A seminar on genealogical research was held at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center Saturday afternoon, where visitors could learn about how to search for their ancestry and the ways the museum can help.
Researcher Cay Chamness said this seminar is one of the several events that coincide with the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read event, which the museum is participating in
During her discussion of genealogical research, Chamness broke down the process into three main categories, which as a whole create a family history that is not only accurate but alive. Chamness described information like simple dates, times and names as the “skeleton,” the stories and historical context behind the people as the “meat” and the photos and sources to back up the stories as the “skin.”
“When you just get facts and figures or names, you kind of have just a skeleton — you don’t know anything about the person, you don’t know what they’re like; you just know they existed, you know time periods and things like that,” she said. “But once you start to collect stories and you find out what was going on during history at the time — why did somebody lose five children in two days? Well, maybe it was 1833 and it was the cholera epidemic. So when you kind of put all of those things together, that starts to create that whole person.”
Throughout the seminar, Chamness gave accounts of when people would come into the library, hoping to find out more about their ancestry, and sharing several of the lessons learned through her dealings with genealogy and how accessible the research can be.
“I like to liken genealogy and the look to a large body of water. I think it’s where novices can go and they can dabble in the edge and find a few things, enough to maybe give you the ‘skeleton,’” she said. “But then experienced genealogists can jump in that vast ocean depth, and can swim and swim and never touch bottom. It just depends on how far you want to go.”
Once she was finished speaking, Chamness gave visitors a tour of the Genealogy and Historical Research Library, where she showed several of the resources that the library has to help people look for their family history.
Among the resources available at the library, which are at the public’s disposal, are a birth index for the state of Kentucky, census records, deeds and even newspapers to name a scant few.
When it comes to genealogical research, Chamness said people have varied reasons why they are searching, however she believes that everyone has some inherent curiosity as to their origins.
“When you find out who you are and where you came from it gives you a sense of belonging, and it explains a lot of things — it might explain why you have the personality you have,” she said. “Some people are drawn to certain cultures, well they find out actually that their ancestors were of that culture, so it gives you a sense of belonging and pride to that culture. Sometimes it helps you with health issues; if you find out that you’re predisposed to a certain disease or something like that, it helps with those kinds of things. I think everybody wants to know who they are.”