If you want to trace your ancestry, one local organization wants to help make it easier. The Center for the Study of the Black Belt will soon sponsor a genealogy workshop. Although the purpose is multifaceted, organizers say the biggest goals are to help people get started in the process, and to help them find information that is often not available on the internet.
In fact, when it comes to researching ancestry, center officials say one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they only search for information on the internet.
"When you really want to find the unique genealogical records of your family you should probably look into courthouses and smaller libraries and local resources," says center archivist, Amy Christiansen.
"In Sumter County for example we are very fortunate that our courthouse has never burned," says center director, Dr. Tina Jones. "Our records have been transferred easily, and so we have a complete set of records there, but they may not all be digitized."
At one point during the 1800's, Dr. Jones says that Sumter County was home to roughly 1/3 of the population within the state of Alabama, and because of this she says the ancestry records for many people in Alabama and Mississippi are on record there.
"You've got a lot of people who came through Sumter County going to East Mississippi and then out to Texas, and if your family moved that way, you can probably find a connection back to that area," says Dr. Jones.
When it comes to ancestry research, officials say knowing what questions to ask is critical because ultimately it can save you time and money.
"Sometimes on the internet it flip flops a lot," says Dr. Jones, "and you may not be paying attention, and there may be a town like Livingston, Alabama and Livingston, Texas, and you think that it says Livingston, Alabama because you were just there. You then get frustrated, 'Why is it not there?' Well, you're in a different state!"
Meanwhile, workshop organizers say information on how to start researching your history will span far beyond Sumter County alone, and involve how to access this type information from almost anywhere.
'If they want to bring information on their families we're going to have an, 'Ask the Experts,' panel session where all of our librarians, archivists, local genealogists, who are speaking, are going to come together any of the questions that you may have," says Amy Christiansen.
The workshop will be held October 2nd and 3rd at the Bell Conference Center on the University of West Alabama's campus in Livingston. The cost is $50 for both days, and $35 for one. Lunch will be provided. The deadline to register for the workshop is September 18th. For more information call (205) 652-3829.