Classes open door to personal history

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WALLA WALLA — Are you interested in learning about your ancestors?

Peggy Humpherys, director of the Family History Center, said start with the obvious.

“We say start with the very basic, and that it is very important that you start with yourself,” Humpherys said.

The volunteer director said beginners often want to start researching several generations back to learn about a historical ancestor, instead of starting with parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on.

To help people get started researching their family tree, the Family History Center was kicking off its fall ancestry research classes today.

The classes are free, open to the public and take place at the center, located at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1821 S. Second Ave.

Beginners to experts are welcomed, but Humpherys warns beginners often become experts as they are drawn into the researching.

“Once you get started it is addicting,” Humpherys said.

What does it take to get started?

In the old days, genealogy searching often required travel to the counties where ancestors were born, married or died to sift through what are referred to in the trade as vital documents.

Today, many vital and other documents — census records, immigration documents, draft papers — are available online.

“I am going to be honest with you, it helps to have a computer,” Humpherys said.

So a computer and online access are pretty much required.

If you don’t have either, the center offers free use of its computers, which includes access to several for-pay genealogy sites.

Volunteers are also available at the center to help with research. But a flash drive is needed to store research data.

Of course, there is also the option of using a genealogy that has already been compiled by a relative. But Humpherys encourages people to rely on their own searching.

“When you go online, unless you are getting the actual birth certificates and marriage certificates, if you are going by someone else, you might get it wrong because they got it wrong,” Humpherys said.

There is also the personal satisfaction that come from discovering one’s own ancestry, she added.

The Family History Center classes are Tuesdays from 10-4 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m.

The center is open to the general public throughout the week. For hours and other information, call 529-9211.

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