DES MOINES, Iowa -- It’s a pedestrian looking building that sits in the East Village. Chances are you probably didn’t notice it when you drove by. But inside that unsuspecting office building is the key to your family history, if you’re from the Midwest.
“Sometimes people wander in and say ‘I just see what this place was.’ When that happens we just give them a tour,” said Jennifer Ewing, executive director with the Iowa Genealogical Society.
On that tour, they’ll see rows upon rows of artifacts, connecting the roots and family trees of Iowans over the last 200 years.
“Over 10,000 volumes of books and thousands of rolls of microfilm. Each roll could have hundreds of documents on them,” said Ewing. ”We have family history both informally and formally published, so your family might be in our stack somewhere.”
If you’re interested in solving the puzzle that is your family tree, you only need a few corner pieces to get started.
“Write down everything you know. Talk to your parents and grandparents, great-grandparents and even your crazy aunt that might know something,” said Ewing. “Then come talk to us and take a beginning genealogical class. So, you’re not going down the wrong path and that you’re organized and that you’re doing good solid research.”
With a rotation of about 25 volunteers, they work six days-a-week, to help curious people find their history.
“It’s pretty easy to get started. To go back a couple generations is pretty simple,” said Ewing. “Once, you go back far enough, there are not that many records.”
Ewing stresses that proper genealogy, requires patience and diligence.
“We have people come in who want to do a whole family tree in a couple hours,” said Ewing. “It’s easier to get overwhelmed. You have four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and 16 great-great-grandparents. It’s easier at times just to follow one set.”
The advantage of coming in their office compared to using an online is real help.
“We have fabulous volunteers,” said Ewing. “It’s really easy to get lost. If you’re using online sites, sometime their information is not properly sourced. If you have a question, we have real people who you can talk to.”
The facility is open 6 days-a-week and it costs $10 a day to use. An annual membership will cost you $35, but it’s by far the value.
Ewing says the members will get exclusive benefits like unlimited access and discounted materials.