for her service, and thank the Hedman family for providing additional details about her life as well as the 1943 photograph of Mary in WAC uniform.
(Research by Holly Watson, Deputy Livingston County Historian)
Women’s History Trail
Explore some of the contributions women have made to Livingston County with this new OnCell tour, and check back for periodic additions!
Alms House Register, 1877-1921
Indexing of this massive register has just been completed and lists those seeking assistance at the Alms House (later County Home). Searching for that missing person? This book may help track them. Search for ancestors’ names on our Online Records Index.
Henry Wilson, alias William A. Carson, alias James Morgan, confessed to the murders of five people and was executed in Geneseo, NY in 1865 for the murder of Henry Devoe. This account, written by the man himself, tells of his travels and crimes, and is quite riveting.
Digitized - Unusual Newspapers
A collection of assorted rare newspapers was recently digitized, from the 1817 Genesee Farmer and the 1859 Frederick Douglass' Paper to the 1901 Bungtown Bugle and 1936 Living Stream Hose Co. Carnival Booster. Other titles include the Geneseo Business Item, Geneseo Daily News, Discover Conesus, Moscow Advertiser, and Hot Cinders. All have been uploaded to www.fultonhistory.com for searching.
Coroner's Records, 1906-1936
This series, the bulk from 1923-1936, primarily comprises detailed Coroner's Inquests and corresponding Coroner's Decisions. Because of the sensitive nature of these records, no index is published. Please contact us about a specific case.