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Library offers lecture in genealogy

When Eileen Souza retired, she decided to start a business based
on what she said is one of the world’s most popular hobbies:
genealogy.

In 2010 Souza founded Old Bones Genealogy after working for 40
years in information technology, she said. She had been doing
family research as a hobby for 16 years, but she said she decided
to turn it into a business after doing market research and
discovering that genealogy was a hot topic all around the
world.

“Genealogy has been one of the world’s most popular hobbies for
quite a few years, and it seems to be improving rather than
fading,” Souza said.

Souza said the popularity of shows such as NBC’s “Who Do You
Think You Are,” which is in its second season, has increased public
interest in the field of genealogy. “Who Do You Think You Are”
follows celebrities as they search for their ancestors and learn
surprising things about their families.

PBS also has its own ancestry series, titled Finding Your Roots,
about the genealogy and genetics of famous Americans.

Souza said she thinks shows like these coupled with commercials
and advertisements from genealogy websites like www.ancestry.com
have sparked interest in the study of family lineage.

But people get into genealogy for a number of reasons, she
said.

For instance, Souza said she began doing family research in 1996
because she realized she was the second oldest living person in her
family.

“Nobody knew anything about our family. I have grandchildren and
great grandchildren, and it would be really sad if when I go they
don’t even know the little bit about our family that I know,” she
said. “So I wanted be able to pass that knowledge down to decedents
to keep knowledge of the family tree going.”

Souza said she comes from a long line of coal miners and hasn’t
found any famous ancestors in her family, but she has come across
some interesting stories.

For instance, she learned that one of her great grandmother’s
daughters had an illegitimate child. The daughter went on to marry
and start another family, but her illegitimate child lived with his
grandmother. Even so, Souza said records show that the boy was
accepted into the family.

She said several of the clients she has worked with have been
linked to revolutionary war heroes, something she said is common in
Maryland.

Other genealogists and their clients, she said, get into the
business because they have family stories that they want to prove
or disprove, to discover long-lost living relatives or to write a
family history book. Tracing medical history has also become
popular because of the new uses of DNA in genealogy, she said.

Although she has always dreaded public speaking, Souza said she
enjoys sharing her knowledge of genealogy and family research with
others.

In July 2011 she gave a presentation at the Eldersburg Branch of
the Carroll County Public Library titled, “Getting Started with
Your Genealogy,” which taught the basics of beginning family
research. She said she was only expecting maybe five or six people
to show up, but she was thrilled when she ended up lecturing a
crowd of around 25.

The program was so popular that she was asked to return for a
lecture Feb. 18, she said.

Rachel Pekar, virtual services supervisor at the Carroll County
Public Library, set up the original program with Souza last
summer.

“The first program was popular and the attendees requested she
come back again, so that is why we scheduled this upcoming
program,” Pekar said. “Since she is the expert she took care of
everything.”

This time around Souza will be presenting “Dig Up Your Ancestors
Online,” going more in depth about researching ancestry online and
all the tools that are available.

There are several websites and genealogical programs people can
use to research and organize their ancestry.

But the Internet and computer software can go so far in the
search for ancestors, she said.

“As much information is online, it’s probably only a quarter of
what’s actually out there to find,” Souza said.

She said other resources are available, like the Genealogical
Society of Carroll County, of which she is the vice president and
programming chairwoman.

Public libraries also offer resources for genealogy, especially
the Westminster Branch of the Carroll County Public Library, which
she said has an extensive genealogy section.

The first steps a person should take to dive into genealogy are
to write down all the known information about his or her family,
interview family members and research records, Souza said.

Once the process has begun, she said she thinks it is hard for
most people to stop, including herself.

“It’s addictive. In computers I was always the troubleshooter
type and I find a lot of the same satisfaction in doing this,” she
said. “I’m also a mystery reader and it seems everytime I find
something or make a discovery im sovling a mystery.”

Reach staff writer Autumn Rose at 410-857-3315 or autumn.rose@eldersburgadvocate.com.

© 2012 Carroll County Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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