When Kathy McCarthy Dugan’s mother encouraged her to find out more about the family tree, she didn’t realize she’d still be adding to all of her research eight years later.
“She was dying,” McCarthy Dugan said of her mother, Dorothy McCarthy. “We sat down several afternoons and talked about the family history and how far back it went — each branch, what she knew — and basically, what she knew started me on my journey.”
McCarthy Dugan isn’t alone in the search for family history.
Residents across Alachua County are heading to local libraries and the Family History Center at the Mormon Church in Gainesville to take advantage of the free-of-charge genealogy collection and databases.
In honor of Family History Month in October, Sylvia Ashwell, Alachua County genealogy librarian, is even offering the community introductory genealogical seminars to teach people how to work with the library’s materials.
“I’ve noticed that more and more patrons are trying to find out who their ancestors were by using our online databases, Ancestry.com Library Edition and Heritage Quest,” Ashwell said. “I wanted to be able to reach these and other people who wanted to start finding out more about their family by showing them these resources and what else we have available.”
Although the participation in Ashwell’s seminars varies week to week, sometimes with as few as five in attendance and sometimes as many as 30, independent pursuit of the history of individuals’ family trees is something eager residents in the community can’t seem to get enough of.
McCarthy Dugan is just one example of a county resident making huge strides in her search.
She was inspired to continue with her research because of what a character her great-grandfather was according to her mother.
After reviewing his records, she was contacted about an honor being presented to her great-grandfather, which she would have never known about if it hadn’t been for her discoveries through the center.
“All of a sudden, an individual through Ancestry.com contacted me from this New Jersey state corrections office institution where my great-grandfather was a policeman,” McCarthy Dugan said. “He was looking into individuals who fell in the line of duty who were skipped being recognized, and from there, he provided me with all of the articles that he had looked up on my great-grandfather.”
Shortly after, McCarthy Dugan learned of a marble plaque being put in her great-grandfather’s name in New Jersey in September 2013 and in Washington, D.C. in May 2013.
McCarthy Dugan said she believes the individuals who contacted her about her great-grandfather’s plaque were motivated to do so after they saw how active she was in the databases.
Rita Galloway, a worker at the Family History Center, explained now more than ever before is the best time for people to find out more about their roots because the center helps individuals gain access to microfilms about their families that can be viewed through their microfilm readers.
She said finding out about your family history can be exciting no matter where you are in your search.
“I especially love the beginners,” Galloway said. “You only begin once, and family history is never-ending.”