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Introduction to Genealogy

Saturday Feb. 27, Watkins History Museum hosted an Introduction to Genealogy.

This introduction course is the beginning of a series of upcoming sessions lead by Alisa and Richard Branham, who are focused on teaching interested individuals how to track and document their family history.

Richard is a professor of Interaction Design in the School of Architecture, Design, and Planning and Alisa is a staff member in the School of Education. In their spare time, both have become seasoned genealogists, piecing together their families’ journeys to America and throughout generations and they are still finding pieces of their stories today.

Introduction to Genealogy attracted experienced genealogists and newcomers alike, and reasons for coming were even more diverse

One attendee confessed, “I want to be Irish!”

Another participant, Willie, relatively new to genealogy research, had other goals.

IMG_2307“Being able to track your family legacy is a privilege that some people in the U.S. do not have. I would like to track and create my family narrative to pass on to younger generations of my family.”

The class was given multiple handouts highlighting the most important things to remember in genealogy research, including persistence and warnings against false information seeming real (always check dates and location).

But the Branhams were not the only experts in the room. Many of the students traded tips, coupons, websites, and information on local resources like the Midwest Genealogy Center. Despite the sometimes tedious nature of their work, the students were all very talkative which lead to a casual and friendly atmosphere with conversations and questions covering topics from DNA conspiracies to AARP discounts.

Having this atmosphere where people share a common interest and learn from each other has been described by Richard Branham as a “community of practice.” And when asked what they hope students take away from the class, Alisa Branham responded,

“We hope students realize that others share their passion for history, for understanding the context of their ancestors’ lives. We hope that students will be inspired to travel to places where their ancestors lived, and to honor the challenges, sacrifices and bravery exhibited in the stories of their lives. We hope our students find new friends and keep learning new stuff, and take the time to reflect on how their family history has impacted their lives today.  Genealogy is a big puzzle!”

Richard BranhamThe next class on May 7 will be over using census records for research. Future sessions will be held for those researching British ancestry and how to use maps and other land records.