Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

Remember your Roots: It's the little things

My dad's family, likely from the late 1940s or early 1950s. From left, Uncle Bill, Uncle Ted, my dad L.D., my grandfather William, my grandmother Agnes and my Uncle Jimmy.

October is Family History Month. 

Ironically, I don't know the history of Family History Month - how long ago it was declared or by whom.

Still, October seems a appropriate time to think about your family's history. The hubbub of summer activities is dwindling and the holiday season is ramping up. I think its the holiday time of year that most of us really think about our families, their histories and traditions.

In my next few blogs, I want to talk about family history research - how to get started or how to renew an interest.

Today, I'd like to highlight some local resources, our community library systems. I can't say enough about our libraries and what they have to offer in genealogy research.

Several of them are also offering classes in October to help kick start resources. They all also have the library edition of Ancestry.com and several other search engines available in addition to the local history/genealogy resources.

The Lake County Public Library has been very helpful to me in my research. Working full time and trying to catch up on weekends, I don't often have time to zip here or there to look up a record. The library has, among many, many things, an obituary index for a certain newspaper I won't mention. They also have an Ask the Librarian service. I have been able to locate obituaries I need for my research in the index and request them through the Ask the Librarian service. Within 24 hours, I have an emailed copy of the obit. The service provides other research and only charges for copying.

The library offers many classes, including one tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 30 on "Breaking Down Brick Walls" and on Oct., 14 on "Basic DNA Class."

Visit their web site lcplin.org for more information.

Also in Lake County, the Hammond Public Library has a wonderful history room and really nice folks to help you out.

They are offering three classes in October to help kick start your family history research called "Discover your Family."

"This series of three programs will show you the basics of starting your family history. Attend one, two, or all three programs. Information is at (219) 931-5100 Ext. 307 or 310," according to the web site.

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The programs will be offered at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 10, 12 and 13.

Visit the library's website at hammond.lib.in.us for additional information on the classes, on what's available online and what's available in the Susan G. Long Local History Room.

Porter County is not without its genealogy resources. The Valparaiso branch of the Porter County Public Library houses a genealogy room on the second floor.

For those who like to get elbow-deep in records, that's the place to go. The library also offers a records request service. For example, the website has a marriage index. My parents were married in Porter County and I found my father's name on the index, along book and page number of the record. With that information, a printable form from their website and $2 they will send me a copy of my parents' marriage license and application.

The same service is available for obituaries, divorces, guardianship cases and estate cases.

The Porter County library also offers occasional beginning classes in genealogy - I've taken it twice. Visit their genealogy department in person or at pcpls.org/genealogy

Last, but not least is the Westchester Public Library which has an entire separate building, in the form of the Westchester Township Historical Museum, full of genealogical finds.

The museum's collection concentrates on the Duneland area - Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor and surrounding townships, it does have quite a bit of information in its collection.

Visit wpl.lib.in.us and hop to the museum page to see what they have in their collection, hours and services, including occasional classes.

Now that Family History Month is about to arrive, how are you going to celebrate? Dig in for the first time or renew an interest in your family's roots. However you do it, take advantage of our local resources and let me know what you find at joyce.russell@nwi.com