Anyone who’s trying to learn more about their ancestors or map out a family tree is encouraged to utilize the Fort Frances Public Library and Technology’s Centre free genealogy services.
Two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah have provided genealogical research sessions through the library to interested individuals since January of this year.
Jim Curtis and his wife, Erin, provide the service and said there’s been a great response from those who have booked an appointment.
“It’s probably one of the largest hobbies in the world. People just love finding out where they’re from,” said Erin, who’s been researching genealogy for 20 years.
“They’ll come in and say I spent all last week doing this,” she laughed. “That happens–you get sucked in.”
Jim said most people who sit down for a session are shocked by what they find.
“I always check obituary records and things and we’re finding things for people, like we’ve found relatives they didn’t know they had,” he explained.
“We really want to help people relate to their family roots, what they do, where they came from,” Jim added.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sponsors FamilySearch.com which is the largest genealogical website in the world, and the primary website used during the library’s genealogical research sessions.
“I don’t know how many billion records they have but it’s a lot, it’s just a monster, and it’s larger than Ancestry.com but they partner with Ancestry.com and do a lot of things,” noted Jim. “They’re not competing organizations at all.”
Family Search has 1.21 billion searchable people and millions of users.
“Family Search is free and it’s open to anybody, they don’t have to be a member of our faith, anybody can do it,” Jim stressed.
He noted that Ancestry.com is great as a research tool but can cost as much as $300 a year for those looking to build a family tree on it, so Family Search is a better alternative.
“That’s why we try to get people on Family Search because . . . if you want to build a tree, it’s better to do it on a free place,” Jim said.
Erin said after hosting a session or two, people learn how to use Family Search themselves and can add to their tree at home.
“Once you get back probably to great grandparents you usually link into other people’s work and it just explodes–it’s very fun,” she enthused.
“We had one lady recently that just burst into tears, she said ‘I have family!’ because it connected into a whole bunch of people.
“She didn’t have to know their names or who they were, she was just so touched, it was really sweet,” Erin added.
Jim said there’s a great deal of data uploaded to Family Search and everything’s linked together so it’s easier than ever before to find genealogical information
Obituaries, census records, death records, voting records, military registrations, and other family documents can be uploaded to the website to help source materials and eliminate the need to keep physical copies at home.
“The physical, paper versions could get lost/thrown away. This keeps it all safe, in one place, and at the same time helps people trace relatives,” Jim noted.
“Papers will mold, they get wet, there’s house fires . . . and your kids may not care about the family’s history but your nieces and nephews might,” Erin added.
There’s another website that’s similar to Ancestry.com called MyHeritage.com which has a lot of European records that sometimes can’t be accessed through Ancestry.com or Family Search, according to Jim.
“So when I’m researching somebody. I’ll use all three–I use Family Search, Ancestry, and My Heritage to help find people,” he explained.
Jim also uses other sources to find out information on deceased relatives, such as Billion Graves or Find a Grave, and by Googling obituaries.
“You find a piece here, you find a piece here and then you put it all together,” he said.
Jim and Erin will continue to offer the genealogy services until May 1 of next year when they return to Utah and are hopeful the services will continue after they leave.
Anyone who wishes to access their services can call the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre at 274-9879 and book an appointment.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on 815 Keating Ave. here in Fort Frances also has a family history centre that’s open from 1-3 p.m. every Saturday for anyone interested in tracing their family’s roots.