CELINA - Tracing family lineage and learning about ancestral connections is a labor of love that can be both challenging and rewarding.
Pat Naveau of the Mercer County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society hosted a beginner genealogy session on Tuesday at the Mercer County District Library.
"Genealogy is not easy," Naveau said. "It's hard work, but it is so rewarding and it is so much fun. You learn so much about yourself and about your family, things you never ever dreamed you would know before."
Naveau said she started seriously researching her family roots in 2020 when most businesses were closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her husband visited a Paulding County cemetery where some of his ancestors are buried.
She cited that event as her "trigger," prompting her to research further.
"I think all of you need to find that trigger that really motivates you to do the hard work," she said.
Many seek to unearth their roots in hopes of discovering something new about themselves and their families.
"You want to know where you came from," Naveau said. "What did my ancestors do that brought me here? What sacrifices did they make that made my life better? How can I connect with them and learn more about them, their strengths and weaknesses and what they overcame?"
Before initiating research, would-be genealogists should define their end goals, whether it be taking a trip to a home country or writing a book, Naveau said.
Setting a goal can help a genealogist narrow their focus, she said. Otherwise, genealogy can send a researcher into a myriad of directions and tangents.
"If I go focus on one family, I'll say, 'Oh, there's a record for my other grandparent,'" she said. "What you end up doing is finding all these things that are scattered and you never finish. I have to put the blinders on, just like everyone else should. Focus on one objective at a time."
Naveau recommends a genealogist start with themselves and go backward. That way they won't accidentally research someone else's family tree.
Because ancestral lineage research can take months, Naveau stressed the importance of keeping notes and staying organized.
Genealogists should use their notes to remind themselves what they have researched and why.
"It's a way for you to talk to your future self. Six months from now, you may not remember where you found a particular book or what you found in it. Write it down," an information packet states.
When starting a family tree, Naveau said to begin at home, looking through familiar records including family Bibles, baby books, address books, birth, marriage and death certificates, yearbooks, family photographs, draft cards and military service records, driver's licenses, Social Security cards and tax records.
"Talk to your oldest living relatives. Record your interviews and take foot notes. Use their family stories as clues to your past," the information packet states.
With the information, start building a family tree using online software or an ancestor chart. Then fill out a family group sheet, recording the relationships of parents, grandparents, siblings and children.
When starting research, a genealogist should gather their information and put it in chronological order, while citing sources.
Questions and roadblocks are expected to pop up along the way. Genealogists should write down their questions and figure out what records might exist for that person in the time frame and location, Naveau said.
When researching, finding birth, marriage and death certificates is critical. She suggested starting with U.S. Census records.
Although documenting an entire generation can seem daunting, Naveau said the Mercer County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society can help.
Volunteers are available to help researchers in the genealogy room of the library on Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m. Make an appointment, email email@example.com or call 419-4442.
The genealogy society meets at 2 p.m. the second Sunday of the month from September until May at the Richardson-Bretz building, 119. W. Fulton St.