Building the Family Tree – Eugene Weekly


Dawn Carlile wanders the aisles of periodicals and articles piled on the shelves of the Oregon Genealogical Society in downtown Eugene.

With more than 10,000 articles and 3,000 periodicals, Carlile – vice president of OGS – says that “we have something for almost every state in the United States”, as well as “some collections from other countries”, which whether European, Asian-Pacific or Central. American.

She, along with other OGS staff, will preach, with almost religious zeal, the educational benefits as well as the joy of genealogy, locating hard-to-find records, and putting together the puzzle pieces of a family. When talking seriously about her own family’s research and discoveries, Terri Thompson – who chairs the research and certificate committees at OSG – sometimes has to laugh, pause and rewind. “I’m going too fast,” she admits.

The 25-member all-volunteer staff, imbued with the knowledge of research from professional and personal projects, is ready and willing to assist others in their genealogical research, and they are also ready to celebrate the OGS and spread awareness of its work. . with a 60-year anniversary reunion on September 24.

The pandemic has been difficult for OGS and other genealogy societies, Carlile says. Some companies have closed, she notes, while others — even with Zoom — have seen footfall drop dramatically.

OGS has managed to navigate its way through COVID-19 via donations (“We didn’t think it would last long,” Carlile says of the pandemic). Now that restrictions have eased and in-person classes and workshops will resume with limited capacity (and with Zoom links available for those who want them), the company is offering beginner’s genealogy classes as well as research classes. cemetery, tax, probate and immigration records, not to mention courses on how to understand and use DNA results.

It’s just to start. OGS has hybrid seminars on the calendar, handles research requests, and offers Oregon Pioneer Certificates (proof of direct lineage in Oregon through October 31, 1872) and Early Settler Certificates (proof of direct lineage in Oregon from November 1, 1872 to the end of 1900).

“I think it’s important to the family member doing the research,” Thompson says. “It shows there was an ancestor in Oregon at some point in some time.”

OGS is also a FamilySearch Affiliate Library with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and its vast collection of world-renowned books, films, pictures, and documents.

So who is the typical person to enter OSG and begin the ancestry research process?

“A lot of people start doing ancestry research after they retire,” says Carlile, perhaps triggered by the death of a close family member. The internet, she adds, has led 30-somethings to delve deep into a family’s past, and Carlile is quick to counter the narrative that ancestry research isn’t for the youngest. “We would like young people to join us,” she says.

Research results can be astonishing, notes Carlile, and sometimes for shocking reasons. From information about ancestors in the Deep South to how some Europeans treated Jews even before World War II, there may be some revealing revelations.

“We don’t mind,” says Carlile, adding that the historical actions of people from past generations don’t reflect today’s seeker. “You can’t do genealogy without knowing the history.”

Thompson knows this from researching his own family. Most of her research experience, including DNA testing, has been positive, she says, although there is one exception that she politely declines to discuss.

What Thompson raves about is a vicarious DNA match that reunited her with her 91-year-old half-great-aunt, Maria Doralba (Tufo) Dito. Thompson’s earliest memories of Dito date back to when she was a girl visiting Italian relatives in San Francisco.

Thompson and her husband in 2019 accompanied Dito to Verbicaro, Italy, a small town of just over 3,000 people in the mountainous region of southern Italy, to close the family farm. Dito now lives in El Cerrito, Calif., where her health is failing, and Thompson says she is grateful to have spent time with Dito.

She is also excited about her time on the certificates committee where, among other pending applications, are the Oregon Pioneer and Early Settler certificate applications from Linda Aubrey, former president of the OGS.

Thompson notes that the OGS has certified 4,000 Pioneer certificates (although some may be duplicates of multiple family members) and 400 Early Settler certificates.

Carlile, who taught at OGS for 10 years, stresses that a newcomer should not be intimidated by the complex nature of the research work. Administrative assistant before retiring in 2019, Carlile notes that anyone thoughtful and methodical can succeed in genealogy.

“It’s amazing to see people doing professional research,” she says.

The 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Oregon Genealogical Society will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, September 24 at the Oregon Genealogical Library, 955 Oak Alley. The event is free. More information about OGS can be found at


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