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Searching for Diamonds in the Rough

Lisa Burghardt often wears all black to work—and with good reason. That's because work for her means searching for dusty old books, documents and keepsakes from centuries past.

As the new president of the Easton Historical Society and an avid researcher, Burghardt looks for things no one may have touched in years—all to preserve the town's history and stories of the people who lived here.

"The data is in vaults and dusty, dirty, muddy books. It's so much fun to work with old original data," said Burghardt, who loves sifting through wills from the 1700s and finding out what was important to them. "I get fascinated by how people lived and what they did with things."

Research has always been one of Burghardt's passions. Before high school, she used to spend hours in the library doing researching, and as a college student at SUNY Albany, she worked in the library. She welcomed the challenge of trying to find information assigned by her professors. "I was fascinated by pulling books off the shelf and trying to find the treasure."

This passion has helped others in town learn about their homes and the people who lived there long before. In one case, Burghardt spent six months trying to find the history of a home on Judd Road. The owner had recently moved in, knew nothing about its history and went to Burghardt for help. After six months of searching, she was able to discover that all the previous occupants had had jobs that were untraditional in the farming community that Easton had been. She found that a town cooper, a hat maker and a carriage maker had all lived in the home, most likely because the land the house stood on was too small for a farm.

"He said [the information] brought his house to life, and that's what you want to hear."

Burghardt also works on the Easton Cemetery Committee and, alongside other volunteers, works to restore the headstones. Many are broken or sunken into the ground. Some, she said, were misplaced or broken years ago and became part of the stonewalls bordering many of the burial grounds.

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