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Don Matson Has Died


Among other materials compiled and donated by Don Matson, the Monroe County History Center has two boxes of index cards for the Coffey family.

Donald Keith Matson, aka Donnie, died November 23, 2018, at the age of 75.  His obituary was not published until December 2.  Perhaps that’s because he had no immediate family to survive him.

Lots of people with deep roots in Monroe County are related to Donnie.  Practically everyone.  If not you, then your spouse.  He also said he had traced his ancestors back to Noah and the ark.  And according to his obituary, Adam and Eve.  Of course he couldn’t provide sources to prove those connections.  It wasn’t his way.  He took people at their word and believed much of what he read without corroboration or evidence.

The obituary mentioned that Donnie had several interests.  Most people that knew him might find that surprising.  Genealogy certainly appeared to be his one true love, his only passion.  He’d been charting his own family and that of others since he was 16 years old.  When the rest of us were dating, playing sports and watching the idiot box, Donnie was charting.

In the years before Ancestry put digital images of census records online, Donnie created an index to census records 1820 to and including 1850.  Chances are that he accessed the records on microfilm at IU’s main library.  It’s also likely that he transcribed the information by hand.  What a labor intense project.  The index was published in 1979 and heavily used until the early 1990s when Rachel Rice compiled a more comprehensive index on her computer.

As much work as that project surely was, it wasn’t Donnie’s only publication nor was it his first.  In 1974 he created an index to all of Monroe County’s mortality schedules (1850-1880), and about 1975 finished an index to Monroe County marriage records (1818-1875).  A complete list of his publications can be found on the MCPL website.

Several years ago Donnie donated to the Monroe County History Center library much of the genealogy materials he had accumulated throughout the years.  There is a substantial amount of information about the Coffey family kept separately and the remainder, mostly in the form of handwritten notes, placed into the Center’s family files.

Donnie’s work in genealogy is a part of his legacy.  His devotion and passion for the work he did will be missed.

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