Shirley Willis of Alabaster, Ala., researches World War I draft registration information during the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012. (The Birmingham News/Val Walton)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Indiana residents Delia Cothrun Bourne and Melissa Shimkus are in Birmingham this week for help as they look into their past.
The two are attending the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, where genealogists from across the country converged to network and learn more about tracing family history through the latest technology and research opportunities.
Bourne has researched her family history for more than 30 years. The genealogy work done by her late mother, Delia Holt Cothrun, piqued her interest. Her late father, Pope Cothrun, urged her to look into his family history.
“I have just loved it ever since,” Bourne said.
Bourne traced ancestors to the 1400s in England, Ireland and Scotland. Her father also has relatives from Alabama.
“I really wanted to come down here,” she said. The genealogy conference, entitled “Indians, Squatters, Settlers and Soldiers of the Old Southwest,” started Wednesday. The event, put on locally by the Alabama Genealogical Society, ends today.
Shirley Willis of Alabaster searched World War I draft registration records available online at the conference for genealogical information.
Willis began researching her family in the 1970s but stopped as she raised children and worked. She recently revived her interest. She said she has tracked information on at least six generations of her relatives.
Thomas MacEntee, an FGS spokesman, estimated 1,200 people turned out for the four-day conference. “It’s been a great experience,” he said.
The event offered more than 175 lectures. More than 70 exhibitors in 140 booths filled the 96,000-square-foot exhibit hall. MacEntee said social media has prompted a surge in genealogy interest.
“We’re finding cousins on Facebook that we never knew existed,” he said. “We’re connecting on Twitter.”
MacEntee said Birmingham is the 2012 host site because the Birmingham Public Library is the best for Southeastern genealogy research.
Next year’s conference will be held in Fort Wayne, Ind., where Bourne and Shimkus work in genealogy at the Allen County Public Library.