More than 60 area residents gathered at Lutheran's Christ Chapel on Thursday to catch John "Doc" Hamels in a performance much different than his work in the Irish folk-duo Doc and Bill.
Instead of his usual guitar or mandolin, Hamel's appearance featured an overview of the free resources available to document family history.
The presentation, entitled "Genealogy 101: Tips for Beginners," focused on one aspect of Hamel's journey toward mapping out his family tree. He called it, "One Question at a Time: Where Was My Grandfather Born?" The goal, Hamels said, was to get attendees thinking about why its important to look at their ancestry, and where to start their search.
John “Doc” Hamels is shown hosting a genealogy seminar at Lutheran during its “Best of Times” series.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
"What I would hope that anyone who was listening tonight took away from this is to think about what's the question they are looking for," Hamels said. "What I was trying to stress is that you can go too big, and then you'll get frustrated. So, narrow down your search, look at some of the free resources and begin to network."
Hamels approached the subject by sharing his experience of building an online family tree via www.freepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com, which has garnered more than 14,000 hits since he started it. He also recommended resources such as Google, Facebook, Ancestry.com, archives.com and ellisislandrecords.com. Audience members recommended familysearch.org, findagrave.com and the Fenton Genealogy program.
His research has connected him with Hamels from countries around the world, has resulted in reunions and answered far more than his original question about where his grandfather was born.
"There are some great reasons to research your ancestry, such as health reasons," Hamels said. "Your research can help you know what a prevalent disease in your family. But, also it's good to have a basis of your family history that you can pass onto your children. It can also be purely for recreational purposes."
To continue helping those interested in creating a family tree of their own, Hamels has opted to start a class at Jamestown Community College if there are enough applicants. For more information, email Candy Hubert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Patty Eckwahl, director of marketing for Lutheran, the seminar went very well, and believes its events such as this that show Lutheran cares about the community.
"We are delighted that the community was interested and came out," Eckwahl said. "What's exciting is when you get a group of people together with a common interest there is a synergy that is created. The goal is to foster community, and to have people enjoy wherever they are in life by making the most of it."
The Best of Times seminar series focuses on variety of topics, ranging from Medicare, to dementia, couponing and even fashion shows or ladies nights. The seminar series has wrapped up for the season, and is set to come back in the spring, when Eckwahl hopes to take a look at sports medicine. For more information, call Eckwahl at 720-9122 or visit www.lutheran-jamestown.org.