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Genealogy: Finding the good, the bad, and … the normal

Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in America, according
to Joan Johnson, president of the Clatsop County
Genealogical Society
(gardening grabbed the number one
slot). 

There’s good evidence to back her claim. A Google-related
genealogy search listed close to 2 million websites, nearly 5
million publications and more than a million blogs. Both PBS and
NBC television have found that viewers can’t get enough of “famous”
people looking for their ancestors. In 2006, PBS produced a popular
four-hour documentary, “African-American Lives,” exploring the
genealogy and the DNA of black celebrities. And in 2010, NBC aired
reality show “Who Do You Think You Are?” a copycat
production of a British hit of the same name. Renewed through 2012,
each episode traces the ancestry of a living celebrity. 

The shows bring most viewers into the fold by finding that the
famous discover that their histories are usually all about
“regular” people – next-door types. Alex
Graham
, creator of the original British version, warned
Lisa Kudrow, executive producer of NBC’s
program, that “30 percent of the time, these stories are a dead end
because there are no records, or it’s just 500 years of sheep
herders.”

Closer to home, at Seaside’s Bob Chisholm Community Center Sept.
10, the two parking lots were completely filled, the first
indication that the Clatsop County Genealogy Fair was the place to
be. The event was already buzzing when well-known educator and
genealogist Barbara Hovorka told her attentive audience to “Be
aware of the small clues.” Several well-manned information booths
offered a myriad of genealogy advice, including assistance for
creating family trees, displays of heirloom jewelry, linens and
Bibles, and a lineup of computers with overviews of some of the
most popular Internet genealogy resources.

According to Johnson, “It seems like there’s new information
made available every day, and with so many people curious about
their family history, we’re here to assist.”

The Clatsop County Genealogy Society meets 10 times a year in
and around the Astoria area. Additional information about the group
and special presentations can be obtained by contacting Johnson at
seasider@q.com

Hunting for your relatives – whether from not-so-long-ago,
long-long-ago, or best of all, making a discovery dating from
absolutely eons ago – can be highly addictive but also, among other
things, provide clues to both good and bad genetic makeup. One
publication, Family Tree
Magazine
, headlined “Take two ancestors and call me in the
morning: How a simple family tree can affect your health.”
Genealogy studies bring your own family generations closer to you
and yours – the who, what and why that help you discover what you
are today. And who knows, you might even locate someone in your
past so famous it will knock your socks off and have you asking,
“Why hello, Uncle Napoleon, is that you?”

© 2011 Coast Weekend. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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