SGS President Horn and James

Suncoast Genealogy Society President Jean Van Horn, left, and education co-chair Ann James look over research collected from a recent genealogical search.

PALM HARBOR — Have you ever wondered who made up your family tree, but didn’t have a clue to how to find out?

Well, the Suncoast Genealogy Society is offering a beginner’s genealogy course that could serve as a roadmap to help you out.

Located at the Palm Harbor Library at 2330 Nebraska Ave., the society, along with the library, is offering a six-week beginner course that is to run on Friday from 1:30 to 4 p.m. starting Feb. 14 and running to March 20. The class is held in the E.W. Conference Room at the Suncoast Library.

Cost for the class is $25 and space is limited.

The course is designed for those interested in tracing their family history, but are unsure of where or how to start.

The class provides basics on how to conduct a search and gives you help on starting your family tree. Topics covered in class include how to use vital records, census records, immigration, naturalization, city directories and how to search major websites including Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

Undertaking a genealogy search, you essentially become a detective looking for clues to who you are and where you came from.

Basic computer login skills and knowledge of the internet are course prerequisites.

For information or to register, contact Shari Harmon at 732-539-1046 or email sharih1046@gmail.com. You can also register at the Adult Services Desk at the Palm Harbor Library, or the library’s website calendar for entry for the first class.

The SGS also provides one-on-one genealogy help Tuesday through Thursday at the Palm Harbor Library office.

“It’s for people who have had no experience doing genealogy, but they want to research their family but don’t know where to start,” said Ann James, education co-chair of Suncoast Genealogy Society.

James said the course can also help those who get an “Ancestry.com” Christmas gift “but don’t know what to do with it.”

The beginner course gives students tools to do their own search, according to Jean Van Horn, president of Suncoast Genealogy Society.

“They’ll be able to do their genealogy,” Van Horn said. “They can get on and move around ancestry.com and a bunch of other sites that we show them.”

Prospective course members — a couple of genealogy caveats: be prepared to work and apportion ample time for your search.

“This is a time consuming hobby,” Van Horn said. “We are going to give you the tools, point you where to look, and show you how to do it and how to do it correctly.”

“When we start and have them (students) fill in a chart, they realize that they have to do the work — that surprises some of them,” James said.

Some students find the self-guided research course more pleasure than work.

“About the second or third week we will have students who say, ‘my husband is starting to complain,’” Van Horn said. “`He comes out at two in the morning and I’m still on the computer.’”

Students take the society’s genealogy course for a variety of reasons, James said.

“People will take the class because they want to trace back to an ancestor so they can join a special ancestry organization,” James said. “Some people take it because they just want to prove a story. They’ve been told that there’s an Indian, or a pirate or a king in their ancestry and they want to see if it true.”

Public interest in genealogy got a shot in arm in the 1990s with the arrival of both DNA and the internet, which serve as more exacting and quicker tools in ancestry hunt.

In response, the SGA has formed an advanced DNA Interest Group that applies DNA results to family trees, discusses DNA concepts and shares DNA stories. The group meets the second Monday of the month from 1 to 3 p.m.

With the birth of the internet, genealogy detectives can now search for family roots more quickly.

“When we started, there was no internet, so you had to write to court houses to get documents and travel to places to do your research,” James said. “But now, a lot is online; it is so much easier and accessible.”

The addition of the internet has also made genealogy a more exacting search science by providing documented information from a variety of reputable recorded sources, Van Horn said.

“It is a more truthful and accurate way of doing it,” Van Horn said.

Besides unearthing family roots, genealogy offers searchers another payoff, James said.

“A lot of it comes from the journey itself,” James said. “As you are doing it you find relatives that you never knew that you had and you can get in touch with them.”

“I call it the hunt,” Van Horn said. “We are all a little bit into mysteries, and the hunt for that elusive family one is appealing. And the (family) stories are so darn good that they beg to be told.”