NORTH ADAMS -- People interested in studying their family histories, but not sure where to begin, received some tips from a local genealogy specialist Sunday afternoon.
Alan Horbal, who worked at the Silvio O. Conte Federal Archives in Pittsfield for 12 years, led the approximately hour-long "Introduction to Genealogy" presentation at the Visitors Museum in West ern Gateway Heritage State Park.
The presentation was sponsored by the North Adams Historical Society, and was held in conjunction with an exhibition called "Genealogy," which will be at the North Adams Museum of History and Science through the summer. About 20 people attended the presentation.
Horbal said the best way for a person to start studying his family history is to begin with himself.
"Identify yourself, parents and siblings, and then work backward," he said.
Researching family histories can be overwhelming, confusing and frustrating at times, he said, and one way to make it less confusing is to focus on one family line at a time.
"Stick with one line and go as long as you can with it," he said. "Then go to another line."
While the Internet is a valuable source in genealogical research, it's important to contact relatives and ask them if they would be willing to share what they know about the family history, Horbal said. Other resources include local town and city halls, libraries, historical and genealogical societies, and state and federal
Obituaries provide names of family members that were living or dead at the time, and vital records are key, he said.
"This is a hobby, so enjoy it," he said. "This shouldn't be a chore."
Horbal encouraged people to find a system that worked best for them in keeping track of their research and discoveries, to write down everything, and not to use abbreviations.
"The amount of information you get will grow quickly," he said. "Don't rely on your memory or the use of abbreviations because that can lead to misinformation."
While frustrating, misinformation is something people have to get used to if they're researching family histories, he said.
Following the presentation, Horbal took questions from audience members. The questions focused mostly on the genealogy classes he will teach in Chicopee and Pittsfield this summer, and genealogical databases.
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