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Genealogy: Finding your family history

EUGENE, Ore. – If knowledge is power, Linda VanOrden has quite a bit of power – at least when it comes to her family. 

She’s been hooked on genealogy since the 1970s.

“The exciting part is the research,” says VanOrden, “and the hunt.”

But when VanOrden began her hobby, doing that research was a little harder.

“Back in the 1970s we didn’t have internet information,” VanOrden explained. “We wrote letters and waited for responses”

It was the 1990s before she finally turned to the world wide web for information.  However, even on the internet sources are limited, but times are always changing and new information is popping up all the time.

For instance, the 1940 census was just recently released and it is the first census to imediately hit the interenet.  It will take several months before it is online in its entirety, but anyone can hop on the web and check it out using websites like familysearch.org.

“Up until this one you normally got it on a microfilm and you put it on a reader and scrolled through it,” said inda Forest, editor for the Oregon Genealogical Society Journal.

That makes the online version of the 1940 Census something of luxury – especially when it’s release is causing a buzz.

“It’s a very interesting slice of time,” says Forest. “We have just more or less finished the Depression, but they are still very concerned about the Depression and some of the questions asked are baisically trying to find out if you lost your home because of the Depression.  Well this is something we can still relate to.  What those people don’t know then is that only in a year or two they are going to be at war.”

Forest said that researching the past through people gives more meaning to history.

“It’s about real people just like us today,” said Forest, “and the more you learn about your anncestors the more you realize they are people just like you.”

Unfortunatley, not everyone shares an enthusiasm for genealogy, something VanOrden sees first hand.

“When you find something, and you are really excited about it, and you want to tell somebody and then they say … OK.”

A response that is undoubtably disappointing.

VanOrden told KVAL, “All of us who do genealogy have in the back of our minds, ‘What’s going to happen to all of this stuff when I’m gone?”

But her curiousity keeps her searching.

“I think you have to be a real curious person to care,” adds VanOrden.

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