Branch out: Docent helps a family search for ancestry records. (Diana Tomseth/Lariat)
The South Orange County Genealogical Society helped patrons find their family roots as they hosted Researching Your Family Tree with Ancestry.com at the Mission Viejo Library Center on Friday, Sept. 22.
Beginners who wanted to learn how to research their family tree came to the free class presented by the Mission Viejo Library and genealogy group.
The Mission Viejo Library has a subscription with Ancestry.com, which allows people to search the website for free to find their family. Individuals can search birth, marriage and death records among other documents to trace their family line.
Ancestry.com is a subscription -based website that allows visitors to both search their family history as well as create their own online family tree. The website states, “Bringing together science and self discovery, Ancestry helps everyone, everywhere discover the story of what led to them. Our sophisticated engineering and technology harnesses family history and consumer genetics, combining billions of rich historical records, millions of family trees, and more than 5 million people in the AncestryDNA network to provide people with deeply meaningful insights about who they are and where they come from.”
Bill Bluett, 78, president of SOCCGS said the group was formed in 1994 in Mission Viejo. Bluett has been a member of the group for the last 14 years and has served many positions as well as a docent at the library. Bluett became a member of the SOCCGS shortly after becoming involved in his own genealogy work.
“The light bulb just went on, it was just all of a sudden I had a desire to want to know who my ancestors were and where they came from,” Bluett said.
He researches his family line as well as his wife’s ancestry. Bluett likes the detective side that is involved in the research process.
“I think it probably helps me understand a little bit more of who I am when I find out where my ancestors are from,” Bluest said.
He found out that one of his great grandfathers was a Methodist minister who lived in northern California and in the state of Washington back in the 1800s and was a circuit rider. Bluett traced his family back to the British Isles, where he then decided to travel to Cornwall, England to find where his ancestors came from and saw gravestones that were over 200 years old.
“We think we have it difficult sometimes but when you look back in the 17, 18 or even 1900s and see the way that people had to live and the hardships they had to go through,” Bluett said. “ It just gives me a greater appreciation of who they were and what they did.”
Gayle Meldau, 63, a retired librarian from the Mission Viejo Library and current publicity chairman for SOCCGS gave a presentation to newcomers at the beginning of the class on how to navigate on Ancestry.com. She provided other ancestry websites like familysearch.com, findagrave.com and others so people could search during their time at the library. The Genealogy section of the Mission Viejo library has four computers that are reserved exclusively for genealogy work.
“It’s always just interesting to think about 100 years ago we had someone from another country who looked at this country and thought it was a new opportunity,” Meldau said.
Meldau said it is important for all of us to know as much about our family as possible.
Judy Daven, Mission Viejo resident and docent at the Genealogy Research Center, is responsible for helping others with research and in charge of all 27 volunteer docents.
“It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding and I love helping other people,” said Daven. “I just helped a lady and she found something and she’s just so happy.”
Carole McIver attended the class and brought three family names she wanted to research that evening, excited for the results.
“I have not been in here before, but this was a lovely way to do it. To hold like an open house,” McIver said.
McIver had tried on her own for years to research her family but this class made it so much easier.
“I know nothing of the mechanics of it, but these people do. They know the good websites to go to,” McIver said. “They have several websites and they are so through and they’re linked so you’re like immediately in a network. It’s just nice.”
She unlocked the mystery of relatives from Sweden that she had been looking for. McIver said she would come back again to the center to continue her ancestry work. Sometimes dark family secrets are uncovered.
“I just got back from Scotland and I am related to King James IV,” Daven said. “His reign was around 1495 in Scotland. He had a mistress and they had a daughter together, so that’s how I’m related.”
It is not all scandalous news, docents find themselves unlocking mysteries that are life changing in a positive way.
“I’ve had quite a few maybe five or six people who come into the research center and they’ll say, ‘I don’t know my grandfather’s name, I don’t know my grandmother’s name, I know nothing,”‘ Daven said. “Or they will say my father left me, I don’t know anything about my father.”
We get on to Ancestry.com to the 1940’s census and it pops up. One man was in tears. It’s very rewarding. I encourage everyone to start doing this,” Daven said.