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07 March 2016

Lisa Gorrell: Meet a Genealogist & Salt Lake City Expert

It's time to introduce you to Lisa Gorrell, our second trip leader for the upcoming 16th Annual Salt Lake City Research trip (April 24th-May 1st). 

Lisa gave me her answers about what got her interested in genealogy and why you should consider going on our research trip.  I hope you enjoy getting to know Lisa and journey along with her to Salt Lake City!

Why did you start researching your genealogy?
I started being interested in genealogy when I was pregnant with my first child.  Although I had always been interested in whom my grandparents and cousins were, it wasn’t until after my first daughter was born that I felt compelled to begin researching my ancestry.

As fate would have it, the woman who watched her when I returned to work was a genealogist who faithfully went every year for a week to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I wondered, “What could someone possibly do in a library for 14 hours a day?”

She took me to the Sutro Library in San Francisco and set me down to look at the 1920 census. Once I found my grandfather’s family, I was hooked. I now love doing genealogy research.

What did you need to learn?
I love to learn new things, so I joined a local genealogical society and attended their evening lectures when I could. I read everything I could get my hands on, starting with reading The Source and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy from cover to cover. Trying to research in new records was a learning process as well.

One of the most helpful things I finally learned to do was ask for help from seasoned genealogists at the society. It’s amazing how much many of the members know.  They helped me avoid needless hours of dead-ends by pointing me in the right direction. 

These days, I try to attend at least one genealogical institute for a week of learning per year, as well as many advanced lectures that I can.

What were some of your first experiences with the California Genealogical Society?
I had originally joined to have home access to Heritage Quest. Later, I attended my first annual meeting and met some really nice people who made me want to volunteer. I have been a member since 2004. I enjoy working with Events teaching classes, helping patrons at desk duty once a month, and working on the board as Recording Secretary.

As one of the leaders of the upcoming research trip to The Family History Library in Salt Lake City (SLC), what can a researcher gain by attending? 
So many!  First let’s start with why we’re qualified to help you:  Jim Sorenson and I have a wealth of experience using the resources at the Family History Library. I have researched there more than a dozen times, researching in American, Canadian, German, English, and Swedish records.

Both Jim and I will be available to assist you during the open hours of the library by answering questions, and helping you with unfamiliar records, the computer or microfilm machines.  If you need foreign language experts at the library, we know who can help with minor translations of documents you may find.  We also want to keep you on track with your research and hope you also have a little fun while doing it!  

The library has books, microfilm, microfiche, maps, and family histories, some of which are only available there. The only way to access many of their digitized records are on the library's computers that also have access to the major subscription databases.

Helpful hint: Please check the library catalog at FamilySearch to be certain that the library has records for the areas you are researching. Although the library has millions of records, they do not have records from every place in the world.

Want another good reason to go on a research trip with a group of genealogists? It’s the comradery you get being with other like-minded researchers. There is nothing more fun than to have someone be as thrilled as you are when you find something exciting or important about your family. You can also bounce off ideas with someone for the next research track you decide to venture down.

Have you had a personal "a-ha/brick wall break-through moment" while researching in Salt Lake City?  If so, would you describe? 
It was my first foray into more “intermediate” kind of records.  I couldn’t find the parents of Ellis Lancaster who lived in Shelby County, Kentucky.  One of the problems was that I found a second Ellis Lancaster, oh boy...

The leader of the trip suggested I look at land records.  Land records were a bit scary for me at that time, but it really paid off.  Ellis’ father had no probate or will records, however, all of his land was sold and these records named his children.  “I now had the parents of Ellis!  Plus I wasn’t afraid of land records anymore. I now knew that these records could give me the information that can help me or anyone else break a brick wall.”

Any last thoughts on genealogy?
I can’t imagine life without genealogy. There is not enough time in the day to get all I want to get done.

Another huge plus for a research trip to the Family HistoryLibrary in Salt Lake City---you get to leave all of your daily chores at home and spend the majority of your day just focused on genealogy.  You can get so much done. That is so worth it!

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