Exploring family histories has never been easier with Internet sites like Ancestry.com
However, since 1965, a group of Marshall County residents have been working diligently to make resources available to those with, or without a computer.
"Your family tree might still be a mystery, but how you find them isn't," said Central Iowa Genealogical President Jay Carollo of Marshalltown.
T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY
Members of the Central Iowa Genealogical Society are shown organizing obituary clippings Saturday at Marshalltown’s Historical Society museum. From left are Pauline Smith, Daniel Brandt, Jay Carollo, all of Marshalltown, and Kay Gill of Albion.
Located in the Historical Society of Marshall County's complex, 202 E. Church St., is the CIGS library.
In it are hundreds of organized, neatly stacked books and materials for both beginner and seasoned genealogical researchers.
Included are "how to" genealogy books, atlases and maps, central Iowa family histories, county histories, Daughters of the American Revolution index, Marshall County cemetery records, obituaries and periodicals.
Several, tall, thick and sturdily bound books contain immigration records from Ellis Island and other points of entry.
CIGS board member Dan Brandt of Marshalltown said in recent years CIGS' efforts have focused on Marshall County as neighboring counties established their own organizations.
"We'll help anyone who has a question related to central Iowa genealogy," said Carollo, who is eager to let others know what the organization can do.
"If we don't have the information, or limited information, we'll suggest other resources. Additionally, we have cemetery records for Grundy, Hardin and Jasper counties."
CIGS volunteers have access to valuable military data.
"The 150th anniversary of the Civil War has sparked many an inquiry," Carollo said. "We'll help folks, if necessary research - military or other - for $10 per hour, plus expenses for copies, mileage and related work," Carollo said.
"If it appears a project will take much work - such as an out-of-state request - we will tell people up front."
Brandt compares genealogy to detective work.
"In both fields you follow leads," he said. "One thing may lead to another. It has been exciting to learn about my own family, and it is gratifying to help others learn about their families as well."
Brandt and fellow members Pauline Smith, Jay Carollo and Kay Gill spent part of Saturday clipping, pasting and organizing obituaries.
Their deliberate and systematic efforts were not for themselves, bur for others, who someday may wish to know more about family histories.
CIGS has recorded most obituaries of Marshall County residents from 1960 through 2006.
Obituaries hold much family information, or serve as keys to other sources.
Clyde Eisenbeis of Marshalltown has been researching his family tree since 1979. Central to Eisenbeis' effort was tracing his German ancestry. He discovered German relatives had moved to Russia in the late 1700s and early 1800s. With additional research, he discovered they later emigrated to the United States in the late 1800s, settling in North Dakota and Nebraska.
"My work led to the first International Eisenbeis Family Reunion in 1982," he said. "We had folks attend from the U.S. Canada, Russia and Switzerland. And it has been held every three years."
He published a soft cover of the family history and genealogy which coincided with the reunions.
"One book has over 10,000 names," he said. "I've met and recently corresponded with relatives who stayed in Russia. It has opened up a whole new world for our family."
Carollo emphasized HSMC and CIGS are separate, not-for-profit organizations, but share the library and other resources cooperatively.
CIGS meets the third Sunday of each month from January through May and September through November at 1:30 p.m. in the Fisher Community Center.
Annual dues are $7.50.
The library is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and first and third Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, contact Carollo, 641-351-4102 or firstname.lastname@example.org