Seventy years after her parents divorced, Carole Gabrio of Gulfport is looking for her father, whom she never knew. Or more precisely, she’s looking for information about him.
Her father and mother divorced in 1945 sometime after she was born in Washington state. Finding data about her father is like finding a needle in a haystack, but Gabrio has a good place to start: genealogical records.
“The more you get involved in it, the more you find it addictive,” she said, adding that genealogy is important for many reasons, including tracing medical conditions within families.
Gabrio was among two dozen people who turned out at the Gulfport Historical Society on Friday, April 15 to learn about different free data bases that can help folks track down information about relatives born hundreds of years ago.
The keynote speaker was Cathy Paunov of St. Petersburg, a genealogist and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, who have compiled the largest genealogical library in the world, with more than three billion names. Mormons trace family trees to find the names of ancestors to be brought posthumously into their faith.
“I love teaching people how to do family history without breaking the bank,” Paunov told those assembled.
Among the websites she gave details about are the LDS site FamilySearch.org, DAR.org, usgenweb.org and Cyndislist.com. Ancestry.com, the largest for-profit genealogy website in the world, can be accessed free of charge at local libraries and sometimes even from one’s home through the local library, she said.
Christine Brown, president of the Gulfport Historical Society, said looking into the past can turn up some surprises. She said she and her mother went on a trip last year looking for family cemeteries. They were surprised to find headstones with names they didn’t recognize along with those of their relatives. However, they knew from DNA testing that they had German ancestors.
“That would explain all the Ludwigs buried with my family,” she said.