Tamara Hallo from Hallo Genealogy Services is an educator, librarian and genealogist with professional experience in lecturing, researching, document retrieval and evidence analysis. In this interview she shares personal insights to the world of genealogy and advice on researching your family history.
What inspired you to become a genealogist?
I was born into a large, close-knit, loving family and grew up attending large holiday gatherings and get-togethers where we were surrounded by food, love, and warmth. I believe this was the kindle for my family history fire. As I got older, my mom gave me a binder full of research and historical documents from her great aunt, who was always considered the family genealogist and historian. I remember being fascinated with it and amazed that you could actually still find and access these historical records. But most of all, it made me want to know more about the stories of my ancestors and where I came from. I feel deep down that people yearn to have a sense of belonging and to know that they are part of something greater than themselves. Researching my family history helps me discover my place in this great universe and understand who I am and where I came from. Being a professional genealogist allows me to help others with this same quest.
Where would you recommend people who are new to genealogy start out and what do you consider to be the first step in family history research?
Always start with yourself. So many want to immediately find out their family’s origin and homeland and they start their research with their grandparents or great grandparents, often ignoring their immediate family’s story. Family history is a journey that begins with you. Your story is as important as your great-great grandparents’ story. Start with you and your immediately family and methodically work through each generation. As with any good detective who wants to solve a mystery, begin looking for clues in artifacts and documents your family already has tucked away in attics, basements, and closets. You would be surprised what is hiding in there that no one remembers having! Interview family members and start filling in the details of your family tree before you go online and start researching. This solid foundation will be your guide to success!
What is one mistake that you often see non-professionals make in their family history research and how could this be avoided?
I would have to say finding a family tree that someone else posted online on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, taking it as absolute fact, and merging it with their family tree. Not all the information in these online trees has been verified or fact checked so you are potentially adding false information to your family tree. The adding and sharing of this potentially false information becomes a perpetual problem. Online trees are wonderful to guide you, but not substitutes for solid research.
Are there any software or online programs that you would recommend using for family history research?
I always stress to my students to make sure their family tree is backed up both in the cloud (for example, saved on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, or a cloud-based service) and on your computer. Buy and install a family tree program (such as RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, or Legacy Family Tree) on your computer where you can enter or sync your family tree information. You want to know that your hard work is safe and accessible on your computer and not solely in the hands of someone else. There are several options to choose from and the best one depends on your needs.
If you had unlimited time is there any genealogy or history project you would personally like to take on?
As a professional genealogist, my personal research always gets put aside. If I had unlimited time, I would create a family book complete with documents, pictures, and narratives for each line of my family to hand down to my children and share with family members. This has always been the ultimate goal of my research, but I have yet to find the time to do it. One of these days!
Could you tell us a little more about your “FamilySearch.org Scavenger Hunt” Online Class offered and what people could expect to gain from this?
I always recommend to my students to become familiar and rely on www.FamilySearch.org for their research. It is very similar to Ancestry.com, but it is free to use without a yearly subscription fee. It is an especially valuable resource for county level historical documents and indexes.
Getting the most out of FamilySearch.org and maneuvering around is a bit tricky. This is where my FamilySearch.org Scavenger Hunt online class comes in. It teaches the ins and outs of FamilySearch.org and how to really dig deep into what is available on the site. From historical documents, help pages, and online trees, to interactive family activities, FamilySearch.org has it all!
My self-paced class is different from other genealogy classes in that it is engaging and “hands-on” with 8 lessons packed with information and strategies, all taught through a fun and challenging scavenger hunt. Learning how to search FamilySearch.org like a pro will lead you to your family’s records, your elusive ancestors, and historically rich resources so you can document, understand, and relive your family’s story.
The discovery of DNA and the development of the internet has added a great advantage to family history research over the past years. What do you predict could be the next big influence on research?
I think we are in the middle of a revolution right now. Covid-19 has forced many of us to turn to online meetings for business and/or recreational purposes. What was once a time where genealogical learning opportunities were limited to face to face, is no longer the norm. People who were unable to travel to genealogy meetings or conferences due to health reasons, age, or finances, can now attend them online from the comfort of their own home. Smaller genealogical societies are finding that they now have speaker options like never before. What was once cost restrictive is now affordable. We are on the verge of an educational revolution that will revitalize local and state genealogical societies, get people hooked on this highly addictive hobby, and give seasoned researchers a renewed excitement to continue their research. It’s a very exciting time to be in the field of family history.