Saturday, October 14, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Have You Helped Someone with Their Genealogy?

Oh my goodness!  It was difficult to choose who to write about for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver!

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

1.  Have you helped someone (a friend, a colleague, someone you didn't know, etc.) with their genealogy and family history?  Genea-blogger Ellen Thompson-Jennings wrote on this topic last month in Have You Helped Someone with Their Genealogy? on Hound on the Hunt.

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

Helping people with their genealogy is what I do with a lot of my time, and I've been doing it steadily since 2000, when I started volunteering at the Oakland Family History Center (now the Oakland FamilySearch Center).  Since my move to Oregon in 2017 I've been helping at the Gresham FamilySearch Center.  I've also helped people in the various genealogical societies of which I have been a member, including Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon, Genealogical Forum of Oregon, and San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, which are a few of my current affiliations.

Probably the most interesting time I had helping people was when I worked at the Seismological Society of America and was doing the genealogy of all four people I worked with:  Susan N., Dorothy G., Kathy R., and Bo O.

Susan's family was mostly British Isles people who had been on this continent for a long time.  One of her grandfathers was from Greece, however, and I had fun reading Greek records on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  One great-grandfather went from Missouri to California for the Gold Rush, and I found him in an early California state census.

Dorothy was always saying that her family wasn't interesting, but I found that her Portuguese line was one of the original settling families in the Azores.  She had a grandmother who lived to be 100 and was feted in San Francisco.  Her parents eloped and then pretended not to be married for a few years because her maternal grandmother did not approve of her mother's choice of husband.

For Kathy I researched both her and her former husband's families, because she was interested in sharing the information with her children.  Kathy had ancestors from Alsace-Lorraine with a surname that originated in only three towns there.  She had always been told that her maiden name was from a Jewish line, and I found her ancestor in Colonial Virginia identifed as a Jew; he even signed documents in Hebrew.

Rumor had it that Kathy's former mother-in-law had had the family history well researched and then thoroughly obscured.  A "family tree" had been created that listed only the male of the line and his wife, going back several generations.  After only a small amount of research (two or three generations) it was clear that the tree had been made up of whole cloth.  It appeared that perhaps part of the reason to hide the real information was that the family might have been scalawags.

Bo had one parent who was Jewish and one who was solidly British, so the research went in two entirely different directions.  His is the only family I am still working on.  I've actually found some of his Jewish ancestors in European records, which is more than I can say for my own family.

Everyone used to comment how I knew more about their families than they did!


  1. Many thanks for volunteering at not one, but two FamilySearch centers. All the volunteers are very much appreciated.

  2. I knew you would have tons of stories to tell!

    1. And those are just the ones from the people I was working with!


All comments on this blog will be previewed by the author to prevent spammers and unkind visitors to the site. The blog is open to everyone, particularly those interested in family history and genealogy.