How I Got My Start in Genealogy

Not long after I decided that genealogy would be my “recreational drug of choice” I was approached by one of the “Top Guns” in the field who asked me “Why don’t you have a Blog? You have great stories to tell.” So after much thought and deliberation, I am jumping in… with both feet… barefoot… in winter… And I feel it might be uphill both ways!

So here I go. Wish me luck, and do come along and share some laughs.

A few years back my mother asked me “What do you know about genealogy?” and my reply was “What is genealogy?” Her reason for asking was that our public library was holding a Learning Lab session titled “Everything you wanted to know about Genealogy.” It was scheduled for one hour, and there was no registration fee. OK, if it is free, it is for me! I am a teacher, and being short in stature, I wanted front row seating. Nothing is worse than sitting behind a tall person and not being able to see the screen or chalkboard, so my mother and I arrived early and staked out our seats.

I saw the room slowly filling to capacity and with a quick glance around I spotted a fellow educator in the back. I smiled and waved, and then it was time for the show to begin.

Our Presenter takes her place behind the podium and introduces herself as the head of the library’s genealogy department. Oh boy, the Grownup in Charge herself, this will be great! She passed out a packet of four stapled sheets of paper and a brochure about the offerings at the library, and we’re off and running. Learning is my language!

The first sheet, titled “Everything you wanted to know about genealogy” gave the Webster’s definitions of genealogy:

  1. an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms
  2. regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor or older form : pedigree
  3. the study of family pedigrees
  4. an account of the origin and historical development of something

OK, I’ve got this, it’s like horses and dogs, there are Purebreds and Mutts. I giggle and whispered to my mom “Does this mean that they want to know “Who’s your Daddy?” She shot me that “mother look” informing me that I needed to behave and I turned around, but continued to grin.

After Our Presenter read us these definitions, she listed six websites that one could use to help them find their ancestors. She also said that the library offers Ancestry Library Edition & Heritage Quest, they have many CDs on family history available to the patrons that can be viewed in-house. The handout list included information on free sites as Family Search, Roots Web, US Gen Web, and Cyndi’s List.

Page Two was a picture of “stairs”. Well, that’s what an Ancestral Chart looked like to me! Our Presenter explained that you start with yourself, then add your mom and dad, proceed to their parents, and so on. Yeah, I was right, you go up the stairs! She gave us a few minutes to fill in some of the “stairs” on our sheet and then proclaimed that we were well on our way to knowing everything we always wanted to know about genealogy.

“This was easy!” I thought. Maybe that is why the conference room was packed, because as the old saying goes, “If it was easy, anyone could do it” and here we were.

The next handout was a blank 1930 Census form. Our Presenter informed us that it was a blank form and as we find our family information on the real form we were to fill it in on our blank form. OK, I got this too.

Handout number four listed genealogy terms and names of occupations that were common “Back in the day” but are not in used in “Today’s world.” It also listed abbreviations used in cemetery records. I thought to myself, “Cemetery records? What are we going to do in cemeteries, and why?” Ugh, this was turning from Easy to Eewww. Our Presenter explained that doing genealogy meant you gather up the basic facts, including that “cemetery stuff” like Name, Birth Date, Marriage Date, Death Date, and extra information such as where they were born, married, died and buried. Whew! We weren’t really going to hike all over a cemetery, we just need to know the name of it. Feeling better now… breathing under control as well as pulse.

By this time 30 minutes had gone by and she opened the floor up to questions. The room was silent. I mean, so silent that you could hear a fly land on fruit.

So I asked, “You said that this library branch specializes in Dutch history and research. My mothers side has some Cherokee Indian ancestors and my father’s family came over from Wales. Where would find information on them? Her answer was this – “Since your family isn’t Dutch you will probably have to go elsewhere. Does anyone have any other questions?” I said “Yes, I have another question. If I can’t find my family here, then where else should I start to look? where is elsewhere?” as I shot a glance to my educator friend in the back who would be researching her non-Dutch but Hispanic family. Our Presenter, the Head of the library Genealogy Department, looked at me for a moment and replied “I don’t know!” in a rather abrupt voice, as if I was to stop annoying her with such silly questions.

Our Presenter then thanked us for coming, wished us Good Luck with our research, then turned and was the first person to leave the room!

That, briefly, was my introduction to genealogy. Little did I know what lay in the path ahead of me, surprising me, my family, and my friends, but that, as they say, is Another Story.

Stay tuned, there is more to come after this brief intermission. Time to hit the concession stand!

– Genealogy Huntress


About Hunting Down History

Megan Heyl is a genealogist, researcher and teacher and has been involved in genealogy for many years. She is a member of NGS, APG, and several state and local genealogical societies.
This entry was posted in Tales. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How I Got My Start in Genealogy

  1. kristin says:

    It sounded okay up until she couldn’t/wouldn’t give you any information on where to go if you weren’t Dutch! Very strange, not to mention rude.

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