Experienced genealogists, as well as newcomers to the family tree quest, packed the computer lab on the second floor of the Freeman Branch Library in Clear Lake for the third in a free 6-week class on navigating FamilySearch.org.
The recently updated FamilySearch.org, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), is the latest tool to help connect generations, with access to more free records than any other website, according to volunteer instructor Tussy Norman. “ You don’t have to be a member of any church or group. First, the main purpose is to have everyone get their own personal account on FamilySearch.org,” Norman said. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The room was a-buzz as Elders and Sisters – LDS missionaries – provided one-on-one computer assistance with participants. “The website is very exciting. (It) opens up a whole new horizon” said Clear Lake resident Shirley Lindquist, who has spent 12 years seeking her ancestors. “ I want to continue doing research through this website. We’ll learn with the help of the Elders and Sisters. It would be much slower without their help.” The missionaries likewise expressed gratitude for the opportunity to provide community service.
After two short video segments in a series designed to provide basic research tips, and a brief Q and A exchange, animation began to build in earnest. Oletia Teas, member of Bay Area Genealogical Society, shared her FamilySearch.org success story. “I have been doing genealogy a long time by pencil and book. It is very slow. We call them brick walls when you come to a spot where you cannot progress. The brick wall had been there for many, many years,” she continued. “This is what I have been writing down, I got all of this (information). All my brick walls are gone. This is much easier than anything that I have run into.”
With the FamilySearch.org database so extensive, many participants were able to access pedigree work already recorded by previously unknown relatives . Ted Kell paused to report, “ I always wondered who I was and where I came from. I’ve been doing this off and on for about 15 years and I have found all kinds of information about myself that I didn’t know about. Now I am trying to fill in some of the recent holes.”
Local participants had nothing but praise so far. “This is my first venture full throttle into (genealogy),” said Marc Bowers of Webster. “ I think everyone should give this a shot. You enter basic information into the data base and things just come popping up. You never know what you might find out.”
Laura Smith, Reference Librarian at Freeman, was instrumental in working with the LDS church to make the class a reality and has provided the publicity. “This is a good free cooperative program and everybody is really excited. In fact, it was totally booked before the class began,” she said. “ It is wonderful to have all the Elders and Sisters so they can give the one-on-one help. We are hoping to be able to do it again.” Ms. Smith suggests checking for updates on the library calendar at the website www.hcpl.net .
A similar program was conducted in League City at the Community Center this summer. Some of those who completed the program are continuing their research at the Family History Center at 4655 South Shore Blvd. in League City. This center is open to the public and also provides hands-on assistance, regardless of genealogical research experience.