Class helps people track family history

First Posted: 3/7/2009

Amanda Bunton has always dabbled in genealogy, looking for the long-lost answers about her familys heritage.
Her curiosity about her dads experiences as a soldier in World War II led her to write a book about them a few years go.
But there are still things she and her family long to know about their ancestors, which is what drove her to attend a beginners genealogy course sponsored by the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
Taught by genealogist Esther Johnson, the courses help individuals interested in researching their family trees learn the tools necessary to do research that will help establish their lineage.
The classes are $3 each, but for Bunton and several others, theyre priceless.
I needed some inspiration to get back into it (genealogy), Bunton explained about why she joined the class. My family wants me to write another book about our family history for our reunion in October.
Whether people are just starting out or are veteran genealogists, Johnson told the class last week that the more you do, the more you learn.
She explained where people can find basic information. People can browse through census records, military records, naturalization documents and even ship manifests, she explained.
She also said the first form of genealogy is word-of-mouth, passing on family ancestry from adult to child, simply generation to generation.
The more you do, the more it will come to you, she said. Every family has a historian, and youll soon realize a desire to share the history of the family. How can we pass it down to the next generation? Everyone loves stories. Whats the first thing we do when we have children? We tell them stories.
She encouraged people to keep journals and document the days of their lives. Those simple acts will make the job of chronicling family history easier for those who come after, she encouraged.
Do you really write what you feel? asked a student, who was a middle-aged mother.
Im always happy, she said, smiling. I stick to the facts in my journal.
She went on to tell a story about how she made a trip to Winston-Salem, and when asked later on, couldnt recall everything she did that day.
Never again in my life will I not know what I did in a day, she said. The most interesting thing is to go back and read what youve written.
She also suggested creating a book of remembrance for family members, scrapbooking and building time capsules.
Take your children and show them where you grew up, Johnson said. Take them to the top of Pilot Mountain or the Granite Quarry sometimes we live near these places all our lives and we never even see them for ourselves. Also encourage children to write down names and dates (and) take photos. Teach them the games you played, encourage them to talk to older people at reunions.
Brenda Boaz, one of the students, said although she enjoys the concepts of passing it down to her children, its something that hasnt stuck with them yet.
You hope it stays with them, she said. Most people dont become interested until theyre older. Some people are more sentimental than others.
Bunton agreed.
My dad loved and breathed genealogy. He would tell me and it would Whew! she said, flashing her hand over head, indicating it went over her head. I ended up really appreciating everything he gave me.
The beginners genealogy course is part of a five-part series that ended this month.
For more information, call the museum at 786-4478.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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