From left: Genealogy presenters Darillyn Doss, Susan Burdick and Dave Tiefenbach

A series of four talks on Monday afternoons and webinars on Saturdays by genealogists at the Green Valley-Sahuarita Genealogy Library at Posada Java attracted residents interested in researching their heredity, family and ancestors. 

If you missed the series, another one is underway.


Using the library to start research 

At the first session on January 6 Director of Library Operations Darillyn Doss told about her beginning research.

“The more we wrote, the more we learned, the more we wanted to learn,” she said enthusiastically. 

She told how computers, archives, courthouses and the free site are good places to start. 

Doss told how family history can impact a person’s life. She said the genealogy library located in Posada Java has 3,000 books with records that usually go back to the mid-1600s. Hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

“People research their family history for medical information and it’s a productive way to keep busy. Start with yourself, not a grandfather, and always use pencil.

“ is a business. You pay for subscribing or you can lose all information,” she said. 

She also added two important warnings: just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s true, and a family tree is a source; don’t assume it’s true.

Doss handed out a page listing the “Golden rules of genealogy.” Among the 12 pointers: check all facts and don’t assume any document is right or wrong, always document your sources, and it’s OK to state someone was born about 1845 or died May 1915 if an exact date isn’t available.

If unsure about a fact, say so. Don’t fudge facts. Not all information will be found online. There are times when you’ll need to do research at libraries, courthouses and historical societies.

Vital records and using the census

Genealogist Debra Kabinier spoke on January 13 and said obituaries often have more information than birth records, but may not have dates. 

She spoke about using the census when doing family research and said U.S. census records have been taken every decade since 1790. 

“Take census information with a grain of salt,” she said, adding that in the early 1800s immigrants could change their name by posting a notice in the newspaper. In later years changing one’s name had to be done in a local courthouse. 

“Census enumerations are not the most reliable. Collaborate with other records. Census information may have been wrongly provided by a child or neighbor and names may have been misspelled.

“Keep in mind that people may have lied and census records may not be reliable. Don’t assume everyone listed under ‘head of household’ is related. Cite the source of any findings for anyone who may follow your work,” she explained. 

Online repositories; using websites for research

On January 20 Susan Burdick offered information about different online genealogical repositories (websites) that include family history and sources where information is stored including courthouses, recorder’s offices, libraries, archives, societies and internet sites. 

One repository is A basic version is available free at any Pima County Library. To use it at home there is a free two-week personal trial and after that there is a monthly fee. A researcher may opt to pay a fee for a DNA test to supplement their family tree information. is the world’s largest collection of free family trees, genealogy records and resources. It’s run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is open to all. is a comprehensive, categorized and cross-references list of links that direct a person to genealogical online sites. is an American website where the public can search an online database of cemetery records free. It’s owned by allows users to upload, modify, link and display their family trees as a way to share their genealogy with other researchers. 

Getting organized

On January 27 Dave Tiefenbach spoke about efficient ways to organize genealogy work space, a filing cabinet, files and computer. Supplies should include three-ring binders, manila or hanging folders, an archival photo album, a printer/scanner with at least 600 dpi resolution and an external storage device. 

He suggests keeping originals of source documents including birth and death records and marriage certificates in a safe deposit box or fireproof home safe. Photocopies of these papers may be kept at home.

Organizing files by color makes it easy to see which line a family belongs to. Tiefenbach suggests blue folders for ancestors of your father’s father, green for ancestors of your father’s mother, red for ancestors of your mother’s father and yellow for ancestors of your mother’s mother.

He also suggests storing all genealogy files in one folder on your computer, being consistent in naming files and backing up computer files to an external storage device. 

Though genealogy research is fascinating Tiefenbach said, “The only tree you can trust is your tree.”

He said there are several genealogy programs available for both PCs and Macs. His personal favorite is Features include an ability to manage all the media and to sync with and trees.



One of several webinars added to the four live basic genealogy sessions.

A webinar is a virtual presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar presented in real time that includes audio and visual elements. The word ‘webinar’ is short for web-based seminar.

A webinar on January 25 explained what DNA is. It stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid, which is an extremely long macromolecule that is the main component of chromosomes and the carrier of genetic information.

Once a person has received the results of their DNA test, which is taken by a swab in the mouth or spit, the person can opt to be very private or very open with sharing their personal information online.

A person’s choice determines how much others will see online. Five DNA testing companies include,, familytreedna, and

The January 25 webinar by intellectual property attorney and genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger focused on the first five things to do with results of a DNA test—Check your privacy settings, Upload/Add a ‘Skeleton Tree,’ Review Your Ethnicity Results, Review Your Closest Matches and Use Your Magic Wand: Shared Matches.

In the hour-long webinar Bettinger said, “If you are interested in maximizing the outcome of your DNA testing, it is nearly essential to provide a tree for your matches to review.”

Part of one’s research includes a review of ethnicity results, also referred to as ‘ethnicity estimates’ or ‘biogeographical estimates.’

Bettinger said ‘Shared Matching’ is the single most powerful tool testing companies give us to explore our connection with our matches.

A ‘shared match’ is someone that shares DNA with you and the match you are reviewing. will only show shared matches that are fourth cousins or closer as it is less helpful to show very distant cousin matches. 

Contact Green Valley News freelance reporter Ellen Sussman at


Load comments