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Library’s genealogy club aims to help find family roots

HUDSON — Gayle St. Cyr has been a reference librarian at the Hudson public library for 20 years. When she began delving into her genealogy she was able to use her skills to reveal a depth about her family background she never could have imagined.

“It’s nice to see where you came from and understand the way they lived a little better,” said St. Cyr.

Over the years St. Cyr said she had gotten many requests to form a genealogy program. So when the library opened its new facility in 2009 — three times larger than its predecessor, which opened a century earlier — space was available to start the Genealogy Club.

One of the more interesting findings for St. Cyr was that one of her relatives, Ann Foster, was convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.

St. Cyr got her start thanks to an uncle conducting similar research. And now that she runs the club at the library, she spends more time helping others research their lineages than she does her own.

She said a person is lucky if they can trace their roots back to the 1600s. In Southern New Hampshire, many people of Irish, English, Scottish and French-Canadian descent are able to go back that far.

Others aren’t as fortunate. “If you have family that was persecuted like the Jews in World War II, a lot of the records were lost. But most people can go back a ways,” she said.

Floods, fires and other events are other causes for the loss of records.

The four databases at the Hudson library — including and Heritage Quest — are just some of the resources available to genealogical inquirers. Death, marriage and birth certificates can be wells of information.

Through records and newspaper articles, St.Cyr found that her great-great-great-grandfather, Nashua-native John S. Nichols, was a veteran of the Civil War who deserted and was later killed when a well caved in on him in Maine.

Nichols’ death appeared in a newspaper article in 1873, which reported his death in Auburn, Maine. After finding that archive St. Cyr wrote the town clerk in Auburn, who provided the death certificate. Next she contacted a town librarian, who pulled up a front page story, pictures and all, recounting the story of Nichols’ death.

When a searcher stumbles upon this type of information, the results can be astounding. “I’ve seen people get really excited about finally finding their long lost (relatives), and they’ve even yelled out in the library,” St. Cyr said.

In addition to genealogy work, the program brings in speakers on occasion. Among them was Bob Korkuc, who wrote a book about an uncle who was presumed to be missing in action during World War II but was actually buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Then there was Alan J. MacKinnon, president of the Gardens at Gethsemane Cemetery in Roxbury, Mass., who spoke about genealogy through cemetery research.

Cherokee Alfred Johnson presented on native ancestry and culture, and a librarian from Derry spoke about the recently released 1940 U.S. Census.

St.Cyr said the program is popular, drawing at least 15 people per meeting and up to 45 for highly anticipated events.

“It’s fun, it’s really fun. A lot of people think it’s boring, but it’s not once you get into it. It’s really interesting what you find.”

The Genealogy Club meets the second Friday of each month, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Genealogists of all levels are welcome, with free use of the library’s resources. Attendees are not required to be library members.

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