I had been trained at Auburn for the field of hospital administration, which led me to relocate to Fort Wayne, Indiana. There, far from my Birmingham home and missing my family, a local advertisement for family history resources at the Fort Wayne Public Library caught my attention. They had Alabama records, and I was hooked. It was a puzzle of immense proportions; it was detective work; it put my existence into context; and it was an ever-growing gift to my family.
that our addiction had a side effect.
One winter in northern Indiana drove me home to the sunshine, where I soon discovered the wonderland of the Linn-Henley Research Library of the Birmingham Public Library—a cathedral where I noticed the side effect taking shape. I was no longer simply thirsty for facts about my ancestors; I wanted to know about the world in which they lived. In my late twenties, I first discovered I loved history, thanks to genealogy.
Eventually, I packed the genealogy box away to do graduate work in history.
Th e years stretched out, with work and school keeping the genealogy box
dusty and closeted. As I typed the last words of my doctoral dissertation on
New Year’s Eve 2013, I celebrated by pulling out the dusty box. I was reunited with my first love.
To my delight, the world had changed while I was buried in history books.
Genealogy has become a passion for people all over the world, and an amazing
amount of research can be done by computer—though archival hunts and cemetery strolls still yield the most valuable treasures. Thanks to technology and the advent of DNA testing as a research tool, people of all ages are being drawn to a most worthy hobby. Professional genealogists offer seminars, courses, and more books than I could have imagined in the mid-1980s. Best of all, people all over the world are collaborating—each bringing to others the pieces missing from their own family stories.
It should be no surprise then that I felt compelled to bring genealogy to Alabama Heritage. If you’re not already addicted, fair warning: it only takes a sip.
GETTING STARTED (FROM THE EDITORS):
Research is a journey into the past, but where do people look for their family? Of course, Internet resources are widely available and helpful; however, we recommend that you go to one of the fine local history collections housed
in many of Alabama’s public and university libraries. Also consider joining a genealogical society so you can meet other people who are researching their past. Local records are treasure troves of information, and you may find your
ancestor listed among the pages of a local or county history book, or he or she may be a member on the roll of an organization, church, or club in the area. Look for names on military records, militia rolls, or pension application records that may list your ancestor’s service to a territory, state, or county. Probate court records (such as marriage records, deeds, estate settlements, guardianship records, or adoption records) are also excellent resources. You will find helpful information at FamilySearch. As the editors of this department, we will continue to inform you of new genealogical adventures and resources, and we encourage you to discover your own genealogy story.
About the Author
Donna Cox Baker has served as the editor-in-chief of Alabama Heritage since 2002. Elizabeth Crabtree Wells is the processing archivist and special collection librarian at Samford University Library in Birmingham, Alabama. Yvonne Shelton Crumpler retired in 2008 from the Tutwiler Collection of Southern History and Literature where she had worked as a research librarian in special collections for
thirty-four years. Department sponsor, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, is a global leader in DNA research.