Feature: Many avenues open to those looking to trace their family roots

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RESEARCH ASSISTANCE: At the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Mo., patrons can get help in their search for information from experienced genealogy librarians.

A recent morning found neighbors Loree Carlton and Kathy Kinn visiting the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Mo., together. The two, who live in Raymore, Mo., were at the center to dig deeper into their respective family histories – a pastime both have worked at for years.

“You never get through (with research),” Carlton said.

Wanting to dig deeper into genealogical research is understandable, because the rewards are so great. Knowing where we come from gives us a sense of belonging, and provides some illumination of how we came to be the people we are, living where we do.

Getting started

The first step to take in researching your family history is to talk with your parents and other relatives to get some basic information – such as birth and marriage dates, and the names of parents and grandparents.

Look through letters, photo albums, family Bibles – wherever you can find information. Visit cemeteries where family members are buried. Gravestones can provide birth and death dates, and sometimes wedding dates and names of other relatives.

Interviewing tips

You may need to interview relatives at length. Here are some tips:

  • Write things down. Don’t rely on your memory alone.
  • Use a tape recorder or a video camera to capture the event for future generations.
  • Have unidentified pictures on hand for possible identification by the relative you’re interviewing.

Historical societies and libraries

State historical societies are a good source for finding periodicals, state and county archival material, maps and photos. At your local library, you may find newspaper clippings, yearbooks and books on the history of the area you’re searching. If you have a genealogical society in your area, take advantage of it. It will be an excellent source for information and assistance.

Research centers

Genealogy research centers specialize in family history. One of the largest in the country is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Started by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1894, the library boasts the world’s largest collection of family history information.

According to its Web site, the library has 2 billion names in its database, 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and 278,000 books. What’s more, it has 4,500 branches worldwide.

New to the central region of the country is Independence’s Midwest Genealogy Center, which branched off from the city’s public library. It opened its doors this past June.

The center’s collections include periodicals, maps, city directories, records on microfilm, and 60,000 books providing county and state information from across the country. Patrons can use its com­puters, seek assistance from genealogy librarians, and take classes to improve their research skills.

Use your computer

If you are unable to travel, your best research tool is the Internet. Many sites are available for the amateur researcher. Some include family trees, also known as pedigree charts, that can be filled out. You can use these charts as a handy building block for expanding your search.

If you have a computer but don’t use the Internet, many software titles offer help. Three popular programs are Legacy, Family Tree Maker and Roots Magic. Others include Ancestral Quest, The Master Genealogist and Family Historian.

Don’t give up

It’s easy to become bogged down with research. Just remember that the time and effort you spend is worth it when you discover new facts about your ancestors.