Local woman starts genealogy blog to help others discover past
Elizabeth Thomas has a passion for genealogy and wants to share her knowledge with everybody who has ties to St. Charles Parish.
Thomas, 70, started researching her family history in the late 1950s by visiting libraries, courthouses and school board offices.
In January, she decided to branch out and take her research online.
"Last year I learned about genealogy blogs and I read dozens every day," Thomas said. "I already had all this research and I wanted to write about what would help genealogists here and those people who have moved away."
Thomas is single-handedly putting local courthouse and school board records online through her blog, www.familyfriendsandneighbors.blogspot.com, so that everyone can search them more easily.
Thomas said she's trying to reach two groups of people with her blog: local people and those who have moved away and might find her on the internet.
"There's just so much history right here in St. Charles Parish that people don't realize. My next goal is to take pictures of the cemeteries and put all of that online," she said.
Thomas said she thinks it is important to know family history for medical records and for personal knowledge.
"I enjoy the stories, the history - not just the names," she said. "Just go out in the swamp and think 'Oh God, the first Germans came here and this is what they saw.' Who could survive there today?"
While Thomas is spending much of her time these days putting other families' records online, she is still keeping up with her own family's genealogy.
She said she has learned that a member of her family has fought in every American war since the Revolutionary War and that her father once saved a person from drowning.
She sends her cousins, siblings and grandchildren letters each month to tell them about what she has been working on and to see if the younger generations have come up with any illnesses that might be explained through genealogy.
"There are just so many things to learn about," she said.
Thomas taught her self to research genealogy by reading books and talking to other people interested in the science.
In the 1980s, she even wrote genealogy columns for the St. Charles Herald and St. Charles Guide as well as teaching community education classes on genealogy.
As far as advice to those interested in genealogy, Thomas says that the library is the best place to start.
After that, she suggests that people look online at sites like Ancestry.com or Feamilysearch.org, or contact local genealogy groups.
"Almost every parish has a genealogy group," she said. "There are always people willing to help you."
She said the most common mistake that new genealogy researchers make is to not have correct information.
"The main thing in doing genealogy is to make sure that you have the correct information on every generation before you go to the next one," she said. "Just because it's in a book doesn't mean it's correct. There's a lot of misinformation out there."
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