Genealogy club uncovers connections to history
Group meets at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays in Museum of Northwest Colorado
June 15, 2016
Craig — A passed-down story, a cluster of old photographs turned up in a shoebox and a hunger for connection to some faraway spot in the past may all spark a desire to search for one's ancestry. People who catch that desire can meet with the Roots and Branches Genealogy Club at 2 p.m. each Wednesday at the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
"For me," said Cindy (Harms) Wright, who coordinates the group, "one of our stories that we grew up with was that our family came over on the Mayflower. Still, even with the DNA (sample), I have not made that connection."
But she did find evidence that one of her ancestors arrived on this continent before the Mayflower and helped to finance it.
Wright, along with other group members, uses an amalgamation of sources to search for their histories. They tap websites, such as ancestry.com and findagrave.com. They use DNA samples, make phone calls and strike up connections through social media. They also sift through old photographs, journals, address books, letters and any other documents they might find to build their understanding of their pasts.
"I've always been interested in my people," said LaDawn (Seick) Sexton. "My father was a huge storyteller. And I started looking at photos and scrapbooks and that led me to genealogy."
Sexton said the process can be daunting at times, but she noted the moment of discovery — or of clarification — as supremely powerful.
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"You have moments when you find a person and maybe a photo that you never knew existed and you can document it," she said. "It is an overwhelming experience. It brings you to tears."
And for Sexton, the process doesn't stop with photographs. Soon she'll be meeting with someone who appears to be a distant cousin — a Seick — who's coming over from Germany. He's visited in the past, as well.
"He's a policeman in Berlin," she said. "My kids adore him."
Wright planted the seeds for the genealogy group in 2013 when she ran a shop called Blue Ribbon Kitchens with her sister. It was at that shop that she started holding genealogy meetings.
The shop closed, but with encouragement from local residents Bill Rippy and Bill Lawrence — and from the Museum of Northwest Colorado — she started holding genealogy sessions in the museum.
Wright described the way old stories often start to emerge after years of staying in the shadows.
"As our aunts and uncles get a little older, the secrets aren't so much secrets anymore," she said.
And Wright said that pursuing genealogy, or discovering connections that lie in a past century, can unveil a closeness to history — a history that otherwise might seem remote.
"It makes it feel like history affected you," she said.