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Research courses popular at library
Genes WEB 1
James McCabe, left, follows along in a program during a recent genealogy workshop at the Cumming library. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Upcoming sessions

Two more genealogy workshops are planned this month:

• 6:30 p.m. Thursday — and General Topic Q&A presented by author and professional genealogist Ted Brooke

• 7 p.m. Nov. 17 — Finding & Using Primary Sources presented by genealogist Dr. Kathy Dempsey

Both will be at the Cumming library branch, 585 Dahlonega Road.

Class sizes are limited. Call (770) 781-9840, Ext. 9919, or visit “ask a librarian” on to reserve a spot.

Joanne Roth managed to traverse her way through a small village in Italy to learn more about her family history, despite knowing only bits of Italian.

Sorting through dozens of genealogy resources online, however, hasn’t been as easy to navigate.

“I’ve spent hours that probably could have been eliminated,” Roth said.

After being guided through some of the Forsyth County Public Library’s resources, she felt more optimistic about uncovering new information.

Roth attended the first of three November genealogy workshops at the library. The session Tuesday highlighted two extensive Web sites available to library cardholders.

The next two workshops in the series include one Thursday about an online grave-finding resource and another Nov. 17 called “Finding and Using Primary Resources.”

The first class quickly reached its capacity of 45, and the remaining two are nearly full, said Ann Decherd, branch manager of the Cumming library.

The library often gets requests on genealogy topics, Decherd said, and so offered the workshop for the first time last year.

The large response led to this year’s expanded series.

Local genealogy hobbyist Kathy Dempsey said she’s pleased to hear the classes have received several sign-ups who share her enthusiasm for researching ancestry.

“It’s like playing private investigator,” Dempsey said. “When you uncover something, it’s such a thrill.”

She’s been interested in the hobby for most of her life, since she visited graveyards and copied records with her grandmothers as a child.

With 10 grandchildren of her own, Dempsey continues to work toward documenting the family history to give them “a sense of who they are and where they came from.”

After being asked by a county librarian friend, she will share some of her tactics for the library’s series.

Dempsey will head the primary resources workshop, which will explore ways to verify information and use clues from secondary sources, like many Web sites.

Two of those sites, Heritage Quest Online and Ancestry Library Edition, were the subject of the first workshop, which library information specialists Mary White and Rebecca Stuckey conducted last week.

Both resource sites are available for free to library cardholders, Stuckey said. Heritage can be accessed from any computer, while Ancestry can be used only in the county’s three library branches.

White, demonstrating Heritage, pulled up some of the original handwritten U.S. Census tallies, which can be difficult to read.

“The nice thing is you can do this from home. You have all the time in the world to decipher these,” she said.

The Heritage database also includes searches of periodicals, local books, Freedman’s Bank of African-Americans after the Civil War, Revolutionary War records and the U.S. Serial Set.

Stuckey demonstrated the features available through Ancestry Library Edition, including records of the U.S. Census, military, births, marriages and deaths, as well as records from other countries.

The library edition is a free version of the paid Web site

Stuckey searched one of her own family names on the database, pulling up records of veteran schedules that filled in some blanks caused by the 1890 Census files lost to a fire.

“This was a real find,” she said. “When you find these records, you’ll find a lot of people.”