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Who do you think you are?

Genealogy basics to start the search

May 9, 2010
By KIM LOCCISANO, For The Times Leader

Summer is almost here, and that means family historians and amateur genealogists alike are considering what project to begin next, which family stories to confirm and which voices to capture for all time so they will be part of coming generation's lives as well.

This shadowy force of covert operatives amateur historians and genealogists have been known to bring a small voice recorder into a special family gathering or celebration for the express purpose of capturing the spirit of the event, and maintaining a hold on it to allow the rare treasure be held shared with the next generation.

Such efforts are often looked back at some future point has having become priceless.

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Gathering as much information about Jefferson County’s military veterans and preserving it in book form was a personal and professional labor of love to which Sandy Day, librarian, historian, genealogist, and genealogy workshop program instructor at the Schiappa Branch of the Steubenville and Jefferson County Library, is rightfully proud as it took her 10 years to move the project from its inception to printing. The decade long project yielded four one of a kind books which hold information sharing details and photos of county residents’ terms of service. The collection includes service in the Korean war.

These seasonal happenings are true opportunities not to be passed up without making some effort to glean fresh facts and new insight into family life during another time and, often, in a place very different from the family home today.

Family reunions, class reunions and retired employee groups gatherings as well as family holiday gatherings all provide once in a lifetime opportunities for interviews to be recorded by your family historian or amateur genealogist.

These are the interviews, the cherished conversations, countless among us will think back to one day when again trying to answer questions which can no longer be answered by one anyone who lived the original event.

While memories remain clear and family members can gather to celebrate all things large and small, these are the opportunities through which another generation of family and friends can gain insight that helps answer classic questions.

"Who am I?"

"Where did I come from?"

"How did I get here?"

The place to begin a methodical hunt for answers to these age old questions is simple say local and national genealogy experts, such as those from The National Archives and from, who have been part of the popular television show, "Who Do You Think You Are."

The show is designed to share basic steps in the researching process, and outcomes in such a way that the public is moved to begin work on their own family tree and gaining a better understanding of what shaped it.

"Start with what you know about yourself and work backward from there," offered Sandy Day, a research librarian, local historian and genealogist at the Schiappa Branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.

She is well known to amateur and professional genealogists throughout the region, as in addition to her many personal and professional genealogy projects, she regularly teaches a series of "how to" classes for those interested in acquiring or fine tuning genealogy related computer and Internet researching skills.

For the past 15 years she has been overseeing, managing and nurturing the treasured holdings found in the Genealogy Room at the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, the Schiappa Branch on Mall Drive in Steubenville.

Genealogical and historical information rooted directly in Jefferson County, its history and that of those who have lived and worked in the area, make up the central core of the information housed in the library branch's genealogy room.

As interest in pursuing genealogical or historical information as a hobby has been increasing in recent years, many of the search options available at no cost via the internet just s few years ago are no longer available without a subscription being purchased.

Library patrons have access to two top quality Internet genealogy databases thanks to decisions by library leadership that dedicate monies from the annual budget to cover subscriptions to Ancestry Library Edition and to the Heritage Quest site.

"Whether you connect to the library's services at a local branch office or one of the larger sites, we purchase these subscriptions so our patrons can have access to these large databases of information rather than having to pay for the same information if they accessed it another way," said Day, referring to savings such as those available through the ALE subscription when connecting to documents such as Ohio Death Certificates from 1908 thru 1953.

These can be savings of approximately $25 per document over purchasing through other sources, she noted.

Library partons wanting to work with Heritage Quest can obtain specific information at the library enabling them to connect from a computer elsewhere.

Visitors to the Schiappa branch have a vast selection of genealogical and local historical resource information to review, including one of a kind cross-index listings of information from obituaries, military discharge documents and more, many of which were hand recorded and crafted by Day.

A multi-volume collection index took more than 10 years to amass and complete. It includes information on local military personnel and their service up through the Korean W ar.

The information covering Jefferson county residents is entered for WWI, WWII, The Spanish-American War and The Korean War.

It is available for viewing on line as well at

Information about the Veteran's Project is available by contacting Day at the library branch.

She can be reached by calling 740-264-6166.



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