Scott Fitzgerald's fascination with genealogy first started in high school, when he received an assignment to make a family tree.

Years later, he still has his project and jokingly points out its errors.

"It's really bad," Fitzgerald said. "I've got one of my great grandparent's names wrong because my grandmother did not know what his name was."

Now the first vice president of the East Texas Genealogical Society, Fitzgerald uses a variety of tools and records to understand his family's history.

A quilt constructed by his maternal grandmother in the 1930s is embroidered with signatures on each of its squares and gives him the names of some of the people she held most dear as a teenager.

"It's kind of a snapshot of that community at the time because she went and got her neighbors to sign," Fitzgerald said.

A census done during the 1927-1928 school year in Tyler also captures an important time in his family's history.

"Supposedly, grandmother met her husband when she was taking the school census," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald is just one of this year's speakers at the 16th Annual Family History Fair, an event that gives attendees knowledge of how they can learn more about their own genealogy.

 The event is free, open to the public and takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located at 1617 Shiloh Road.

Dr. Deborah Burkett is this year's keynote speaker and will cover the topics "Capturing Memories through Oral History Videos," and "Banding Together: Preserving Lost and Neglected Cemeteries of East Texas." Dr. Burkett is an author, retired educator and current chairwoman of the Cherokee County Historical Commission.

Breakout sessions with other experts and speakers will also take place.

Fitzgerald said the event is designed to give attendees the information they need to launch their own searches into their genealogy. While participants may not come to the event and have any specific questions answered - such as the exact location where their grandfather is buried - they will receive tips and pieces of advice that can help them.

The first place Fitzgerald said someone should start when researching his or her family's history is with a name. However, he warns many names were not always spelled the way they are spelled today.

"The first thing you learn in genealogy is spelling does not count," Fitzgerald said. "There are certain programs that give all the right variations."

He also said it is important to learn about some of the different records that exist and the ways they are indexed.

While attendees will receive advice on how to search for their personal family history, Fitzgerald said they'd also learn tips about how to preserve their own history for future generations.

When using technology to store family history, photos and other information, he said people should proceed with caution. He has information stored on floppy discs he said are now unusable.

"The thing you have to watch out (for) is the migration of the technology," Fitzgerald said. "The best thing now really still is writing it down and putting it on paper, whether you believe it or not."

He said he possesses pictures taken around the 1890's that still look great and it remains to be seen how modern technology stands up to the test of time.

From the many sessions taking place at the event on Saturday, Fitzgerald hopes attendees learn valuable information that helps them with their individual searches.

He also looks forward to what he may learn on Saturday.

"If I get one fact that I did not know, I'll know that it was successful," Fitzgerald said. "Nearly everyone has something to teach us. Nobody knows it all."

Twitter: @TMT_Augusta



WHAT: 16th Annual Family History Fair

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; registration at 8:30 a.m.

WHERE: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1617 Shiloh Road

SPONSORS: The East Texas Genealogical Society and the Tyler Stake Family History Center



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