They say blood is thicker than water, but how much do you really know about your family’s roots? A genealogy workshop this weekend in Stanardsville can help answer that question.
The Greene County Historical Society holds an annual genealogy workshop— free and open to the public— to help people navigate their searches for answers. This year it’s being held at Grace Church on Main Street in the Town of Stanardsville.
“Genealogy is like a big mystery that only you can write,” said Ron Mosher, who has published five books about his own family and helps many local people find out about their own families. “We’ve had an annual genealogy workshop for years and years and we used to have it at the historical society but we thought we might get more participation by going out to the community. Last year we did it at Shiloh Baptist Church and it was a great success—we had more than 20 people there. We’ve been working on trying to get more African-Americans to participate in the historical society.”
Mosher will give a presentation about how to search for information and offer tips for searchers, but he and other members of the society will also have time to work one-on-one with participants.
“One of the things I like to tell people about is when I was in college I lived in the bottom apartment and an older woman with leg braces lived above me. I would help carry items and then after awhile drive her where she needed to go. She’d always fix a big meal after and to help keep me awake after a while she started telling the same stories, I’d ask her specific questions to help change them up,” he said.
He used that particular skill on his grandfather one day.
“My grandpa was always telling the same stories and after awhile most of us just stopped listening,” he said. “While playing cribbage I started asking questions such as who was your best friend in school or tell me about that town in Idaho. Everything in the house came to a stop and everyone pulled up a chair to listen. He passed away that Thanksgiving … what I would not have learned. The point is when everyone is ignoring grandpa, sit down and pick about the story and ask questions about what interests you.”
Years ago Eugene Powell began a genealogical database for Greene County families, but that was before online searches were available in Virginia.
“Most people don’t know that even though it’s through Ancestry.com that if you go through the Library of Virginia website you can do it for free if you’re a Virginia resident,” he said. “A lot of people think they have to pay for the records. For a lot of people Ancestry. com would be too expensive to get their money worth but I do a lot of research. In the past I used to have to go out to the local courthouses. It’s a lot easier to do research in Virginia now.”
Mosher was born in Idaho but his family came to Massachusetts in 1635. When he looks at his own family’s history he can see the migration from East Coast to the frontier.
He said West Virginia has online records but they only go up to mid-20th century. North Carolina has almost all online, but Maryland is not online at all.
The workshop is open to anybody, not just Greene County residents as “families don’t stay on just one side of the line.”
Mosher has helped African-Americans from Greene with their research but he’d like to have more join the historical society. He said he started his research in the African-American community with the Burley family and has attended some family reunions.
“History is written by those who take the time to put their history in ink,” Mosher said. “We could tell the African-American story but it’s not the same as coming from that community.”
Greene is such a small county it doesn’t have a genealogy society so the historical society does what it can to preserve Greene’s history. If someone cannot make the workshop, Mosher said he can meet with people to offer help.
Participants should bring something for notes and can bring a computer but don’t have to. Mosher said they should bring information on their families and definitely birth and death dates, especially for people with common names.
For information about the Greene County Historical Society, visit www.greenehistory.com or to set up an appointment, email email@example.com. The free workshop is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 22 at Grace Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 97 Main St., Stanardsville.