Roots of the family tree

March 18, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, PA. - A sign hanging in the hallway of a Waynesboro-area church reads, "To a genealogist, a step backward is progress."

At the Fairview Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Mentzer Gap Road, genealogists, whether new to the hobby or old hands at it, can find a variety of aids to researching their ancestry.

Local speakers are presenting classes and workshops on such topics as Tips and Rewards for Using, Creating a Visual Family History on Computer, Local Migrations and Research of Scotch and Irish, and Learning the Ropes - Family History Fundamentals.


Many aspects of the popular hobby are addressed at the Unlocking Your Past event.

D. Katherine Cooker, director of the Fashion Archives at Shippensburg (Pa.) University, told attendees Thursday afternoon how a knowledge of clothing styles can be used to help "close in on the time period in which your ancestors lived."

Women's clothing and hairstyles changed markedly over the years, and knowing the characteristics of each can help to date old photographs, she said.

David McJonathan of Waynesboro said genealogy has been a passion ever since he was a child in Illinois. "How can we understand ourselves, or look to the future, without understanding our past?" he asked.

McJonathan, who retired from a career in medical research, said his wife was born in Waynesboro and is "related to almost any family that has been here for 150 years."

He presented talks on how the geography, employment and land holdings in the area of Adams and Franklin counties in Pennsylvania and Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland caused many families to circulate among them.

"The iron furnaces and alliances between religious affiliations made close ties between people in these areas," he said.

"Even now ... Hagerstown area codes are local calls for people in Waynesboro," he said. "There are a lot of interconnections between Waynesboro and Blue Ridge Summit and places in Maryland."

On Thursday, one large room of the church was devoted to displays of memorabilia and research of various families. Items included a night cap, cape, wedding tie and other items of clothing worn by family members; memorabilia from the orphanage built in 1905 in nearby Quincy, Pa.; journals; and scrapbooks.

Genealogy is "the world's second greatest hobby" after gardening, according to Ron Williamson, church member and presenter. People can come for the workshops, for Web site training, or to ask questions of local professional genealogists, he said.

Attending both Wednesday and Thursday was Loren Myers, of Waynesboro, who said he came to do research in Franklin County and other counties, and learned "what can be used on the Internet."

Hagerstown resident Diane Sharpe, who has been doing genealogical research since 1991, said she came to Unlocking Your Past because "I never learn everything, so I take advantage of all these opportunities, and this is a great one. I love genealogy."

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints research their family history because of their belief that the family can continue even after death, according to the church's Web site.

Members believe that their deceased ancestors also can receive the blessings of being eternally united with their families. For this purpose, church members make covenants in temples on behalf of their ancestors, who may accept these covenants in the spirit world, the Web site states.

In order to make covenants in behalf of their ancestors, members must first identify them.

The Herald-Mail Articles