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19 July 2008

Lorna's Report From the Alameda County Fair

CGS member Lorna Wallace helped staff the Alameda County Fair Genealogy Booth again this year and sent this report:

The Livermore-Amador Valley Genealogical Society (L-AGS) has sponsored a genealogy booth at the Alameda County Fair for the last few years. It is located in the large, air-conditioned (very important on hot summer days) “Technology Building”, where other computer-related attractions are going on. The booth features three computer stations with connections to several subscription databases (Ancestry, VitalRecords-CA and Footnote) for demonstrating the powerful search products that are now available. There is also a helpful handout listing many of the big, free sites, like Cyndislist.

There are two types of volunteers staffing the booth: “greeters” encourage visitors to mark their places of birth on large mounted maps of the U.S. and the world, and to fill out pedigree charts. “Researchers” then try to find an ancestors using the computer resources. Some visitors sit down at the computer and think their family history is just sitting in there, waiting to pop up on the screen. Some have been trying to use the Internet, but have not discovered basic sites such as Rootsweb or FamilySearch. Then there were those who actually brought notes so they could use their time well. Several used their cell phones to call relatives, right on the spot, to get a piece of missing information.

I think the biggest challenge for us, the volunteers, is the fact that we are presented with a whole segment of our community that are not well represented in the usual population of genealogical society membership. We come face-to-face with people from all over the world, especially Latin America and Asia, who want to know how to research their ancestry in their home county. The L-AGS is doing a good job of trying to find and provide resources.

Genealogists have so much to share. I encourage all of the members of the California Genealogical Society to volunteer next year when the Fair returns in late June of 2009.

Lorna Wallace is an active volunteer on the CGS Book Repair and Desk Duty Committees. She also handles book mailings for the society. Thanks for the report, Lorna, and for representing the society so well.

Photographs courtesy of Duncan Tanner.