West Oaks Branch Library & Genealogy Center

Orange County Library System

Beginning Your Genealogical Research – The Very First Steps

Public interest in genealogy is on the rise. With shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Genealogy Roadshow coming into household living rooms on a weekly basis many people are being bitten by the family history bug. According to a recent article in the USA Today genealogy is now a billion dollar industry and is the second most popular hobby in the United States surpassed only by gardening.

Perhaps all of the discussion and excitement of genealogy in the media has got you wondering about your roots. If you want to know more about your ancestry but aren’t sure where to begin here are a few tips on how you can get started.


Start in the Present with Yourself

raymondhighschoolFamily history research always begins in the present and moves backwards in time step-by-step as stories are uncovered and documents are found. Think about the oral history and traditions that have been passed down in your family and record these bits of information. Locate and identify items in your home — such as heirlooms, documents, photographs, videos and other memorabilia — that showcase your family’s unique history. Ask other family members if they have any family history treasures residing in their attics or cupboards. Items such as marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, military papers, naturalization certificates, newspapers articles, obituaries can be a rich source of family information. These household documents provide clues and help to build a foundation upon which you can begin your family history research.

Talk to your living family members and ask them to share their life’s stories with you. Family elders can be a rich source of first hand information on your family’s history. As you speak with your family members take notes or record what they tell you. Sound genealogy practices require us to keep track of our sources and document where we get our information from so be sure to make note of the date and time you speak with each person.

Write down your family information as you uncover it being sure to record your source for each piece of information. Genealogy forms such as pedigree charts and family group sheets can be useful tools in helping you keep your family history research organized. Start by recording information about yourself and acquire the documentation necessary to link you to your parents before you begin researching your grandparents or great-grandparents.

As you continue with your research try to focus on one generation at a time. This will help to keep your research focused and accurate. Skipping generations or jumping branches on your family tree can create errors in your research and can possibly even lead you to research the wrong family.

Enjoy the journey as you discover your roots!

Genealogy Center Grand Opening

The Grand Re- Opening Celebration Of the West Oaks Branch Library and Genealogy Center was held on Saturday, February 14 and was a huge success. The re-opening attracted both novice and experienced genealogists as well as families looking to learn more about their roots.


The day’s events began with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

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Following the ribbon cutting ceremony patron entered the library and participated in tours which showcased the library’s genealogy holdings.

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Genealogy classes were taught by members of the Central Florida Genealogical Society.



Children and families participated in a variety of family history crafts.

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Forthcoming Genealogy Programs and Technology Classes


Forget Me Not

Monday, February 23, 2015 @ 6:00 PM

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 @ 11:00 AM

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 @ 6:00P M

Preserve the memories of your loved ones with EPOCH, a website where you can post free obituaries. Attend one of these sessions where Library staff will be on hand to provide assistance and answer questions. We will help you through the process of creating and posting a tribute on EPOCH (Electronically Preserving Obituaries as Cultural Heritage). Computers and scanning equipment will be available for use, so be sure to bring photos and any information you want to include in the tribute. Registration not required. For more information, call 407.835.7323 or visit epochlegacies.org.

Beginning Your Family History Online

Sunday, March 15, 2015 @ 2:00 PM

Learn how to best utilize the Internet for your family history research. Discover what is and what isn’t online. Become familiar with the leading genealogy websites as well as some lesser known gems. Discover how to search and locate websites that relate to your family history research.

Branching Out To Find Your Roots: Genealogy, The Very Basics

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 @ 6:30 PM

So you want to learn more about your family history but don’t know where to begin? This program will introduce you to genealogical terms and techniques. Learn how to complete an ancestor chart and how to garner information from living relatives and household sources. A very brief discussion of sources that can be used for family history research will also be covered.

Branching Out To Find Your Roots: Discovering U.S. Census Records

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 @ 6:30 PM

The United States Federal Census has been conducted every 10 years beginning in 1790. Come learn about what information is contained in each of the censuses and discover how to use all of the various bits of information from the census as clues to further your research.

Technology Classes (Registration is required for any Technology Class)

Whiz Kids: Your Family Tree

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 @ 3:00 PM

Become familiar with how to create a family tree and other resources at the library that can help you learn how to start your own Family tree. Kids 9-12

Open Lab: Ancestry Library Edition

Friday, February 20, 2015 @ 3:00 PM

Ancestry Library Edition provides easy access to more than 7,000 genealogy databases and 200 billion images with a single search. Want to learn more? Or simply need constructive ideas to get you started? Let us help!  A technology trainer will be available to assist you in this open lab.

Open Lab: HeritageQuest Online

Monday, February 23, 2015 @ 3:45 PM

Interested in learning more about your family tree? Or simply need constructive ideas to get you started? Let us help!  A technology trainer will be available to assist you in this open lab.

Class Registration Guidelines

  • Most classes are free to Orange County Library District cardholders, fee cardholders, and Orange County Property Owner cardholders. Some classes may include a materials fee.
  • Library account must be in good standing in order to attend a class.
  • Non-Library cardholders may attend an in-person class or an online class by paying a $10 non-refundable fee at the time of registration.
  • All classes start on time. Registration closes at the start of class. Those on the waiting list will have access to the class only if there is a cancellation. Those already registered for the class have a 10 minute window to arrive to class, otherwise will not be admitted in the class.
  • The Library reserves the right to close classes with no registration on the same day the class is offered.
  • To register for a class, please stop by any of our locations, call 407.835.7323, or visit www.ocls.info/ComputerClasses.
  • To cancel a class, please stop by any of our locations, call 407.835.7323, or visit www.ocls.info/CancelClass.
  • A $5 late cancellation fee will be charged unless reservations are cancelled by 11:59 pm the day before the class is scheduled.
  • Before signing up for a class, ask one of our staff to find out what the recommended prerequisites are for the classes.

 Any person requiring special accommodations to participate in a class or program due to a disability may arrange for reasonable accommodations by contacting the location at which the event is held at least seven days prior to the event.   *Class schedule is subject to change.


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