Genealogy searches a popular hobby

  • Saturday, February 1, 2014

When I was growing up there was a picture of my great-grandmother hanging in my grandparents’ house. I never paid much attention to it, but one day I found a copy of her obituary and that piqued my curiosity, and I began a life-long search to find my ancestors. Who were they, what were their professions, where did they come from, and why and when did they immigrate to America? How did historical events affect their lives?

Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. It is thought to be second only to gardening. According to an article on the website www.archives.com, about 87% of American adults are interested in learning about their family history.

When I first started my search there was no Internet. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? I lived in the Washington, D.C. area and was able to use microfilm records at the National Archives. I’ll never forget the thrill the first time I saw my great-grandmother’s name in a census record. I visited North Carolina local libraries and courthouses to look at records. I sent countless letters and made many long-distance phone calls to people who shared surnames of my ancestors. I tramped through cemeteries hunting for tombstones. At the end of a long dirt road I found the abandoned farmhouse where my grandmother was born. I even discovered that a long-time friend and I are related.

After the airing of the mini-series “Roots” (based on the book by Alex Haley), genealogy became extremely popular, and there were lines of people waiting to use the microfilm readers at the National Archives. People were able to find more and more information about how to trace their family history.

Today with new technology, millions of records are being preserved and digitalized. Ancestry.com has volunteers around the world helping to find and preserve records, making them available online. Currently there are millions of records available for viewing online, and most people begin their search on the Internet. Some genealogy websites charge a fee, but there are many that are free. It’s almost a necessity to be computer-literate to search for your ancestors.

Are you interested in learning about your family’s history? The most important thing to begin with is interviewing your relatives to find out as much as they can remember.

Next, a visit to your library is essential. The Charleston County Public Library has many how-to books to help you get started. There are two important databases that we offer: “Ancestry.com Library Edition” and “Heritage Quest.” “Heritage Quest” can be accessed from your home computer and “Ancestry.com” is available on the library’s public computers. Federal Census Records (1790-1940) are available on both of these databases. The South Carolina Room at the Main Library has many genealogy books and resources. Items must be used in the South Carolina Room.

If you’ve been bitten by the “Genealogy Bug,” we’ll be glad to help you get started by showing you our books and databases. Let us help you start the climb up your family tree.

Mt. Pleasant Regional Library Programs:

•Great Decisions Group I (adults)

Thursday, Jan. 30 from 2 - 4 p.m. - “Israel and the United States”

Thursday, Feb. 6 from 2 - 4 p.m. - “Turkey’s Challenges”

Read the briefing materials and come prepared for a good discussion. For more information, contact the Reference Desk at 849-6161 or MtpReference@ccpl.org.

•Do-It-Yourself Arts and Crafts with Ms. Grace (all ages)

Saturday, Feb. 1 from 1:30 - 3 p.m.

Create an awesome craft with Ms. Grace.

•Stretching with Dr. Erikka for Parents and Tots (all ages)

Monday, Feb. 3 at 10:30 a.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 11:30 a.m.

Parents and children of all ages are welcome to join Dr. Erikka Curia, Chiropractor at ChiroLife, for a brief morning session of stretching for good health.

•Reel Club: Book/Movie Discussion Group (adults)

Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.

Read the book, watch the movie and then participate in a lively discussion. Book: “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Movie: “Easy A.” Rated PG-13; 92 minutes.

•Second Saturday Writing Critique Group (ages 16 and older)

Saturday, Feb. 8 from 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Open to all writers. For more information, call the Reference Desk at 849-6161 or email MtpReference@ccpl.org.

•Monday Book Discussion (adults)

Monday, Feb. 10 from 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

“Half Broke Horses” by Jeannette Walls

•Start Your Garden Now (all ages)

Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 2 - 3 p.m.

Join Master Garden Darren Sheriff as he walks you through the first six months of a Charleston growing season.

Story times

•Babygarten (0 – 18 months with adult)

Wednesdays, Jan. 29 - March 5 at 10:30 a.m.

Fridays, Jan. 31 - March 7 at 10:30 a.m.

•Baby Bumblebees Story time (ages 6-24 months with caregiver)

Thursdays, Feb. 6 - 27 at 10 a.m.

•Twos and Threes Story time (for 2- and 3-year-olds with caregiver)

Tuesdays, Feb. 4 - 25 at 10:30 a.m.

•Fours and Fives Story time (for 4- and 5-year-olds)

Thursdays, Feb. 6 - 27 at 11:30 a.m.

•Saturday Story time (planned for ages 2-6; all ages welcome)

Saturdays, Feb. 1, 8, and 22 at 11 a.m.

Saturday, Feb. 15 at 1 p.m.

To sign up for our monthly email with the Mt. Pleasant Regional Library’s program calendar, please email MtpReference@ccpl.org

Susan McSwain is a Library Assistant in the Reference Department of the Mt. Pleasant Regional Library, 1133 Mathis Ferry Road, 843-849-6161. Visit us in person, at our website, www.ccpl.org, www.mtplibrary.blogspot.com.

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