Genealogy conference set for Saturday at All-Indian Center

History buffs and genealogists will gather Saturday at the Mid-America All-Indian Center to learn more about researching family lines.

The daylong conference, sponsored by the Wichita Genealogical Society, features speakers representing Ancestry.com and the National Archives at Kansas City.

The conference is expected to draw a large crowd.

"Ancestry.com never fails to fill a room," said Lisa Arnold, the featured speaker from the company. "People have seen the television show 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and they are anxious to learn and want to know, 'how do I get started?' "

Sometimes it is as simple as going to a computer and logging on to the Internet, Arnold said.

The NBC television series, which researched the family backgrounds of well-known celebrities such as Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Broderick, generated a huge response, Arnold said.

"I don't think you can understand yourself and your life unless you know where you come from," Arnold said. "Once you understand that background, you can understand the tendencies and the excitement you have for things in life."

For instance, Arnold comes from a long line of Quakers, and one of her relatives, Isaac Potts, had his home used by Gen. George Washington as the Continental Army wintered at Valley Forge in 1777 and 1778.

"Now, people call it Washington's Headquarters, but to us, it is still grandfather's house," Arnold said. "It gives you a sense of pride to know you have people like that in you."

Earlier this year, the Wichita Genealogical Society began working with the Ancestry.com World Archives to preserve historical records.

Ancestry.com bills itself as the world's largest online family history resource.

Through the partnership, the Wichita Genealogical Society will index important community and state records which Ancestry.com will then add to its site.

The seminar program will offer strategies for research and introduce participants to the archives available to them.

"There are a lot of federal records pertinent to genealogy that have not been digitized or available online," said Joyce Burner with the National Archives at Kansas City. "They are not available anyplace but on paper."

The Kansas City office houses records from Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, North and South Dakotas, and Minnesota, Burner said.

It includes Bureau of Indian Affairs records, Army Corps of Engineers records, District Court records, Civil War Provost Marshal records, and records from the Leavenworth Prison inmate files.

"Most people start with the federal census records, but we have other things that are more local in nature that can provide good physical descriptions," Burner said. "If you have a black sheep in the family that served time in Leavenworth, we will have the goods on them. A lot of times, families didn't talk about these people."

And, since Sept. 1, the "A-files" regarding immigration records have been opened to the public. The files date from 1909 and earlier, Burner said.

"Because of privacy restrictions, people have to be a certain age or dead to be included in the 'A-Files,' " she said. "The thing to keep in mind is that we have a wealth of different records and we will be adding more every year."