The field of genealogy has come a long way since the era of arduous hours spent in attics piled high with dusty books and relics. Recent high-tech computer software now allows us, with a touch of a computer key, to find those great-great-grandparents who first came to America.
The volunteers at the Family History Center in Brentwood are always busy tracing family trees.
Volunteer Twila Graves, of English-German-Native American-Scottish-Irish ancestry, has been with the center for about 20 years. "We need to track our lineage and so that way we know what our heritage is and understand how we became the person that we are," said Graves.
"One should start with the known facts, like their grandparents' names," said Graves, whose research found that her maternal ancestor, Samuel Eddy, came to America from England in 1635.
Phil Walker of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is quick to point out that the center is open to the interested public. "Family history helps us get a sense of what our forefathers have gone through and what they have done for us. It helps us appreciate the country we are in and the countries where they came from. Family history is a good basis of good citizenship and a basis for our own posterity."
Walker's roots are British. His family history in America began when Robert Walker, a linen weaver, emigrated from Manchester, England in 1630 as an indentured servant to pay for his passage. Robert Walker was a free man in three years.
Walker said the challenge of family history is to make it available to people of all cultures. The center has access to African-American records after the Civil War. It's also working toward the integration of Chinese characters into its recordkeeping. And many of Latino heritage are visitors to the center.
"Through genealogy we realize that though people come from all walks of life, we all face the same kind of trials," Walker said. "We develop a deeper appreciation of other people and other cultures."
For a look into your family history, visit www.familysearch.org and www.ancestry.com.
The Family History Center, 2350 Jeffery Way (Room 3) in Brentwood, is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 642-9004.