Sunday, February 24, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Did You Get Started in Genealogy Research?

This week's challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is a story I've told many times, but apparently never for SNGF.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!), is:

(1) Jacqi Stevens recently suggested, in her blog post "The Networks of Life", the question "How did you get started in researching your genealogy?"

(2) This week, let's tell our "getting started in genealogy research" stories.

(3) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a comment on this blog post to lead us to your answers.

I started researching my genealogy before Roots appeared on TV, and I've still never read the book.  My journey began at the tender age of 13 with what used to be a common middle school assignment, to research your family tree back four generations.  For some reason that assignment really got me hooked.  I still have the purple mimeographed paper (even though that special scent is long gone).

I interviewed all of my local family members with all sorts of questions, and I still have my notes from those interviews.  I also wrote letters to others who did not live locally.  I have the letter I received from my paternal grandmother, where she responded to my questions about her mother's family.

Over the years I kept adding to the information I had gathered.  Whenever I traveled (I used to average at least one trip per month), I checked to see if I had any family in the area and then arranged to visit.  I asked more questions and offered to share what I had put together.  I've met several dozen relatives this way and become good friends with some of them.

I began to do a lot of volunteer work.  I've been staff at LDS Family History Centers since 2000.  I joined the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society and became the publicity director, then programming director, then ZichronNote editor, and eventually vice president.  I stepped down from the latter position when I moved to Oregon, but I still do all the rest.  I joined the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California, took over editing The Baobab Tree, and was elected to a board position.  I have worked in various volunteer capacities for the California Genealogical Society, California State Genealogical Alliance, Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy, and other sociteties.  I've done transcription and editing work for JewishGen.

Around 2004 I discovered people could make a living being professional genealogists and decided I wanted to do that.  The general recommendation at the time was that first you should volunteer to do research for friends and extended family and see if you still liked it.  I ended up doing the genealogy of everyone in my office; they joked I knew their families better than they did (and I still do).  In 2005 I placed an advertisement as a professional genealogist and got my first client right away; he was a client for five years.

In 2009 Marge Bell of the Oakland Family History Center sneakily conned me into giving a presentation on using online newspapers, and I've been giving talks on genealogy subjects ever since.  Along with lots of local and regional talks, I've been fortunate enough to have presented at some national conferences, such as RootsTech, the Ohio Genealogical Society annual conference, and several International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies' annual conferences on Jewish genealogy.

And all of this started with one mimeographed family tree.


  1. Thanks for the reminder about that special mimeograph paper--just you mentioning it brought back the memory of that strong odor that all kids took to their noses in class as the paper was handed out. I never knew what trouble those masters were until I took a writing class at DVC and had to use them. When copier machines came on the scene the teachers probably rejoiced!

    1. Does that scent count as one of the things that the "younger generation" will never know that they've missed? :)


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