Nevada County Genealogical Society presents “Digging For Your Roots” |

Nevada County Genealogical Society presents “Digging For Your Roots”

Nevada County Genealogical Society members, Josie Vaughn and Maria Brower doing genealogical research at the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research in Nevada City.
Submitted photo to The Union |


WHO: The Nevada County Genealogy Society

WHAT: 24th annual genealogical seminar “Digging for Your Roots”

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 19. The all-day event offers 20 classes available in five time slots.

WHERE: Calvary Bible Church, 11481 State Highway 174 in Grass Valley.

TICKETS: The cost is $23 for non-members, $20 for members, and participants can choose five classes of their choice that day but must be registered because space is limited to 175 attendees. An option lunch will be available for and additional cost of $7 catered by SPD if registered before Aug. 9.

INFO: The registration form and class schedule is available on the society’s web page at or for additional questions and more information contact Maria Brower at 530-272-2119.

Are there skeletons in your closet?

“There is a good chance there are,” said Maria Brower, one of the founding members of the Nevada County Genealogical Society.

“Family secrets of the past were buried deep, not talked about as we so easily do today. They could have been kept in the closet for decades, but once you start to pursue family research they just start popping out.”

Brower knows about this personally. A few years after she began her own quest for family information, she learned that the man she had always believed to be her father was not her biological father.

“I would have probably never found out if it wasn’t for my interest in family history. It is usually someone in your family that ‘lets the cat out of the bag’, as my Italian Grandmother would say. After spending five years researching the incorrect family lines back to the American Revolution ancestor, I was very shocked and disheartened,” said Brower.

“It took me a year to get back on track, and then I began researching Tommy White, my biological father. My mother had been introduced to Tommy during World War II. He was a best-buddy and shipmate to my uncle, a 19 year-old Marine from Pennsylvania. It turned out that it was one of my aunts to who told my husband Jim the long-time family secret. My husband finally told me after several months of contemplating how to break it to me. He finally decided to tell me because I had just sent my application papers to Washington, D.C. to join DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution. The timing was really bad,” said Brower.

In the 1970s, there were three things that contributed to the big surge in family research.

When Alex Haley’s best selling book, “Roots,” came out (later made as a mini-series for TV) our nation was on the brink of it’s bicentennial, and popular magazines were writing articles about family history and other pursuits that were in vogue in the past, such as quilting, candle making, calligraphy and other handcrafts.

Due to the bicentennial, countless U.S. states and counties were publishing updated histories and genealogy books to meet the booming interest in the past and family history.

“In the 1970s and prior it took a lot more work and time to do family research than it does today. You had to either go to a large research facility, library or university, and most researchers did not live close to one, where there was a large genealogy collection. Even if the distance was not too far the facility might not have a large collection on the area that you needed to research,” said Brower. “Your choice from home was to order microfilm inter-library loan through your local library, borrowing from your state library, or go to a local branch of the LDS Church’s Family History Center were you could rent microfilms from their large collection in Salt Lake City.”

“There was a long turn-around time in getting the films. Writing letters and putting in paid queries in national and in local genealogy periodicals were standard. You also had to order and pay for original documents from various state and county agencies where your ancestors had lived and purchase a lot of books yourself in between research trips if you were serious about your family history,” said Brower.

Today we are in the middle of another family history boom that started when computers, the Internet and those with an interest in genealogy merged. First, companies came out with basic genealogy programs to enhance and make it easier to use genealogy charts and forms as well as keeping track of all your ancestors and related information. Then the Internet came into play. But in its early days there were not yet databases, free or paid, and Google had not yet been invented.

“Today’s researchers are very fortunate,” said Brower, “Forty-one years ago when I began researching my family I could have never dreamed of the resources and tools we have today or the amazing genealogy programs. There is so much out there it can be overwhelming for beginners. The most frequent question I get asked is how do you begin? I always tell anyone who is interested to get connected to their local genealogy society and to take a beginners class.”

The Nevada County Genealogy Society will be holding their 24th Annual Genealogical Seminar “Digging for Your Roots” on Aug. 19 in Grass Valley. The all-day event offers 20 classes available in five time slots. The classes include beginning, intermediate and advanced classes presented by the best speakers in Northern California. Everyone who is registered receives a syllabus with all of the instructors’ handouts. The registration form and class schedule is available on the society’s web page at

Source: The Nevada County Genealogy Society

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