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New tools make genealogy research easier

For those researching genealogy and family research, Clay County has several useful tools on computers at the Clay County Museum and the Register of Deeds Office.

Earlier this year, Cathy Haney, Jim Weir and Bill Weir set up a computer with Ancestry.com software at the Clay County Museum, which has made genealogy research at museum easier.

“It is my way of saying ‘thank you,’ to the wonderful city in which I was born,” Jim Weir said. “Have you ever watched Ancestry.com commercials or their TV program ‘Who Do You Think You Are; and thought you might want to try to discover your ancestors? Well, here’s you chance. Simply go to the museum and give Ancestry.com a try.”

Museum curator Cathy Haney said Jim donated a computer and a year’s subscription to Ancestry.com to the museum.

“Ancestry.com is the major site online for genealogical research,” Haney said. “There are lots of site online, but this is the place that will give you access to multiple records.”

Searches through the Ancestry.com software are “relatively easy” and is offered at the museum at no charge, Jim said.

Haney said the Historical Society would appreciate a donation for use of the service. Patrons are limited to use of the computer for one hour at a time, she said.  

People using the program should first gather up as many facts about their family, including names, dates of birth, death, marriages, children, etc. as possible.

“Basically you establish your own family tree and it works from there,” Haney said. “The more information you have, the better off you are.”

Jim Weir said he is proud to say that he has over 8,000 individuals and 2,700 families in his family tree, which he learned about through Ancestry.com.

“I have discovered that the founder of Clay Center, Alonzo Dexter, is my great uncle, my seven-times great grandmother was President Adam’s grandmother and that both Presidents Bush are cousins,” Jim Weir said. “In addition, I have discovered that I am related to the Hapsburgs who ruled much of Europe for 600 years and am a direct descendent of ten kings and one princess. I now have my family tree back to three generations before Christ.”

The Museum also has other tools useful for genealogy research, including cemetery records, real estate and personal property records dating back to the 1870s, newspapers including The Dispatch and The Clay Center Times, abstracts of obituaries, marriages and births, and other public records. Many of these records, including the newspapers, are in the process of being digitized.

Another useful tool are the computerized records at the Register of Deeds Office in the Clay County Courthouse.

While these digital records aren’t yet connected to the Internet, visitors can search the records at the Register of Deeds office through a keyword search on their computers. You can search by address or by property owner.

The office is in the process of scanning in property records and has that about done, Register of Deeds Virginia “Gail” Links said.

The records cover property transfers back to the late 1800s.

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