BY SUZANNE FREEMAN • PICAYUNE STAFF
KINGSLAND — Joanne Scarborough was looking through the Llano County Family Album when she discovered that her great-grandfather had been a prisoner during the Civil War.
“I’ve since found a book about that town and the prison (where he was held), but I’ve not found his particular records yet,” Scarborough said. She’ll keep looking, though. As past president of the Kingsland/Highland Lakes Geneological Society, she will continue updating and maintaining the resources in the Kingsland Branch Library’s Research Room with an eye on her own personal family tree.
PHOTO: Raye Lockey says computers are the best tools for tracking your family tree. Staff photo
The society meets the second Tuesday of every month at 2 p.m. in the meeting room at the Kingsland Branch Library, 125 Polk St. Since the next meeting falls on Feb. 12, President Abraham Lincoln’s actual birthday, members are planning a celebration of his birth.
Sylvia Nimmo, a professional genealogist from Georgetown, also will conduct a program on how to find ancestors through American war records, starting with the Civil War.
“Anyone can come and join us,” Scarborough said. “You do not have to be a member to come.”
In fact, society members are available to help anyone interested in getting started on his or her own family tree. Almost every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., a society member is stationed in the library research room to assist people.
The member on duty can help family sleuths use census books, death records and other resources.
The best way to start, said current President Raye Lokey, is to fill out a family worksheet — with a pencil.
“Always use a pencil, so you can correct the mistakes,” she said.
Errors are common in older documents, which might be faded or were transcribed from illegible handwriting. Some information is a best guess by the person entering the official records years, decades, even centuries ago.
Her most important tool, however, is the computer. Websites she uses include ancestry.com and familytree.com. The most popular sites allow users to view and save important documents. You won’t find everything online, however.
“Once you’ve hit a wall online, you may need to make a trip and go to the cemetery or the courthouse to find out more information,” Lokey said.
Probably the most important thing you can do to record your family history is to start talking to your relatives and dig through old documents.
“Start with the oldest relatives first, before it’s too late,” Dorothy Medley said. As the society’s historian, Medley taught a class in January about how to get started building a family tree. If you missed the class, you can still pick her brain at the Family History Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Marble Falls. Located at 200 Via Viejo St., the center is open 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursdays. For more, call (830) 693-6545.
“I always warn people that if no one shows up by 12:30, we may follow the dictates of our stomachs and leave,” Medley said. The last couple of weeks, however, she has stayed until 2:30 p.m. or later helping eager researchers. Many first-time family sleuths quickly develop a passion for the hunt.
“It’s been exciting for me,” said Lokey, who has been a member of the 25-year-old Kingsland society for five years. “It’s all like a recipe. Pieces have been baking in my mind, and then I present a cake.”
In her research, Lokey found all the ingredients for one particular family “cake” involving a name change in the early 1800s. Family lore said fear of discrimination against Germans during World War I led her family to change its name from Von Berg to Millies. She found letters in a box of family documents that led her to believe the name change came about because of abandonment, infidelity, divorce and remarriage. The names of the four children from the first marriage were changed to their stepfather’s name, but never legally.
From the letters, Lokey went online, where she found documentation to prove the newly discovered information.
“Any family story that has passed down through the years has a kernel of truth,” Lokey said. “You have to put all the pieces together and use all the resources available. That’s the fun.”
The Herman Brown Free Library, 100 E. Washington St. in Burnet, also has a genealogy research room. For more information, call (512) 715-5228.
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