Marjorie Weiler-Powell became passively interested in genealogy in high school by watching her mother keep track of relatives’ births and weddings, “but when my daughters joined 4-H and attempted the genealogy project, I became an active genealogy researcher,” she admits.
The Batesville resident, who grew up on a farm near Lawrenceville, where her parents still reside, is fascinated by this science because “my ancestors’ triumphs and discouragements are what made me into the person I am today. It is a history of me.”
The mother of two daughters (Brittany, a portrait photographer finishing her degree at Brooks Institute of Photography in California; and Shelley, a singer attending Indiana State University, double majoring in vocal performance and teaching) is married to Jim Powell, a teacher for the visually handicapped in area schools.
Powell’s other hobbies include singing, crocheting and embroidery. In her free time, she enjoys Sudoku, cryptoquip word ciphers, reading murder mysteries and “watching any movie with Sean Connery in it.”
She is involved in the Tri-County Genealogical Society, Indiana Historical Society, Indiana Genealogical Society, Dearborn County Historical Society and Palatines to America.
Getting started in genealogy research: Begin by documenting yourself. Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves? Just put it in writing. Record names, dates and places and personal information that is an important part of your life. Volunteering to abstract data from sources is an excellent way to become familiar with the information to be found on records, to practice reading cursive and to further the cause of genealogy. IGS, in conjunction with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a project for abstracting the marriage record data in Indiana county records and eventually putting it online for everyone free of charge. Go to www.indgensoc.org to sign up.
Take it slow: Concerning genealogy, my advice is to begin. It does not have to be perfect the first time. Do not immediately buy software and/or hardware to document your family history. Wait at least six months until you have had time to investigate and sort the good from the bad by asking other genealogists and trying things out. Plus, you do not need to break the bank with unnecessary expenses. Begin with a pencil and notebook and eventually your own style of research will emerge.
Greatest research challenges: Organization because data accumulates very quickly, and unless a researcher is diligent about documenting sources and filing information, it soon becomes a pile of papers. Most people cannot spend time researching every day, and it is easy to lose your train of thought after an interruption.Without a diary and other source documentation, a researcher may waste precious time looking at materials that had already been looked at days, months or years ago. A source citation should contain titles of books, films, articles, authors and publication years. It is also very helpful to track where you found or looked at the source if data needs to be double-checked.
Discoveries: The court case to partition land left in a will was the most surprising. My father did not know that his great-grandfather had a brother that emigrated with him and that a stepsister joined them in later years from Germany.
Rewards: The ah-hah feeling when a new tidbit is uncovered or a suspicion is confirmed. It is great to find second or third cousins that are also genealogists.
Helpful Web sites: I use Heritage Quest (free at most libraries) to access the census records online and to search PERSI (Periodical Source Index). Ancestry.com is very popular and has good online lessons, and www.familysearch.org has a wonderful site for education by using their “research helps” or “library” tab, plus just a wealth of information they have accumulated that is available without a subscription price.
Upcoming events: Come to the genealogy lock-in at Batesville Memorial Public Library May 15 for some introductory classes. Read introductory books found in the library to become familiar with genealogy vocabulary and methods. Look at the family histories that other people have donated to the library. The IGS is hosting a conference in Indianapolis April 25. It is a great way to meet other genealogists, learn research techniques and browse vendors.
Current projects: A Weiler family history, picture documentation of St. Peters Cemetery, volunteering at Indiana State Archives and Brookville Library, publishing edition 2 of the St. Peters Catholic Church 175th Anniversary Book.
Future goals: I intend to publish the family lines within my ancestral tree. Since I feel so connected to my ancestor’s home place near St. Peters, I am researching the church records of surrounding communities to eventually publish family histories of other pioneers.
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