Shaking Your Family Tree

Genealogical resources at Oakland Main Library

In the November/December 2014 issue of The Live Oak, the East Bay Genealogical Society's newsletter, Kimberly Powell clears up a some key questions genealogists present to library staff. In the article, "Understanding Cousin Relationships," she explains that second cousins have the same great grandparents as you, but not the same grandparents. With a third cousin, you'd share the same great, great grandparents. A "cousin once removed" means that the cousin is one generation older or younger than you, for example, your mother's first cousin would be your "first cousin, once removed." 

Learning about family relationships and about one's own family history used to be a daunting task. But with the ready availability of genealogy databases, video apps like Skype, TV programs like PBS' Finding Your Roots, and easy-to-use DNA kits, genealogy research has become more popular than ever. The Oakland History Center at the Oakland Main Library is a good place to start your family research.

If your family roots are local, the Oakland History Center offers a great reference collection including Oakland city directories (1873-1943); Oakland birth and death certificates (1870-1904); county voter registers (late 1800s-early 1900s); and Heritage Quest electronic databases; newspaper databases and indexes; newsletters from local genealogical societies; and local cemetery records.

The Main Library also has a sizeable collection of genealogy books that you can check out. These include how-to books on conducting genealogical research online and in archives; interviewing family members; locating ethnic-specific and regional resources; organizing your research documents; preserving family photographs; and writing a family history.

Here are some handy guides to get you started:

The everything guide to online genealogy: trace your roots, share your history, and create your family tree / Kimberly Powell

Discover your family history online: a step-by-step guide to starting your genealogy search / Nancy Hendrickson

How to write your personal or family history: if you don't do it, who will? / Katie Funk Wiebe

Finding your roots: easy-to-do genealogy and family history / Janice Lindgren Schultz

Who do you think you are?: the essential guide to tracing your family history / Megan Smolenyak