11    Oct 20121 comment

MyHeritage: From town history to family history

Gary at the Great Wall of China

Gary at the Great Wall of China

“Genealogy is not only the search for one’s ancestors, but the sharing of information with others," according to MyHeritage member Gary L. Roberts of Plano, Texas.

Born in Pennsylvania, Gary, 62, attended computer school and served in the US Army as a Morse Code Intercept Operator. Before his 2012 retirement, he spent 30 years working for Verizon Communications as a technical trainer.

Although an only child, he had many cousins on both sides of his family. He’s always been interested in his family history, but travel and work prevented him from working on it. Today, however, he has created a family website, and his travels have taken him around the world to China, Wales, Egypt, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zaire, Singapore, Switzerland, all over Europe and to the Philippines.

His interest in family history began following the Catawissa (Pennsylvania) Bicentennial in 1974.

My second cousin wrote much of the book on the history of Catawissa. My Roberts family had a large number of family members (aunts, uncles, cousins) in the area and some history related to them. It was wonderful to read about the area and its history.

Along the way, Gary has learned that there is always more to learn and investigate, and that every new discovery is a surprise. He created his MyHeritage family site in April 2007.

I am not exactly sure how I heard about MyHeritage. It may have been through Dick Eastman’s OnLine Genealogy Newsletter.

Gary’s cousin is also involved in the research, and he hears from other people who have seen his website, and request pictures or documents that he has. He also provides links to MyHeritage to those who find him.

Currently, he has more than 19,000 people in his tree, and most of them live in Pennsylvania. He received his first Smart Matches on October 5, 2012, but has yet to research them

Gary in Wales, the ancestral home of his 8th, 9th, and 10th Grandparents.

Gary in Wales, the ancestral home of his eighth, ninth and tenth great-grandparents

Has he discovered unknown or long-lost relatives? Yes, he says.

I have discovered a number of relatives on both my maternal and paternal sides. A number of years ago, I was contacted by an unknown relative on my mother’s side whom I'd never met before. We communicated and met face-to-face.

We decided that it would be great to have a family meeting and invite relatives. We found a church hall and placed information in the local paper. A nice group of people attended, and brought photos, documents and stories, which we scanned and recorded. It was an exciting time for everyone!

Gary shared a story about an uncle who had died while service in the US Army in Louisiana in the 1940s.

I never knew him, but wanted to find out more about what happened to him. In World Vital Records, I discovered an article about a railroad being built in Louisiana to train the military, how it was constructed and used. The article referenced a lieutenant in charge of the project and that he died the day before it was dedicated. It was my uncle!

I kept reading and found his obituary on the next page. It explained his project participation and about his death. It is something that none of our family knew about, and I was able to share this with his grandchildren.

We thank Gary for sharing his story. Did you enjoy his story and his tips? Do you have a story to share with our readers? Share your views in the comments below.

Here are Gary’s tips for those just beginning to research their families:

-- Start early and get your kids and family involved. That’s tough these days!

-- Remember to begin with what you know and work towards the unknown.

-- Get a genealogy program to keep everything together.

-- Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles for information. Talk to them, ask them for pictures or documents. They can be a wealth of information.

-- I have found two types of genealogist. One records information but doesn’t do much research. The other not only records information, but also stories about their ancestors, which can add to your research and family history.

-- There are so many resources out there on the web and more are added all the time.

-- Join your local genealogical society, which can be a great resource in your research.

-- Finally, enjoy the research and the benefits of your hard work on finding that lost record, discovering a tombstone, or treasuring a special item from a relative that makes your work more personal.

We thank Gary for sharing his story.

Did you enjoy his story and his tips? Do you have a story to share with our readers? Share your views in the comments below.

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  1. I have always been a student of history and thus was surprised by my own finds in my own family search. The leads poured in from every where from Vatican records to university roles all over Europe.

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