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Course offers guide to researching family history

Wayne Weatherwax will be presenting a course titled “Genealogy 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your Family History” at the Westfield Senior Center. (Photo courtesy Wayne Weatherwax)

WESTFIELD-Wayne Weatherwax became “hooked” on genealogy in 1972 when he was home on leave from the United States Navy.

“I started talking to family members and doing research when I was home on leave,” said Weatherwax, who will lead an eight-week course titled “Genealogy 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your Family History” beginning April 24 at the Westfield Senior Center.

Classes will be conducted each Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m., and advance registration is required due to limited seating in the learning center.

Weatherwax said in the early 1990’s he found a file on the Weatherwax family on the old Compuserve network.

“That led me to find cousins I did not know, living in Pittsfield,” said Weatherwax. “From there I was hooked and continue doing genealogy to this day.”

Weatherwax has been a member of the National Genealogy Society, Palatines to America Society, and New England Historical and Genealogical Society, and currently is associated with the Western Massachusetts Genealogy Society.

In 2010, Weatherwax published “The Weatherwax Genealogy – Ten Generations of Descendants of Henirch Wiederwach a Palatine Migrant” to mark the 300th anniversary of the family’s arrival in New York Colony.

“I sometimes refer to my 959-page book as more than you ever wanted to know about the Weatherwax family,” he said, adding he is currently working on a second edition “which has grown so large,” he may have to publish it in two to three volumes.

Weatherwax also has a Weatherwax Genealogy Facebook page, and has served for years as an administrator for various family pages.

“I routinely get queries via the Internet and assist others with research,” he said.

Weatherwax has offered similar genealogy courses over the years at the Westfield Athenaeum and enjoys providing support to local residents interested in discovering their roots.

“There are many reasons but most of us want to know where we came from and who were our ancestors, were they famous, infamous, etc.,” said Weatherwax. “In many cases, adoption or medical issues lead to genealogy.”

During the course, Weatherwax will discuss a variety of topics, ranging from family group sheets, research logs, family trees, and genealogical forms, to searching the United States or state census records, using libraries and other repositories, and exploring DNA options. Discussions will also cover wills, Bibles, deed research and military records, as well as identifying primary and secondary sources and how to evaluate what is uncovered.

“We will address any other issue that the group wants help or information with,” said Weatherwax.

As part of his discussions, Weatherwax will also reveal interesting tidbits he has found about his ancestors.

“Each state presents different records,” said Weatherwax, noting that Massachusetts has “great” early colonial records, yet New York had no vital record laws in use until 1880.

Early registration is recommended since the learning center only has nine computer stations, however, individuals are also welcome to bring in their own computer. Handouts will also be provided at each class.

“Having a small number allows me to give individual help more easily,” said Weatherwax, adding, “if more people are interested then we will work on scheduling additional times.”

For more information or to sign up for the course, call (413) 562-6435 or visit the center’s greeter’s desk.

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