Holiday gatherings are the perfect time to share stories of the family. It is a way to keep loved ones close who have passed away and how we learn about our personal heritage.
Family stories are the meat on the bones of genealogical charts. They are what make our histories come alive.
Collecting family history does not have to be a complex project, just get people talking and start writing or recording on tape or video -- whatever makes you and your family most comfortable.
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 insurance --require a knowledge of your family's health history.
"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.
"Collect any papers -- birth certificates, marriage licenses, baptism records, death certificates -- you can get your 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 (charts) they have already filled out."
The Rim Country has two 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. Center computers, the Personal Ancestral File software and access to ancestry.com 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.
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, is the estimate that about two years after a marriage, couples started having their families, and about every two years another child is 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 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 groups with research after hours by appointment. She can be reached at (928) 479-2950. To find out more about the center, call (928) 468-0249. The center is at the corner of Ponderosa and Aero, to the southeast of Payson Regional Medical Center.
The LDS Web site, www.familysearch.org 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.
Research Web sites
The November issue of the Northern Gila County Genealogical Society newsletter, "Gila Heritage" included an article by Val Sullivan, the group's second vice president, reviewing especially helpful genealogy Web sites:
www.ancestralfindings.com/quicktip.htm. This Web site shows past "Quick Tips" that have been published, "Building Your Family Tree," state searches, United Kingdom and Ireland Collection, free genealogy lookups and genealogy essentials. And it's free.
www.old-yearbooks.com. This Web site has links to sites which have actual copies and transcriptions of pages from yearbooks covering almost every state (a trial run found copies of the yearbooks from Tempe Normal School, now Arizona State University, from 1896 to 1903). The site also has old high school and college yearbooks, graduation programs, reunion booklets, class rolls, alumni lists, school photos and memorabilia.
www.mesarfhc.org. This is the Web site for the Mesa, Ariz. Regional Family History Center. Here one can search the center's library holdings for books, microfilm and microfiche online. This allows you to determine if the MRFHC has a resource you need before visiting. There is also a listing of the new books received in the last year.
progenealogists.org/genealogysleuthb.htm. This Web site offers links to additional Web sites under the following categories: Family tree databases, genweb sites by state, cemetery sites, vital records, census sites, military, slavery and servitude, place names and maps, newspapers, obituaries and biographies, tools, dates and currencies, court, estate probate records, photo archives, library catalogs, naturalization and passenger lists, state and federal archives, search engines, land records and more.