Free genealogy assistance from Sue Mitchell, an experienced researcher, is available on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, at 3:30 p.m. in the Computer Corner at the Redmond Senior Center, 8703 160th Ave. NE. Because there’s only three computers, you must sign up at the front desk or call (425) 556-2314 to reserve a spot.
But you’ll learn an awful lot about your family’s past, said Rose Thomas and Kathie Murray, who’ve gotten hooked on the hobby and were working with Mitchell at a recent session.
Mitchell is a branch officer at the Columbia Bank in downtown Redmond and said the bank gives her time off to share her knowledge as a form of community service. She became interested in genealogy as a young mother, when she was filling out the “family tree” pages in her kids’ baby books. Thirty-five years later, she’s still finds the pastime fascinating.
She’s been a volunteer at the National Archives office in Seattle’s Sand Point neighborhood and is a member of Daughters of the American Revolution.
There are lots of reasons why people are curious about their ancestors, Mitchell said.
“Some are going to family reunions, looking for biological families if they’re adopted, or have long-lost relatives or friends,” she said. Genealogical charts make popular Christmas gifts and other people are researching family medical histories.
Mitchell subscribes to the Ancestry.com Web site and lets people at the Redmond Senior Center log on. Some prefer to work independently and those who aren’t as computer literate can get one-on-one pointers.
Thomas showed us a 1925 photo of herself and a childhood friend and another photo of the ship on which her father emigrated from Holland to the United States.
“My kids have become more and more excited when I find more information,” she said. “Every time I talk to them, they ask me, ‘Did you find anything else?’ I think as people get older, their interest grows because there will be no one left to tell the stories.”
Thomas also mentioned how she was looking for a particular family name and heard someone else say that their father, from England, had traveled to America on the same ship as her dad.
“It’s amazing how many people find out they’re connected,” Mitchell agreed.
If you can’t make it to the genealogy sessions at the senior center, The Redmond Regional Library, just down the street, offers limited access to Ancestry.com on its computers, Mitchell noted.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is also known for its wealth of genealogical materials and you don’t have to be a member of the church to do research there, she said.
“Or try the Mormon Church online, at FamilySearch.org,” she said.