By JILL CRANDALL
A featured speaker from the Utah Valley Chapter of the Utah Genealogical Association spoke on the importance of genealogy and early U.S. immigration at the chapter monthly meeting Friday night at the Orem Friendship Center.
Helen Clegg, an instructor in the Elder Hostel family history education program at BYU and an expert in U.S. and British Research, said there are many resources people often don’t know about that offer information about genealogy, especially if people are trying to trace immigration ancestors. Clegg urged the audience to find clues in America by searching through wills, passenger lists and printed books in libraries.
“Printed books often have lots of immigration lists to search in. The key is to learn all you can about the immigrant,” Clegg said.
One of the ways immigrants came over to America was by becoming indentured servants, Clegg said.
“When America was colonized, a new form of colonization began that had never been used before. It was indentured servants,” Clegg said.
In order to get to America, men and women would actually sell themselves for four to seven years to people going to America who would then pay for these servants’ trips over, Clegg said.
For people searching for ancestors, it is likely some of their ancestors came over as indentured servants. Libraries have books specifically for indentured servants, with lists of names that can be very helpful, Clegg said.
Laurie Castillo, president of the Utah Valley Chapter of the UGA, said genealogy has really picked up as a hobby nationwide.
“It’s just expanding at an amazing rate. Depending on which study you look at, genealogy is currently the second- or third-ranked hobby in the United States,” Castillo said.
Second Vice President of the UGA Judy Hansen said people are interested in genealogy because it’s a way to get roots.
“Most people don’t live where their parents or grandparents live. Finding out about your ancestors is a way of establishing your identity,” Hansen said.
Castillo said the UGA currently has six chapters, but her goal is to have a chapter in every county in Utah. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, Utah does not have the largest genealogy association, despite the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although there are many members of the LDS Church involved in the UGA, there are others in the UGA that are not members. The UGA is not associated with the LDS Church, Castillo said.
The biggest and best organization is the Ohio Genealogical Association, Castillo said.
The purpose of the UGA is to provide educational experiences for people interested in finding out more about genealogy, Castillo said.
John Lillie, a member of the UGA board, said people don’t get involved in genealogy because they don’t know where to start.
“An organization like the UGA can give them a good foundation to build on and can acquaint them with the right resources that are necessary to get started and move ahead,” Lillie said.