SLAYTON — Karen Finne of the Murray County Museum has been given the Pioneer Explorer Award from the Minnesota Genealogical Society for her work in digitizing Murray County family history records.

"I just like history," said Finne, who joined the museum staff about two and a half years ago through the senior program of the Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council. She was presented with her award Saturday.

Finne has been digitizing records, among other museum duties, throughout her tenure at the museum. So far, she has indexed more than 20,000 obituaries and memorial biographies. Going alphabetically, she is now working through the Ts.

Finne finds the records in old newspapers and funeral homes. Some date back to the 1800s.

"It's sad to read some of these obituaries," Finne said, noting that gruesome details and pictures now omitted from today's obituaries were often included long ago.

Finne explained that her process is fairly simple, but it's a lot of work. First, she enters the information from each obituary or biography into the Murray County Museum website. She then scans each image and attaches it to the online record. Next, she prints a copy of the record, and files the hard copies alphabetically.

Once Finne puts a record on the museum website, that record becomes searchable for anyone looking for information about the subject. However, the museum is also open for people to come in person and do research. Many people do just that, Finne said, adding that some have traveled from as far as Spain and Australia to learn about their Murray County ancestors.

Digital records will give researchers "better access than trying to track down family," Finne said. "A lot of (genealogy information) gets thrown away, and it's part of history. Somebody could say, 'That's a piece of junk,' and throw it away."

Finne said she was surprised to receive the Pioneer Explorer Award.

"It made me feel good," she said. "I even cried, because I wasn't expecting it."

Nominated by museum coordinator Janet Timmerman, Finne felt honored to have her work recognized.