The Holidays Are a Time to Gather Family History

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Kenton County Public Library suggests gathering information from relatives before it's too late.

Six generations of family celebrate the holidays, courtesy the Kenton County Public Library.

Dan Knecht of Covington, Kentucky can trace his family roots back to the 1600’s. “I was what you would call an old folks child, always hanging around our elderly family members and learned a lot from them.” Knecht has been working on his family tree for more than 30 years. He credits the Kenton County Public Library in Covington, Kentucky, for giving him some of the tools and resources needed in his search.

The Kenton County Public Library wants to remind everyone that the holidays are a great time to connect with family members and start writing down their family history. “Many people really don’t think about how much information their grandparents or other elderly family members have until it’s too late,” said Elaine Kuhn who oversees the Library’s Local History and Genealogy department. “We want to encourage people to take a few minutes during the holidays to reconnect with their family members and ask about their history. Should you or anyone else in your family want to get started tracing your family heritage, having this information will make the initial search much easier.”

While it may be overwhelming to think about how to get started, Mr. Knecht suggested doing a few simple things to get started. “In addition to talking to your relatives, you’ll want to look through family documents and photos.” Mr. Knecht states he was given hundreds of postcards that were a great source of information. “The postcards not only had beautiful pictures on them, the written part would sometimes offer insight into other family members. For instance, in one postcard there was mention of a baby being born. You can look up the birth records around that time and match the last names and this will give you a bit more information.”

Knecht further states that there are a variety of resources out there to obtain information. “The Internet has made research so much easier,” he states. He spends a lot of time at the Kenton County Public Library using free online research tools including Ancestry.com, Faces & Places, the county and city records and other databases available. He also participates in the Library’s Congenealogy program. Congenealogy is held monthly and invites researchers to come and share their information and tips and suggestions for their research. Many libraries throughout the country have similar programs.

“I’ve learned a lot about my family. I’ve had ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War on my mother’s side. On my father’s side one of his ancestor’s wrote a book called the “Who’s Who of Cincinnati.” There’s a treasure trove of information out there. You just have to dig a little.”

Researching your family can be a long, but fun process states Kuhn. “Approach the research as a fun hobby. No one becomes a good golfer or bowler the first time out. Family research is the same. Information usually comes in bits and pieces, but the search is 90 percent of the fun. Each “find” makes all the research worthwhile.”

The Covington Branch of the Kenton County Public Library maintains an extensive collection of local history and genealogy materials. It is one of the largest Kentucky history and genealogy collections in the commonwealth. For more information visit the Library online at http://www.kentonlibrary.org/genealogy, in person at 502 Scott Boulevard, Covington, Kentucky (across the river from Cincinnati) or call (859) 962-4070.

Sidebar:
Tips from the Kenton County Public Library on Beginning Your Family History Research
For more information visit the Library online at http://www.kentonlibrary.org/genealogy or call (859) 962-4070.

a) Begin at home. Collect pictures, letters, cards, newspaper clippings and funeral notices. Places at home to check are photo albums, trunks, drawers, family Bible, etc.
b) Talk to relatives. Record or write notes from those conversations-preferably both. Note who said what and when, because there will be some contradictions.
c) Kinds of questions to ask to get people talking: Ask where they were born. Where did they live and when did they live there? Ask about marriages, jobs, clubs and organizations, church memberships, military service, hobbies, etc.
d) Talk to friends of your parents and grandparents. Often friends have heard stories or can share experiences.
e) In seeking information from strangers, call them up or email first. Most people do not like strangers showing up at their front door asking questions.
f) In talking to people, ask not only for facts, but also for family tales, stories, etc.
g) After you talk to someone, or receive information via email, mail, etc., always acknowledge that you got the information and thank them.

Once You Have Background Information, Go To the Library
The Kenton County Public Library has the most comprehensive records in Northern Kentucky for the local counties, but almost all local libraries have some information.
a) First check to see if the library has any books or papers about your family that have already been researched.
b) Check census, church and vital records indexes, many of which can now be found online.
c) Libraries often have city directories, which list the head of the household, where they lived, and occupation. Some libraries also have listings of who are buried in local cemeteries. Cemetery records will pinpoint the date a person died.
e) Check local historical and genealogical societies. When doing research at libraries and societies, chat with people there. It is amazing how often others are either doing research that may be related, or they may know of someone else doing research on related families.
f) County courthouses will have deed records showing land purchases, marriage licenses, deeds, wills, and sometimes birth certificates. Those records are usually kept by the county clerk's office in the county courthouse.
g) Attend family functions (reunions, weddings, parties). Setting up displays with pictures and written material often helps to get people talking.
h) Be careful in buying books that promise information on your family tree. Most often they are simply lists of people with your last name.
i) When hiring a professional researcher, set the ground rules in advance as to how much they will charge.
j) Document Everything: Where you found it, when, page number, person's name, etc. Always assume you are going to have to go back to that source for more information.

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