Genealogy or mythology?

Albany County Genealogical Society President Dicksie May, left, and Vice President Robert Zemanek look through a book containing the 1880 Wyoming Territory Census on Friday afternoon at the Albany County Public Library.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

The Albany County Genealogical Society is helping people who have taken a DNA test learn more about their family histories and use the test results to find family members they have been separated from, Genealogical Society President Dicksie May said.

“Some of the people I have been involved with recently (were trying to find their) parents,” May said. “I’ve helped a family that originated here. I helped their 88-year-old daughter find both her parents, because she did a DNA test.”

The genealogical society’s goal is to help people learn more about their family histories by informing them of new genealogical technologies such as DNA tests, Genealogical Society Vice President Robert Zemanek said.

“It helps to have other people to bounce (ideas for finding family members) off of … and that’s the greatest benefit of our club,” he said. “It helps to solve what are commonly called brick walls — a brick wall is an ancestor that you have been looking for and you cannot find.”

However, the results from these types of DNA testing services are not always accurate because different people migrate to new areas throughout history. He said the mixing of populations as a result of migrations does not always paint an accurate picture of where someone’s family is from.

“Most people, when they think of (DNA testing), they have seen the ancestry advertising on TV,” Zemanek said. “In reality, those tend to be least accurate.”

Information society members get from the sources the society provides helps families determine if the stories passed down for generations could have been possible, May said.

“Genealogy without documentation is mythology,” she said. “My husband, in his family, has always been told they have (Native American) ancestors, but because we have never been able to find any documentation, we cannot say that is a true story.”

May said genealogical research has changed with the development of new technologies, which provided people with information they would have previously had to go elsewhere to find.

“I started in probably the late ’60s (or) early ’70s, and the only way that I could do genealogy was to visit libraries, visit cemeteries, visit families, write letters and go to courthouses,” May said. “Now, with this new technology … anybody can do their family history and find records online.”

The Albany County Genealogical Survey is open to everyone, she said.

“One of the things that I have found is misunderstood by the public is I’d say 90 percent of our members are not from Laramie or not from Wyoming,” May said. “We all joined together from all states, all communities, even foreign countries joined the local genealogical society so that we can share and learn together, even though we don’t research the same area.”

The society meets at 7 p.m. each second Tuesday at the Church of Latter-day Saints, 3311 Hayford Ave., and the organization is having its annual banquet at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at 431 S. 21st St., Suite 100F, with a guest speaker discussing family folklore.

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