Family Finders genealogy library puts research materials at your fingertips
Classes now registering
If you've ever wanted to trace your family history or do research on Jefferson County pioneers, the Family Finders genealogy society in Madras can steer you in the right direction.
The group formed in 1981, as an outgrowth of a popular COCC genealogy class taught by Wanda Clark of Bend. Members met in homes, then the library, until they opened their own research library in 1998 at 21 S.E. D St., a few doors down from the ballet studio.
Although their library is chock-full of all kinds of research books, indexes, old photos, and volunteers to help out, most people seem to be unaware of Family Finders -- perhaps because of its name.
"When we chose the name Juniper Branch of Family Finders we thought it sounded so cute," said member Beth Crow. "But it was over the protests of Mac Lange, who said that name didn't tell what we do or our location."
"Well, she was right," Crow admitted, noting people think Family Finders is like a detective business you hire to find family members.
Actually, they are a nonprofit society devoted to helping people research their own genealogy. As members research topics, they compile booklets and are continually adding information to the collection.
Volunteers are happy to help. "We answer queries, letters and e-mails that come in from Oregon and other states. We have done research for authors writing a book, and for a lawyer on land ownership," Crow said.
Materials available to the public at Family Finders include:
. Over 3,000 reference books, microfilms and CDs.
. Copies of The Madras Pioneer News from 1905 to 2002 on microfilm.
. Computers, a microfilm reader, and a microfiche reader and printer.
. Voter registration records from 1900 (when this area was still part of Crook County) with actual signatures.
. Booklets compiled by Family Finders with Jefferson County obituaries (with some photos), births and marriages, and community news from the 1916 era on up.
. Jefferson County cemetery records.
. County naturalization records.
. Oregon death indexes from 1903 to 1998.
. Oregon marriage and divorce records from 1906.
. Oregon census records from 1850 to 1930.
. Oregon Historical Quarterly Society booklets from 1900 on up, with information on the Barlow Road and all kinds of Oregon history.
. Books on other counties in Oregon, other states and a few foreign countries.
. Local genealogy classes (see details below).
"You might want to know if a friend has died, or if a classmate has married and you can look and see those things on the death and marriage indexes," Crow noted.
Projects the members are currently working on include grant writing to fund a kiosk for Mount Jefferson Memorial Park Cemetery which would help people locate relatives' gravesites; and the collection of local probate records (wills and estates) for a new booklet.
One reference book called "What's Happened Since 1776" lists important happenings nationally and by state during each era, so people can get a feel for what their ancestors were experiencing at the time.
"We learn more about history when we start looking back, and geography too," observed member Mary Rueter.
A lot more genealogy information has become available on the Internet, but local groups are still a vital link.
"People should support their local genealogy society because they are the ones doing the research to make the information available for the Internet," Crow pointed out.
Some Family Finders members will do research for others. "We have done research on people's families for those who don't live here," Crow said, noting usually it is for people wanting to visit our area to see where their relatives lived and are buried.
Family Finders charges nonmembers just $2 a day to use its research library, and $10 per hour if members do the research for you. Members can use the library for free. The group currently has 25 members who pay dues of $20 per year.
On travels of her own, Crow once made a discovery while on a bus tour to the Witch Museum in Salem, Ma. "There on a plaque was the name of (her relative) Judith Perkins Bradbury, who was convicted of being a witch, but was never executed!" she said.
Family Finders will be offering a three-session genealogy class "Unpuzzling Your Past" beginning March 31, for a suggested donation of $15 for all three.
"Pedigree Chart and Home Sources" will be taught by Crow, and "Reading Sources" by Betty Boggs on Saturday, March 31.
On April 7, Letta Cade will help people develop a "Family Group Sheet" and Boggs will show how to glean information from "Correspondence Sources."
April 14, Sharon Hillis will instruct a class in using "Census Records, the Finding Tool."
An additional class in "Using the Computer for Researching" by Lorelee Dendauw and Rueter will be offered April 21, for a suggested donation of $5.
Interested persons are asked to call 475-9745 or 475-3134 as soon as possible so instructors can plan for the classes.
"We plan to follow up on the classes with field trips to the Oregon State Archive and Library in Salem, the Genealogy Library in Portland, and our own county courthouse," Crow said.
Staffed by volunteers, Juniper Branch of Family Finders is usually open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call the library at 475-9745 to check or for information.
Members will even come down and specially open the library on weekends and at other times for people who are traveling and doing research. For that service call Dorothy at 475-6918, Betty at 475-3134, Loralee at 475-6177, or Beth at 475-2193.
For those signing up for classes Crow promised, "Get ready to catch genealogy fever; a love of history and geography!"