Calling all Family Detectives


Christine Ridarsky

Sunday, May 19, marks the last session of Season 1 of the Local History & Genealogy Division’s popular Family Detectives Club series. I want to thank all of the library patrons who have made this such a successful program. Each week for the past seven months, library genealogy specialist Barb Koehler has led half-hour discussions on a variety of topics related to family history research. Just two people attended the first session back in October 2012. More recently, attendance has averaged 20 people per session, and we’ve continued to see new faces every week.

Topics that we’ve covered over the past several months have included genealogy basics, the kinds of information found in state and federal records, city and suburban directories, and church and cemetery records,  the value of maps, the USGenWeb Project, immigration and naturalization records, and most recently, county clerk’s records, to name just a few.

When we were developing the genealogy series Imagelate last summer, we considered many possible names for it. We finally settled on Family Detectives Club because it was catchy and seemed fitting for what we envisioned as a series of fairly informal programs that we hoped would encourage people to come back to the library week after week. Of course, we had no idea then just how appropriate the name would come to be! The weekly series really has become something of a “club.” Indeed, I think some of the regular participants come as much for the camaraderie with fellow family history enthusiasts as for the information they receive from Koehler and our guest presenters. We’ve seen many new friendships develop as a result of the weekly gatherings. And yet it has not become cliquish; newcomers are always welcomed.

I love that the library has been able to provide a venue for this social and educational gathering!

Unfortunately, this first season comes to a close on Sunday. The library will be closed on Sundays from May 26 to September 29, reopening on October 6. But I am pleased to announce that, due to its success, we plan to continue the Family Detectives Club in the fall. Look for a schedule in late August or early September and mark your calendar for 1:15 p.m. on October 6.

In the meantime, we’re wrapping up Season 1 with several surprises. So whether you’re a regular attendee or a newbie interested in learning more, please join us at 1:15 p.m. this Sunday, May 19, in the Local History & Genealogy Division for our Season Finale. All of the handouts from Season 1 will be available. Plus more, more, more! It also will be an opportunity for you to help shape Season 2. You won’t want to miss it!

And if you’re going to miss our Sunday gathering, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways for you to continue your research over the summer. Here are a few suggestions:

1. The library will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 29. Docents from the Rochester Genealogical Society are available in the library most Saturdays to provide FREE one-on-one assistance with your research. We recommend calling ahead to ensure that a docent is scheduled: (585) 428-8370. The library is closed Saturdays from July 6 through August 31, reopening on September 7.

2. New York State has begun to make some death indexes available online. The online database currently only covers the period between 1957 and 1963. It is unclear whether the state plans to continue to add to this database moving forward or whether it will be expanded backwards to include previous years’ deaths. It also is not clear whether the state has any plans to add birth and marriage records to the online database in the future. We are currently investigating these questions and will post more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, if you want to explore the death index online, you can find it here:

3. Online genealogy database will be allowing FREE access to its collection of U.S. and international military records beginning Thursday, May 23, through Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. The online database includes more than 26 million military records. Well-known genealogy blogger Dick Eastman writes that “ is encouraging people to explore and learn about the heroic efforts of their ancestors this Memorial Day. Record sets such as ‘Draft Registration Cards,’ ‘Casualties Returned Alive,’ ‘POWs’ and others will offer a captivating glimpse into the lives and experiences of our veteran ancestors.” Anyone will be able to view the records by registering for FREE at

If you do have the opportunity to use, please let me know what you think of it. The Local History & Genealogy Division is considering expanding its database offerings. Would you use if it were available for FREE at the library? What other fee-based database services would you like the library to provide you FREE access to? Please send your thoughts to me at

Published in: on May 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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