Genealogy workshop

The Telluride Historical Museum is hosting on online Zoom Genealogy workshop Wednesday with director of programs and exhibits, Theresa Koenigsknecht. The focus will be how to get the best information from available census data when researching your family tree. (Photo courtesy of Kiernan Lannon/Telluride Historical Museum)

For those curious about finding learning more about the roots and branches of their family trees, the Telluride Historical Museum is offering a genealogy workshop Wednesday evening from 5:30-6-30 p.m. via Zoom. The workshop, led by museum’s director of programs and exhibits, Theresa Koenigsknecht, will focus on how to glean information from census data.

Genealogy — a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor, or thestudy of one’s ancestry — is, according to USA Today. Wednesday’s workshop is the second on genealogy the museum has offered. The first was an overview on how to plan a family history search, Koenigsknecht said, and also addressed the challenges of reading cursive common in many older documents.

Census records, she said, are key to gleaning information about one’s relatives.

“The census contains so much information,’ she said. “It has essential data.”

The census, which is embedded in the Constitution is, according data scientist Andrew Whitby in an April 2020 interview in Smithsonian magazine, “was tied to a mechanistic, arithmetic approach to ensuring representative government, reapportioning Congress after each count. That was a novel idea.”

According to mandates set out by the National Archives, census date can only be released 72 years after being conducted. The 1940 census data was released in 2012 and 1950’s data will become public in 2022.

Census data, the museum’s news release states, “is the key to creating your family tree.” Details such as illiteracy, social breakthroughs or even the status of an ancestor’s neighbor, can all be gleaned by a thorough dig into census information. In other words, it is possible to discover details of one’s ancestors’ everyday lives.

Koenigsknecht has been working as a professional genealogist for a decade, an interest she said she “stumbled into while in grad school,” when she was working on her thesis for her masters in Public History and Museum Studies Certification. The spike in interest in genealogy, she said, is that documents once relegated to dusty library archives or aged archiving technology like microfiche tapes, can now be accessed in the home, thanks to the internet.

“Eighty percent of the genealogy research I do, is done digitally,” she said. “No more sifting through microfiche. The digital age gives us the ability to look at scanned documents. Digital access creates a new wealth of info. It’s so easy to do … more people can do it (study genealogy.)”

As part of the workshop Koenigsknecht will teach family tree sleuths in the art of deep, thorough and verifiable research.

“It’s essential to learn about the documents you’ll be accessing,” she said. “I’ll be teaching you how to verify your sources.”

And, essential to the digestion of any information one is exposed to in life, “We encourage critical thinking.”

Museum officials are asking that participants pre-register and come with questions for Zoom Genealogy, Census Secrets and Tips, Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Access to Ancestry.com is essential for this course. Participants can sign up for free using a Wilkinson Public Library Account or please contact Theresa at theresa@telluridemuseum.org in advance for alternative access suggestions.

In other museum news, the museum, which is located at the top of North Fir Street, is open Wednesday through Saturday through early April (depending on the situation with the pandemic.). As was the case in the summer, visitation this winter will be via reserved, timed entry slots. Appointments are available beginning at 11 a.m. with the last appointment on open days at 4:15 p.m. Please call 970-728-3344 to book a reserved entry slot. 

Future programming is pending changes in the pandemic’s associated public health orders. Visit the museum’s website at telluridemusuem.org.