A longtime Huntington couple has dedicated more than 40 years to improving the quality of information available to Huntington residents by volunteering at Huntington Historical Society.
Arthur and Irene Sniffin moved from Massapequa to Huntington in 1966 and have been immersed in the history of the town ever since.
“I always had an interest in local history,” Arthur Sniffin said in a phone interview. “When we moved, I was looking for something to do with history and the historical society was a perfect fit.”
Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) put the spotlight on their work earlier this year when he handed them a county proclamation for being awarded the President’s Award for Excellence in Service from their historical society this year.
“Our community owes Irene and Artie a debt of gratitude for the countless hours they have dedicated to preserving our local history and helping many of us discover our own family origins,” Spencer said in a statement.
Arthur Sniffin began working at the historical society as a trustee and then treasurer, while Irene Sniffin volunteered at the resource center and eventually became the historical society’s librarian, where she helped update the archives.
Arthur Sniffin is credited as being the founding chairman of the historical society’s genealogy workshop, and both he and his wife worked together over the years to organize genealogy courses, called root seminars, which helped people from across Long Island better understand how to search for history on their ancestry.
”As people get older and retire, they want to know more about where they came from,” Irene Sniffin said in a phone interview. “They want to become more aware of who their ancestors are, so we helped them find that information.”
She said they were both able to help people get interested and better in touch with their family history.
The Sniffins’ family history is also impressive. Arthur Sniffin is a direct descendant of Thomas Powell, a prominent figure from Long Island in the late 15th and 16th century, who secured the land transaction known as the Bethpage Purchase. According to Arthur Sniffin, once he started working at the historical society, he learned that one of his ancestors was actually the first recorded death in Huntington Town.
“The more I was helping people, the more I ended up learning myself,” he said.
The Sniffins have also helped with the transition of the archives from the old resource center to the new library, which will be located on Main Street next to the Huntington Arts Council. They collected residents’ information, including obituaries and features from newspapers in the past several centuries, to make sure the historical society’s record of the town is maintained.
“The history of the town and the people have to be preserved,” Irene Sniffin said. “I think people forget that when they get caught up with the many other parts of a normal routine, but it’s important. I felt like I was doing something constructive that needed to be done.”
She said it was both exciting and surprising to be honored by the historical society and Legislative Spencer and Arthur Sniffin said he agreed.
“It was an honor to be honored,” he said.