Free, local resources for researching family history
The third season of “Finding Your Roots” is now airing on PBS every Tuesday at 8 p.m. With the help of professional researchers, Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. traces the lineage of three well-known celebrities. The ultimate goal of the program is to expose the viewing audience to the vast collection of research data available online at Ancestry.com and to increase the number of Ancestry.com subscribers. A one-year membership costs $99 to $199.
A more cost-efficient approach is near at hand. Westlake Porter Public Library, the Bay Village Branch Library, and other area libraries subscribe to the Library Edition of Ancestry.com. Library patrons can access this database edition from the library computers. A more complete edition is available to the public from the computers at the Westlake Family History Center at the Mormon LDS church at 25000 Westwood Road six days a week, Mondays to Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and also Tuesday through Thursday evenings from 6-9 p.m. Call 440-777-1518 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Another local resource is the Cuyahoga West Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Members voluntarily share their acquired knowledge of what data is available online for free and what is not, at their monthly afternoon help sessions. Some of the data at Ancestry.com is readily available to the public for free at other government or genealogical websites. So it is often wise to gather info from these free sites, before subscribing to Ancestry.com.
Cuyahoga West offers free family history research help sessions on the first Wednesday of the month (except December, January, July and August) from 1-2:30 p.m. in the computer lab at Porter Library. Just bring what information you have collected thus far, on a particular ancestral line, to one of these help sessions. Members will help you explore relevant internet sites and/or plan your next step. This one-to-one assistance is offered free of charge on a first come, first served basis.
In addition to the afternoon help sessions, Cuyahoga West Chapter offers monthly evening programs that are regularly held from 7-8:45 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month (except August and December), also Porter Library. Several times a year guest speakers are invited to share their valuable genealogical research knowledge. Other meetings are roundtable discussions. The next regular evening meeting will be a roundtable on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Cuyahoga West members and guests are welcome to share their recent finds or ask for help with a research problem.
There is no charge for attending a meeting or a help session and you do not have to be a member. However, members do receive the added benefit of a quarterly newsletter, which includes notices of upcoming genealogical meetings and events, both local and national. Also, members are entitled to a discount on chapter publications. Membership dues provide the funds necessary to have notable guest speakers and to cover the cost of printing handouts. Membership runs from January through December and dues are $15, or $18 for two people at one address.
Publicity Chair for the Cuyahoga West Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society that meets at Westlake Porter Public Library.