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Learn About Top Resources to Trace Your Ancestry at Hennepin County Library’s Third Annual ‘Family History Fair’
Fair Is Free, Registration Begins Oct. 6
Did you know that some people of European ancestry have traced their family histories as far back as the 16th century because many government records from that era still exist?  You can learn about genealogy resources at Hennepin County Library and elsewhere plus connect with some of Minnesota’s leading genealogy experts at the third annual Family History Fair on Saturday, Nov. 3, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis Central, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.  Admission is free.
Registration is required and begins Oct. 6.  Register online at www.hclib.org or call 612-543-KNOW(5669).
  • “CSI in Genealogy: Solving Family History Mysteries” — (Keynote, speaker: *Dr. Lois Abromitis Mackin, Minnesota Genealogical Society)
  • “Putting Grandpa on the Map,” tips for finding ancestral homes in the old country — (speaker: Jay Fonkert, director of the Association of Professional Genealogists)
  • “The 1940 Census,” how to use the census as a gateway to the past — (speaker: David Suddarth, Minnesota Genealogical Society) 
  • Tumultuous Times: Minnesota in the 1860s,” what we can learn about the times and the written records — (speaker: Mary Bakeman, owner of Park Genealogical Books)
  • “Finding Family History in Military Records,” finding and using records related to military service — (speaker: Tom Rice, full-time professional genealogy researcher and a director of the Irish Genealogical Society)
  • “What’s New in Internet Genealogy?” Learn about databases, indexes and family history websites — (speaker: Trudi Campbell, librarian and Hennepin County Library genealogy guru)
  • “Finding First Communities in the U.S. Where Your Family Settled,” migration and settlement resources — (speaker: Mary Wickersham, co-president of Midwest Ancestor Research)
More than a dozen resource groups and organizations will have resource tables at the fair, including the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, Irish Genealogical Society, Norwegian-American Genealogical Association, Romanian Genealogy Society, Rusin Association, Daughters of the American Revolution - Minnesota, St. Paul Family History Center, Park Genealogical Books, Friends of the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Minnesota, Swedish Genealogical Society of Minnesota and others.
Attendees will also tour Minneapolis Central Library’s genealogy collection and the Government Documents collection on the fourth floor.
Family History Fair 2012 is sponsored by the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library in collaboration with the Minnesota Genealogical Society and One Minneapolis, One Read.
Library Director Lois Langer Thompson said, “Hennepin County Library has tremendous genealogy resources, including free access to top databases that otherwise charge individuals access fees. In addition, there are librarians on the staff who not only are extremely knowledgeable of the best genealogy research strategies, but are passionate about the topic and about helping people connect to their families’ past. The Family History Fair is a great opportunity for anyone who is beginning or continuing to research their ancestry.”
Librarians say more people than ever are interested in tracing their family history and need help getting started. Librarians JoEllen Haugo and Trudi Campbell, two genealogy experts at Minneapolis Central Library, said it’s rewarding to assist genealogy patrons, such as the man in a genealogy class who finally found his ancestor’s passenger list after searching for 10 years.
Librarian JoEllen Haugo: “It depends on the country. Many European countries have government records that go back to the 1500s. And for many countries, the churches have been responsible for collecting records and retaining them.
“Regarding African American family history resources, more and more resources are online. Some families can be traced back to the 1700s or when the ancestors were brought to the United States or elsewhere. For others, records were lost or are not decipherable.  The records may go back only to the 1860s. Federal census and church records are useful resources. 
“Native American tribal records are often the primary starting resource for Native Americans. Other useful records include church, marriage, and death records.
“Genealogy volunteers who specialize in African American and Native American records, plus adoption records and government documents, offer their assistance each week at Minneapolis Central Library.
“For every family, records may have been lost, not kept, or individuals not counted — this goes for governmental records and church records. And then, of course, there is the problem with names — spellings changed, misinterpreted, misspelled even. And with first names, sometimes people are listed by their initials or a nickname. These can hinder searching for relatives.
“I think Ancestry or HeritageQuest databases are great places to start. With the 1940 Census now searchable by name on Ancestry, many people are finding success immediately for that era.
“Google is also a very common starting point. It can yield significant results but patrons should double-check the information for accuracy. Also, we do not recommend that people ‘share’ on Google. It doesn’t have the safety features that some of the other resources have, like the databases Ancestry, Roots, Ellis Island, etc.
“For Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society has the birth, death, and People Finder databases that are most helpful.”
Librarian Trudi Campbell: “Success largely depends upon the culture of the ancestry, the records kept in that culture, the social status of the ancestor,  as well as personal records maintained by the family.  
“Depending upon all of those issues, up to four or five centuries might be a common retrospective goal for many researchers, but keep in mind, until the late 19th-early 20th century, women are not always as well-documented as men in records.
“In genealogy, we always say, start with yourself and who and what you know and then work backwards. If you have family records like diaries and vital records certificates, that is wonderful, and they can be very helpful to the beginning researcher.     
“What I get asked for the most are passenger lists and the U.S. census. Religious records can be extremely helpful, especially for Scandinavian research. Naturalization records may provide vital information such as village of origin, date of U.S. landing, ship name, and photo, but can be difficult to find.
“My advice for beginning genealogists is this:
  • Start with yourself and work backwards.
  • Don't accept family stories as gospel; check them out!
  • If you don't find records in one county or jurisdiction, check surrounding areas — boundaries change.
  • Corroborate every record — compare the info in a family Bible with the actual marriage certificate, etc.
  • If you find a useful and free online resource, use it, for tomorrow it may be fee-based!”
For more information about Family History Fair 2012, genealogy databases and websites, and other genealogy  resources at Hennepin County Library:  www.hclib.org

*Updated 10/24/12


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