Carroll County Lifestyles

Lecture series to provide tips on researching kin

Mount Airy genealogist Rebecca Whitman Koford said stories we dig up about our family histories can paint a portrait, one that helps us understand the building blocks that make us who we are.

Koford will lead a free genealogy and family history lecture series, for teens and adults, being offered every fourth Wednesday through October at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mount Airy.


The series, sponsored by the church, is intended for beginner and intermediate researchers.

Koford, a certified genealogist specializing in American research with a special emphasis on Maryland, said the series will address a new topic every fourth Wednesday through October, and some of the classes will be taught by others. "For example, the June class will be taught by local Carroll County Genealogy Society member Debra Hoffman," she said, noting that she hopes to invite more speakers for a greater variety of subjects and approaches to learning.


The first class, "Beginning Research: You Never Start or You Never Stop," is meant to get attendees started on family research.

"There is something indescribable when you find out something about your family, good or bad," Koford said, adding that it gives you a sense of perspective. "You learn what your ancestors went through or it helps you understand a little more about your family dynamics now. Plus it is always good to know about your family's medical history and how our country was formed and by whom," she said.

"I really got a greater perspective into the Civil War when I found out the sacrifice of my fourth great-uncle," Koford said. "He joined up as soon as he could from New York and his regiment, coincidentally, came all the way down to Fort McHenry. He was eventually killed at Cold Harbor, [Va.,] one of the biggest Union defeats in the war, said to be one of Grant's biggest regrets. It gave me a much deeper perspective of our country's history and what the country has gone through to get where we are now. It's not just history. It's emotion. It's powerful. I think that we are all connected and in families for a purpose, one way or another, good or bad."

Koford recently gave a genealogy lecture to the William Winchester Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution at Cockey's Tavern in Westminster.

Krista Kniester, who attended that presentation, said she is doing her own family research and that the information she took away from the lecture will help her find her maternal grandmother's parents.

"Her presentation was very informative and gave a good overview," said Kniester, of Westminster. "She had a list of about 20 different things that create brick walls in our research. They were nicely broken down and very manageable to attack one piece at a time."

Eldersburg resident Kay Bernstein, who also attended the DAR program, agreed. "The personal experiences from her own research were interesting," said Bernstein. "There's a lot of information out there, but whatever you get off the Internet has to be backed up with some evidence."

Sharing a personal research experience, Bernstein said, "My father always said that his mother told him that somewhere back in our family there was American-Indian blood, but we never knew if it was true. A while back, I had my brother do a blood test [through National Geographic's Genographic Project] and when it came back it said that he was 2 percent American-Indian."


Koford talked about how teens benefit from family research. "A year or so ago, there was a study on children who knew their heritage or stories of their grandparents. The study revealed that kids who knew where their families came from had better self-esteem," Koford said. "And it helps them learn perspective."

Illustrating this point, Koford referred to a time when she went to get a pension report for a Civil War ancestor from the National Archives. "I sat my daughters down and asked them to go through these documents, and I told them to find out anything you can about him: his family, where he was born, where he died, anything they could find. They were not happy about this," Koford said. "But when I came back about a half-hour later, they were poring over these documents and they were excited. All of a sudden, the Civil War had come alive for them. There was someone there telling them a story from [more than] 100 years ago. And when history comes alive, education comes alive."

"It's very interesting to speak to genealogists and learn how they work and think," said Martha McLaney Wiseman, of Westminster, who attended the DAR lecture.

"Half of the joy is the journey," Koford said. "We will be covering subjects in the lecture series that will help you understand the records of history and how to translate them. Frankly, I want people to just enjoy it. … This is a hobby that is not easy, but is challenging enough to keep doing it. If you love mysteries and you'd love to be a part of one, this is the mystery of your family and how they came to be."

If you go

What: Mount Airy Family History Lecture Series


Where: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7255 Ridge Road, Mount Airy

When: All classes are to meet from 7 to 8 p.m., with doors opening at 6:45 p.m.

Scheduled topics:

Jan. 28 — "Beginning Research: You Never Start or You Never Stop"

Feb. 25 — "Organizing Your Family History"

March 25 — "Understanding Major Research Facilities"


April 22 — "How I Built My Own Brick Wall"

May 27 — "Grandma Where Art Thou? Finding Female Ancestors"

June 24 — "Baltimore: The Golden Door for Immigrants"

July 22 — "Beginning Land Records"

Aug. 26 — "Digging Deeper with City Directories, Taxes and Voter Registrations"

Sept. 23 – "Newspaper Records"


Oct. 28 — "Open Questions Night: Stump the Chump"

Details: Adults and teens are welcome to attend one or all sessions. No sign-up necessary. Teens 13 or older may attend without a parent or guardian. "Of course, we expect all attendees, regardless of age, to be respectful of the building and the program," said presenter Rebecca Koford. Sign language interpretation available.

Information: Call 301-675-1384 and leave a message; go to Facebook at "Mount Airy Family History Lecture Series" or use the hashtag, #MtAiryFamilyHistoryLectures.

Research resources

Find more resources for genealogical research at the Hampstead Family History Center:

Location: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4117 Lower Beckleysville Road, Hampstead


Hours: Monday, from 10 a.m. to noon; Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to noon and 7 to 9 p.m.; and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon

Contact: 410-374-1301 or email


Also, access billions of genealogy entries on this free website:; it's a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider the family to be central to God's plan for the eternal happiness of his children. We believe that family relationships extend beyond the grave, and we find great joy in searching for and learning about our ancestors," said Michele Calderon, public affairs representative for the church.

Lecture series presenter Rebecca Koford said, "We believe that families can be linked together forever, and that death need not part us from our [family members]. Family is still family, even if they lived a hundred or a thousand years ago, and those connections are powerfully spiritual."