Digging up the family tree

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2008

Calera library offers genealogy class

By AMY GORDON / Staff Writer

CALERA – For those who want to dish the dirt on their own families, the Calera Public Library can help.

Library patrons are in the midst of a genealogy class led by local genealogy expert Constance Pettit. The class, which is on Mondays from 10 a.m.-noon, started June 9, but newcomers are welcome, said Director Janet Greathouse.

“We’ve had a great turnout,” she said. “We had 14 people come to the class. The instructor said she wanted at least 6, so 14 more than doubled our expectations.”

Every week, handouts are brought to the class, so anyone just entering the class can catch up through use of the handouts. Also, the course is free of charge.

Greathouse said the class happened because Calera citizens continued to ask about a genealogy department, which the library doesn’t have.

“One patron came in and said she did genealogy and asked if there was any interest,” she said. “It was because of what our citizens were looking for.”

Pettit said she gladly does the course for free so she can share her knowledge.

“Most people just want to find out more about their people,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for years and I can’t get enough of it.”

She shows her pupils the best ways to do research and how to use the Internet to hunt down family history.

Pettit has been working with genealogy for more than 25 years, and said the most enjoyable part of teaching is seeing how her students react.

“I like to see people the first time they find their families,” she said. “Nine times out of ten, it brings tears to their eyes. That’s what it’s all about.”

Greathouse said the class is popular enough that the library will host another genealogy course in the fall, likely before Thanksgiving. The library is looking at having an intermediate course as well, she said.

The class can be entertaining as well as informative, Greathouse said.

“Somebody found an old Western bandit in their family history, and that was kind of funny,” she said.

Most of the time, however, digging into family history leads to pride, Pettit said.

“It’s a really neat thing to watch people learn and grow and find their family, and to see the love expand their hearts,” she said. “If you look at them, their faces will get softer and their voices will get deeper. I love these people that I found just as much as I love my grandkids. They are just as real to me.