St. Albert Public Library Genealogy Club: Helping you grow your family tree

September, 2016

It seems that every other ad on TV is gently nudging viewers to start tracing their family history. And with the Internet being a popular research tool for all sorts of things, genealogy has never been easier to start. There are websites galore claiming to help you trace your ancestral roots back to the time of the Doomsday Book. There’s computer software that comes with blank family tree charts, the ability to add narratives and photos, and access to links for genealogy sites. However, if your idea of being surrounded by volumes of brittle-paper history or of discovering a photo of your great-great relatives in a newspaper is the ultimate satisfaction of tracing your family roots, then you should visit your local library—better yet, join the St. Albert Public Library’s (SAPL) Genealogy Club.

The Genealogy Club has been around since 2011, and up to 15 regular members get together once a month. In 2008, the library brought in a couple of guest speakers to talk to people who wanted to know more about genealogy. After that, the attendees generated such a demand for something more permanent, Barb Moreau, co-ordinator for the Children’s Department, felt it might be a good thing if the library started a genealogy club. Since she ran one when she was at the Grande Prairie Library, she was the logical choice to run St. Albert’s as well. Michelle Steinhusen, adult program co-ordinator under whose jurisdiction the Genealogy Club falls, says “While Barb no longer runs the club as her other duties in the Children’s Department grew…the library recruited four volunteers we call ‘Genies’ to keep the club going. At least one of these marvelous Genies heads each meeting and sometimes does a small talk on a particular topic.” Michelle still brings in experts throughout the year, and those sessions are attended by large audience, not just club members.

This isn’t the type of club where members boast how far they’ve been able to trace their father’s line or that their great-great-great aunt three-times removed was in the Danish Royal Court. This club is a place where members can share their experiences and expertise with other members if someone can’t get through a brick wall. Since libraries have tonnes of information, the club has SAPL’s resources at hand to make that sparse twig or branch leave with the names of long-lost ancestors. Anyone, not just the club members, has access to Ancestry: Library Edition, which is accessible from any library terminal, as well as a great, locally focused collection of materials and a continuously updated resource list. The Genies, too, created a brochure of genealogy basics for anyone who needs a starting point. And while to be a member of the club doesn’t require you to have a library card, you do need one if you want to borrow materials to help your search.

If you’ve been puttering about with the research on your family tree but want to get out the spade and do some real digging, join the SAPL Genealogy Club. They meet the first Monday of each month (second Monday if there’s a holiday) in the Training Room on the second floor; the next meeting being September 12th, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. If you need a few helpful hints beforehand to get you started, here’s what the club suggests:

  • Start with what you know; talk to your family and write or record everything you can.
  • Document your sources in case you went down the wrong path or need to pick up the family line you put on hold.
  • Never make assumptions as names, ages and dates may not be what you were expecting.
  • Like all research, if you can’t back it up with evidence, don’t accept it as hard fact.
  • Always make copies of what you find on the Internet, microfiche and at libraries/registry offices.
  • Organize your records in such a way that’s helpful to you, whether it be under family name, dates, type of document, etc. If you need to cross-check something, you don’t want to spend two hours trying to find it.
  • And, absolutely important—don’t get frustrated. Genealogy is supposed to be a fun hobby for most of us. Just get away for a bit, seek help from a peer or try another branch of the family tree.

Have fun growing your family tree.

For more information about the SAPL Genealogy Club click here.

More City