Television shows such as “Genealogy Roadshow” on PBS and “Who Do You Think You Are” on TLC have led to an influx of people wanting to trace their family roots. On Oct. 28, local genealogy enthusiasts and those wanting to learn more about finding the history of their family can attended a workshop at the Washington Carnegie Public Library beginning at 6 p.m.
“October is Family History month so we thought having a workshop on how to find your family history would be fitting,” said Elizabeth Dowling, reference librarian.
Dowling said typically summer and fall tend to be the most popular time for people to begin searching for their family history. “The weather is nice this time of year and people can get out and to go cemeteries and visit where their ancestors lived,” she said. “It’s just a good time to be out doing research.”
Reference and genealogy assistant Debbie Kenworthy and Dowling will be conducting the workshop together.
“Genealogy is a growing obsession and we have several avid genealogists in the area but we also have a large number of individuals who come from out of town to learn more about their families,” said Kenworthy.
The workshop will detail how to use the internet to find free genealogy classes, birth and death records, and background information among other tihngs. “We will also touch base on things to watch out for when doing genealogy research online,” said Dowling.
While websites detailing ways to find ancestors have been popping up recently, Dowling says that users of the sites should error on the side of caution. “The internet is a great tool for getting started and finding out where things are but sometimes the information is not always accurate. Names may be spelled differently and sometimes mistakes are made in the way names are entered into records and data bases. It’s easy to write down information that is inaccurate and not realize it.”
She also said that the National Archives and some other organizations often free online genealogy courses or workshops as well. “There are some great sessions available on the web to help people get started.”
Dowling also said that while quite a lot of information is available online, out of all the family history information, including birth records, censuses and other historic documents, only a small percentage are available online.
“A lot of records haven’t been digitized and other records haven’t been microfilmed. There is just so much information out there but having to search is part of the fun.”
The Washington library has a wide variety of historic records and documents available to help people trace their family tree that are not necessarily online.
Kenworthy and Dowling often think of genealogy as being like a puzzle or mystery. “You have to think outside of the box sometimes. This can be a very expensive hobby or a very inexpensive hobby depending on how much you want to know,” said Dowling.
The local library has fielded calls from all over the United States and even over seas to help individuals trace their roots. “I can’t stand lost ancestors and I think it is interesting to learn about people and why they did certain things they did,” said Dowling. “Sometimes we find out some really interesting things.”
Those wanting to participate in the class should contact the library at 254-4586 to register.
Registration must be complete by Oct. 25.