Genealogy tools help dig into the past

<p>The Hermiston Public Library is now home to a variety of genealogy resources, including books and free access to a library version of Ancestry.com.</p>

Hermiston resident Katherine English has spent several years tracing her family name “Massingale” back to the travelers of the Oregon Trail.

She discovered that one of her great-grandfathers was a wagon master on the trail and traveled with Daniel Boone.

Her genealogy efforts, she said, have helped to keep her family’s history alive.

English attended a genealogy class Saturday offered by the Hermiston Public Library to find out how she could expand her efforts in discovering her family history.

Virginia Roberts, vice president of the Blue Mountain Genealogy Society, led the first of what will be a monthly class every first Saturday of the month at the Hermiston Public Library, which complements the new Ancestry.com service at all Umatilla County libraries. People can now log on to the Ancestry.com library edition at any of the libraries in the county and utilize all of site’s services for free.

Roberts held her first class as an informal seminar to those interested in pursuing genealogy.

More than 20 people filled the basement of the library, all eager to learn about the available resources and how to further their knowledge of their family histories.

“People do (genealogy) for lots of reasons,” Roberts said. “But if you like mysteries, genealogy is the best book you will ever read.”

Roberts said there are a lot of benefits in researching a family’s legacy.

“One of the things you will learn as you do your research is a whole lot of history,” she said.

She said the first steps in genealogy should be identifying what a person wants to learn about their family.

She said it is important to break down their search into two families, such as the person’s mother and father.

“If you try to do too much, you get lost,” she said.

She said individuals should also set goals identifying exactly what they want to learn. She said specifying tracks for obtaining specific documents such as birth certificates or other public records is very helpful.

“When you are doing searches, you shouldn’t tell the search engine too much,” she said. “I usually ask a literal question or type in a surname. That is the best way to find things.”

To organize the information, Roberts advises that people set up a family tree, which they may do online through the Ancestry library resource. That allows them to save their information.

“Find out everything you can about those people because it will make them easier to identify down the road,” she said.

Roberts said interviewing family members and utilizing public records serve as invaluable sources of information. She said Ancestry also serves as a source to find records and connect with others doing similar family research.

“But don’t assume that they are 100 percent,” she said. “Take everything in with a grain of salt. It is up to you to prove the information. Do your own research.”

English said she plans on using the free service to explore more of her family’s history, which also includes some Native American history.

“I am excited about this,” she said. “I look forward to it.”

Hansen said she is thrilled that the library is offering the genealogy services.

“I had a patron come into the library looking for information for a genealogy project and I didn’t know where to send her,” she said. “I am glad that the library is pursuing this service.”

For more information about the Ancestry service or the classes every first Saturday of the month, contact the Hermiston Public Library at 541-567-2882.

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