Though time travel may be an impossibility, genealogy offers people the ability to look back into time at their ancestors - who they were and where they came from. It also allows people to connect with distant relatives they may not have known before.
Pamela L. Speis, archivist at the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, said that people research their genealogy to find answers to specific familial questions.
"People study genealogy because of curiosity," she said. "They want to know about their family."
Photos special to the Tribune Chronicle
This wedding photo is of Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer’s grandparents, Franciszek Adasiewicz and Stanislawa Cebulska, who came to Youngstown from Poland. Heschmeyer, of Liberty, and the director of Polish Youngstown, researched her family’s genealogy this summer at the Polonica Americana Institute at the Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools in Orchard Lake, Mich., the National Center of Polish Genealogy.
Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, of Liberty, director and one of the founders of Polish Youngstown, has been learning more about her Polish roots.
"Thanks to the research work of a cousin from New Jersey who I met through email, I was able to research family genealogical records going back to 1615," Heschmeyer said. "I also managed to meet a cousin from Australia from the same area where my grandparents are from - the neighboring villages of Osowiec and Bialogrady in northeastern Poland. I found out that my grandparents met while walking to church."
Lucy Parker, library specialist at the Local History and Genealogy Center of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, said that when people are researching their genealogy, the library has them start with themselves and work back.
"We help people in the area and outside of the area research their genealogy," she said. "With our library's computers, users can use websites like Ancestry.com free of charge at the library. Users can also use Family
Search.org, which is a free site for all users."
Dr. Denise A. Narcisse, professor of sociology at Youngstown State University, suggests genealogists start with primary sources.
"With researching genealogy, I would go to the public library to look up primary investigative resources such as medical records, birth and death certificates," she said. "With primary resources, you are searching through the original source."
"A lot of the records we have here are prior to the 1920s," Parker said. "We also have obituaries and history books. Users will have to use the Trumbull County History Book, and the most recent Trumbull County History Book is of the early 1900s."
The Local History and Genealogy Center helps people to connect with their historical past.
While some people might find it quick to conduct their research through online avenues, others might like to dig and research their family's history through more traditional routes. Parker said that the Local History and Genealogy Center includes history books and yearbooks.
"We have genealogical collections of mostly Trumbull County and miscellaneous counties," she said. "We have several books on ethnic groups. Our biggest collection for Trumbull County is with German records. We do have some early church records in Trumbull County. These types of records give people information that they may not have."
Speis said that she specializes in the study of genealogy. She said that when she deals with a client who is interested in their genealogy, she specifically asks what geographic area the person is looking at, what ethnic group and what time period.
"Knowing about that specific time period and area tells you what records to look for when studying your genealogy," she said. "With this search, you learn what records survived. The questions I ask people who are interested in their genealogy are: What geographical area are you looking at? What time period are you looking at? These questions can help you get started with your genealogical search."
Heschmeyer's genealogical search began in earnest this last year when she attended a weeklong genealogical camp at the Polonica Americana Research Institute at the Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools in Orchard Lake, Mich. She is part Polish and part Hungarian.
Heschmeyer said that she grew up believing that her father's mother was born in the United States, but when she did the research, she found out something totally different.
"I found out that my grandmother was not born in Pennsylvania, but was born in Hungary and came here as a child," Heschmeyer said. "With researching genealogy, sometimes you find out good things about your family and sometimes you find out bad things. You have to be prepared for all of it."
Heschmeyer said that some last names have been altered or shortened by immigration officials. This can make genealogy quite difficult.
"With our family and with most Eastern European last names, the immigration officials did not do a good job of transcribing these last names," she said. "They spelled the names the way they thought that they sounded. You could spend hours with last names. The last names are the worst."
Genealogy can be a fun topic, but it can also help one resolve serious medical issues.
"Looking at what family members have died from can help you to be proactive about medical issues," Speis said. "For example, if diabetes keeps showing up in a genealogical search, then that can be a red flag. If you know diabetes runs in your family, then you can help your children adopt healthy habits to help the prevent the onset of diabetes."
But what is perhaps most important about genealogy is preserving family stories.
"My parents and their siblings have died," Heschmeyer said. "These stories that your parents and grandparents tell you, they can disappear when they pass away. I wish I would have written these stories down. Start today, because every death in the family becomes a lost story."