Charting Your History



At some point most people become curious about their family background and begin doing the research on which genealogy work is based. Some applications -- such as those for health insurance -- require a knowledge of your family's medical history.

My interest in genealogy grew from asking my grandparents about the names of their relatives. I was about 10 or so and had started writing stories set in colonial times and wanted old-fashioned names for my characters.


Loretta Putnam pulls up a blank pedigree chart on one of the computers in the Payson LDS Stake Center's Family History Center.

"Getting started in genealogy begins with you," said Loretta Putnam, who teaches genealogy classes for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonto Basin.

Record information about yourself, where and when you were born, your parents and possibly your grandparents.

"Collect any papers -- birth certificates, marriage licenses, baptism records, death certificates -- you can get you hands on. Any Bibles, any journals are wonderful," she said.

The next step is to talk to people. "Interview your relatives. Ask if they have any family trees or pedigrees (charts) they have already filled out."

The Rim Country is fortunate to have two wonderful resource centers for genealogy research. The Payson LDS Stake Center's Family History Center and the Northern Gila County Genealogical Society Library.

Putnam brings her class from Tonto Basin to Payson to work in the Family History Center on Saturdays. The center's computers and the Personal Ancestral File software and additional resources, such as access to, are available to everyone.

"(PAF) is one of the best programs I have ever used," Putnam said. "It is very user friendly."

There is a tutorial to help users through the system and there are always people available to help get someone started with it.

The system has a variety of different forms on which to place the information you have gathered. It includes a place to record a physical description and anecdotes about your family members. It also has a scrapbook function where family photos can be scanned into the history you are building.

There are numerous links to other genealogy resources, including the largest and most comprehensive of family histories of its kind in the world, the LDS's main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Putnam said going back five or six generations is good. The system doesn't require you to have all the information on everyone, she said.

"We use ‘abouts' a lot. There are lots of ways to work around the information you don't have with the information you do have," Putnam said.

She explained how an "about" is used for a date of birth. You start with how old you think a relative was when they married for instance.

"Most men marry at 20. So if you know when they were married, but not when they were born, just subtract 20 years and give the computer instructions to search within two or three years of that date."

She said more often than not, birthdates, and accompanying information, can be found that way in census records. Another "about" that is used in genealogical research, about two years after a marriage, couples started having their families, and about every two years another child was born.

In addition to the resources available at the Family History Center via the Internet, there are actual books to use, plus microfiche and microfilm of records can be ordered for a minimal cost.

The NGCGS Library has other resources, but Putnam said members of that group make frequent use of the Family History Center's materials.

The Family History Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays. Special arrangements can be made to have it open after hours if three or four people are interested.

Putnam said she would be willing to help after hours groups with their research. She can be reached at (928) 479-2950.

To find out more about the center, call (928) 468-0249. The center is located at the corner of Ponderosa and Aero, to the southeast of Payson Regional Medical Center.

The LDS Web site, can be accessed from any computer.

The NGCGS Library is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or by appointment. It is at 302 E. Bonita St. For more information, call (928) 474-2139.

And those names ...

Well, for old-fashioned names I really didn't have to look any further than my own grandparents: Bessie and Stafford, Frances and Albert; great-grandparents James Issac and Melinda, George and Rosa, James Frederick and Lucy Marie, John Benjamin and Della.

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