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Highland Lakes genealogical program gives participants a map into their past

MARBLE FALLS — When Shirley Shaw began researching her family tree, she never imagined the branches would lead her to colonial Maryland.

“I was able to trace my family from my maiden name back to 1696 in Maryland,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. You never know where (researching your family history) will take you.”

Shaw, a member of the Kingsland/Highland Lakes Genealogical Society, began researching her family to learn about her history with the idea of someday publishing a book about it. Like many people who begin the search into the past for their family’s story, Shaw became enamored by the process.

“One thing leads you to another,” she said. “For me, it eventually led back to Maryland.”

Taking the trip into the past in search of family history can seem a bit daunting, which is why the local genealogical society is hosting a workshop Wednesday, Jan. 9, through Friday, Jan. 11, at Texas Tech University at the Highland Lakes, 806 Steve Hawkins Parkway. The class begins at 9 a.m each day and is being held in the second-floor computer laboratory.

“We’re going to start out with the basics,” Shaw said. “On the first day, (participants) will learn how to begin and where to look for information.”

As with her own experience, Shaw said once a person begins searching for family history, it can become quite habit forming.

Family history searches, however, can turn up quite a bit of information and data. One problem genealogical enthusiasts deal with is how to store and organize the information.

When Shaw began, she, like many others, kept information in notebooks and file folders. But now, much of the data can be managed and stored using computer software.

“That’s one of the things we’ll introduce people to is the different software that not only helps with the search, but stores the information,” she said.

The three-day workshop isn’t simply one where people listen as a person stands at the front of the room and goes over the various techniques and computer programs used in family history searches. It’s a hands-on learning experience.

“We know that if somebody just sits and listens about how to do something, they’ll probably forget it,” Shaw said. “But if they do it as they learn, then they’ll more likely remember how to do it.”

By using the TTU at the Highland Lakes computer laboratory, participants will actually get to start searching for family history.

“They’ll get online, and we’ll walk them through some software and search techniques,” Shaw said.

While Shaw hopes to publish a book on her family history, she said not everybody has such a goal. Some people only want to learn about where they came from and share that with family both now and in the future.

But along the way, Shaw said people can learn not only about their own family, but the country and their communities as well.

“From Maryland, I followed the family trail to Ohio and from Ohio to Illinois,” Shaw said. “So not only did I learn about my family, I was able to learn about the country as it grew and expanded. It’s quite an interesting journey to take.”

The seminar isn’t the only way for people to learn about genealogical research. The Kingsland/Highland Lakes Genealogical Association meets the the second Tuesday of the month at 2 p.m. at the Kingsland branch of the Llano County Public Library, 125 W. Polk in Kingsland.

“The club isn’t just for people in Kingsland, it’s open to anybody interested in genealogy,” Shaw said.

And the adventure you begin could take you back to your family’s beginnings in America, as it did Shaw, or even across the ocean.

For more information on the workshop or the association, call Shaw at (830) 385-7070.