Finding one’s roots: Genealogy seminar offered at Kyle Library

Tracing family lineage is a time consuming and tedious project, but the Kyle Public Library is looking at initiatives to help local residents find their roots.

Genealogy Gems, which meets on the third Saturday of the month, is a new program hosted by Assistant Library Director Cara Waits.

For Waits, tracing her family’s roots has been years in the making, researching on numerous databases and sending letters to churches and universities as far as Mexico for answers.

In her quest to finding her roots, Waits has worked on receiving her Genealogy certification and strives to share her knowledge with interested citizens with the same goals.

A pilot program was launched on Jan. 27 and was hosted by Waits. The immediate success prompted the monthly meeting, which saw eager citizens engage in conversation about different methods of tracing their lineage.

“We want to educate and hear how others are finding the stories of their past,” Waits said. “There are so many resources out there for you to use, and we’re trying to educate and make that more accessible to our citizens.”

The meeting was educational and informative for the eager citizens. Waits presented different databases and websites that can assist in the process of finding one’s ancestors.

Before computers, birth certificates and other official documents were recorded by hand. Immigrants from Europe and South America often had difficult names to pronounce.

Once in America, families were forced to change their name or spelling in order to acclimate to American society at the time.

With tracking lineage, old family stories and recorded documents often clash, leaving variance from what was once told by word of mouth.

“You could grow up knowing your great-grandmother’s last name, then all of a sudden the birth certificate says something completely different,” Waits said. “Family feuds, previous marriages and identity protection could all be contributing factors. You have to keep track of all of these details.”

When starting to trace one’s roots, Waits said there are a few factors in finding success, such as know who you’re looking for and having general location, dates and records.

If a birth or death certificate does not exist, old military, baptismal or travel records can aid one in their search to finding answers. Genealogists can pinpoint a location and decade by looking at old photographs based on dress, style and other details.

Tracing lineage also teaches individuals about historical events ranging from wars and mass migration patterns, Waits said. The Galveston immigration database and Austin Historical Center are resources in the state that could help trace when one’s ancestors left their home country for a better life in the United States.

The Kyle Public Library is looking to purchase a new microfilm reader, a device that projects images stored on microform to a readable size. Without the reader, local residents are forced to travel outside of the area for access to a device.

Waits is currently working on a grant and other means of funding to help provide this machine to the library. 

In addition to the microfilm reader, the heritage room at the library is equipped with numerous books and archived newspapers and state documents that could aid one in a search to tracing their genealogy, locally.

“I grew up with stories about my family and after I had my son I realized I wanted to pass these stories before they are forgotten,” Waits said. “You do have to like research. It’s a long process but the more you learn about your roots, the easier it is to give yourself identity.”

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