By April Holthaus
Special to The PREVIEW
Recently, one of the Archuleta County Genealogical Society’s club members has been tracing an interesting tidbit in her mother’s life story and discovered more information about a long-forgotten train trip.
Her mother was living in Colombia, South America, at the time and decided she wanted to see an emerald mine. So she got on a train and went a long distance out into the dangerous countryside, without much planning or hotel reservations. The story was a bit scary and not thought out at all, but she saw an emerald mine.
This tale, though incomplete here, is an example of how tracing family genealogy can bring snippets of your personal history to life. The ACGS, begun in 1978, has brought encouraging camaraderie to its members as they’ve solved puzzles of their family history.
The best place to begin researching is with the person you know best — yourself. Then go and ask your parents for information, then your aunts and uncles. When you find yourself remembering anything, even a tiny incident about anything or anyone in your family, write it down.
When all personal sources are exhausted, there is still a wealth of information to sift through at libraries and courthouses. Ancestors can also show up in tax lists, voter registrations, marriage and divorce records, jury lists and interdiction papers.
The foremost resource center for genealogical research is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. There are millions of names and histories to access there. Most can be searched on your computer at with geneology websites. This is an excellent way to begin your research and there are many reasons for wanting to delve into the past. Many genealogists have cleared up ambiguous facts, traced genetically linked medical problems or helped explain their current situation. It helps you understand why you are as you are.
By collecting and organizing stories, names and places, genealogists paint portraits of bygone days for future generations. Your ancestors lived and loved, had problems and joys and difficulties just as we do today. Future generations won’t have any idea about how it really was for your ancestors or for us unless we help them understand by giving them our family stories.
Interest in genealogy in our country comes and goes. In the 1920s, genealogy was important. Then we had a depression and a war and families began moving and genealogy ebbed. Then, along came Alex Haley’s “Roots.” He gave us that spark again and made us want to look back. Today, genealogy is one of the highest-ranked hobbies, with TV shows like “Who Do You Think You Are” helping pique our interest.
ACGS encourages beginning genealogists to broaden their scope searching for what kinds of materials are available for research. There is also contact with others who are farther along in their findings and may be working on the same family line, or in the same state. Sometimes there are big surprises. Sometimes there are shocks and sometimes there are answers to questions in people’s backgrounds that have been gnawing at them for years.
On Saturday, Feb. 7, the meeting of ACGS will be held at the Methodist church on Lewis Street at 11 a.m.
Our speaker, Jeannine Dobbins, will speak on the interesting topic of “the History of Genealogy,” going back to the early days of knighthood and family clans.
All are welcome — come with your questions, meet our members, have a cup of coffee and see if we can help you get started down this exciting road of solving puzzles of family.