Get to know our instructor, Lavinia Schwarz, who will teach our Introduction to Genealogy class as part of the 4-part Beginning Genealogy series starting on October 21st.
Why did you start researching your genealogy?
My parents died and I inherited quite a few large boxes from them, so my first thought was, “I’ll put them up in the attic”, but then I thought I’d open them up and see what was in them. In the boxes I found photographs and wills which generated tons of unanswered questions: How did my parents’ ancestors get to California? How did my parents meet in California? How did it end up that I went to an Episcopal Church when my grandfather was a Catholic?
I thought, “Who were these people?” And so began my quest...
What did you need to learn?
Everything. I had no idea there were family histories written by people...I had no idea you could research census records and maps...land deeds...military records. I had no idea. I was just like, “How do I do this?”
What were some of your first experiences with the California Genealogical Society?
I took a beginning genealogy class here and the first thing I learned was how to read a death record. It sounds gruesome, but it’s a great source of information.
My next step was to join the society because I realized that I needed to talk to their librarian and found out what books were available, learn who to ask for help and get to know the most knowledgeable people.
I took every class that California Genealogical Society had to offer. Every one. I took a census class with Dick Rees, who by the way gives a great census class, he teaches you how to look for all the lies on the census! I had no idea the amount of records I could find until I started taking the classes offered here.
What do you hope someone new to genealogy research will get from your Introduction to Genealogy class in the 4-part Beginning Genealogy series? (Classes start at 2 different locations on Oct 21st and Oct 24th)
First, I hope they’re inspired to learn their ancestors' story.
Next, I want them to know where to go next and know how to look for whatever it is that they want to know.
Lastly, I want to help them determine their motivation by asking, "Why do you want to do this?"
Any last thoughts on genealogy?
Some people join genealogy societies because they want to join a lineage society and they need to know if their ancestor really was in the...civil war...revolutionary war, etc.
We can teach you how to do that.
In my case, it helps keep my feet on the ground by giving me a basic knowledge of history. People get hysterical about what’s going on in the world right now, but I just say, “Ah honey, just go back to 1770 and you really would have had something to worry about!”
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