Family History a Popular Subject in Clay; Library Has a Genealogy Department

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY MARAGHY

Many days, Kathy Aker of Lake Asbury spends eight hours in front of a computer researching her family's history.

"This is my favorite thing to do," she said, while clicking a mouse with a notebook beside her. She found an online sketch from the Civil War era of one of her husband's descendants. "I am so intrigued by this. At home, all I think about is when can I get back to the library."

Akers is one of several genealogy buffs who hang out at the Genealogy and Local History section of the new Clay County Headquarters Library.

The new library, which also functions as the Fleming Island branch of the Clay library system, opened in late February and has more than 30,500 items.

Unlike other Clay County libraries, it contains a separate section devoted to those who want to trace their roots. Located in a room at the rear of the library, the Genealogy and Local History section has more than 500 books and online access to U.S. Census information back to 1790, 25,000 family and local history books and more than 1.6 million genealogy articles.

"It has been very, very well received by the entire community, from beginners to those in the field of genealogy. It's just continuing to grow," said assistant library director Pat Coffman. "You can even search online from home if you have a library card. It's just tremendous."

Genealogy section librarian Joyce Bak said searches are simpler now thanks to technology. Many families have written books about their history and put them online.

Bak said genealogy is often a favorite hobby for older people but she's had teenagers and college students frequenting the section.

"I love it. It's so cool," said 13-year-old Angie Epifano, who recently brought her parents.

"You always talk about stories at family get-togethers," said Angie's mother, Angela. "But this give you the resources."

At a computer station, Angie's father, Anthony, fed Angie names to enter into the HeritageQuest program, which can search federal census records, family history books, genealogy articles and Revolutionary War-era pension and land warrant application files. Library cardholders can also access it from their home computers.

The library also has monthly programs featuring genealogy experts. …