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New group at Creighton dedicated to helping tell the tales of family history

A university is fueled by the research projects and interests it sustains.

At Creighton University, some of those projects are big and bold, capturing millions of dollars in grant money, probing deep questions and promising new outlooks or better ways of life. Some of the projects are quiet and personal, a buzzing interest that’s always been there in the back of someone’s mind, but no less interested in answering the profound questions: who am I? Where did I come from?

For the latter, a new group of Creighton faculty and staff is looking at genealogy and seeking to help people with finding resources as they embark upon family studies of their own.

“It’s my passion outside work,” said Corinne Jacox, a catalogue/reference librarian at the Klutznick Law Library/McGrath North Mullin & Kratz Legal Research Center at the Creighton School of Law, who officially inaugurated the group’s monthly meetings on Nov. 16. “I wanted to provide people who have a similar interest a chance to see what resources we have to offer.”

Appropriately, the sessions are hosted by the Creighton Health Sciences, Law, and Reinert-Alumni Memorial libraries — the places where much of any research begins — and by the librarians who staff them, the skilled seekers and delvers, plumbing the stacks and the deep recesses of the digital world for sources both obscure and widely recognized.

“Librarians know how to do research,” said Judi Bergjord, outreach librarian with the Health Sciences Library who was present at the first session. “We can get people the help they need to find the sources they need and to cite those sources.”

Bergjord first became interested in genealogy when she became the keeper of the family tree. Documents in hand, she began entering births, marriages and deaths on genealogy software and has continued to do so, searching far and wide for more branches on the tree.

“Working backwards is more challenging, but I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Norway this summer and track down family members,” she said. “I am still learning all the correct ways to record the information.”

The first meeting of the genealogy group on Nov. 16 was to feature Karen Griffin, the granddaughter of 1930 Creighton Law alumnus Thomas R. Delaney, who served on the prosecution team of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the Tokyo military court prosecuting Japan’s war criminals in the aftermath of World War II. Delaney’s papers are housed at Creighton’s law library and Griffin has done extensive research on her grandfather and other members of her family, especially during their time spent living in Japan during the tribunal.

While Griffin was unable to make the meeting, Jacox shared Griffin’s story and spoke to the different ways of doing genealogical research and the resources available at Creighton’s libraries and through other institutions.

“As librarians, we’re used to being asked to look for information,” said Jacox, who got the idea for the group from a group of librarians at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We’re used to doing that deep digging in a wide variety of areas. We hope this group will be useful for other people who want to find their family histories and to tell those stories.”

Listening to family stories as a youngster at her grandmother’s knee first inspired Jacox to delve into genealogy but she didn’t begin the research in earnest until about 10 years ago. Luckily, there were a few family records to go off of, and Jacox also availed herself of genealogy software.

“I think the most common reason for people who do this, is to learn more about their ancestors and where they came from,” she said. “I especially like to read or hear the stories and see the pictures so I know more than just the facts. Second, I like putting the puzzle pieces together when delving into branches of the family where the records have not been kept. Ultimately, I hope to put together my own story about my family.”

The next session of the genealogy group will be held Dec. 14 from noon to 1 p.m., in Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library, Room 217. With the approach of the holiday season, the focus of the session will be on how best to ask questions of relatives at family gatherings.

Jacox said future sessions will take on such subjects as newspaper research, the National Archives and Records Administration, computer-aided genealogical research websites like FamilySearch and Ancestry.com, and digitizing photos, searching tips and choosing genealogy software.

The sessions are open to all. Attendees are encouraged to bring a brown-bag lunch.

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