Are you curious about your lineage, but have absolutely no idea where to begin the search, or how to find out more about your clan? On Wednesday, February 22nd, Genealogy Librarian Su Garrison-Terry will return to Westhampton Free Library for I Seek Dead People History.
“I am at the library on the first and third Wednesdays of every month,” explained Garrison-Terry. “I help people with their family trees or any other historical research requests.”
Garrison-Terry served as a librarian at Dowling College, where she worked in the archives, prior to retiring. Her specialty was genealogy and local history.
“I was bitten by the local history bug when I was tapped as a college student to research and eventually to co-author a local history book for the national bicentennial,” she noted. “I learned genealogy the old fashioned, pre-computer way from the matrons at the historical society. That was almost 50-years ago and I still find each family tree, each research request, as fascinating as I did back then!”
I Seek Dead People was inspired by a project Garrison-Terry worked on while at Dowling College that explored the genealogy of ghosts. “It was a program that started from a request whilst at Dowling. A local resident came to the College seeking to discover who the ghost was who haunted her home,” noted Garrison-Terry. “From the information she provided, I worked back to discover who lived in the house and fit the spirit’s age and characteristics. The question fascinated me and I went on to work on other local haunts trying to identify their unnamed spirits.”
When asked what the most interest find her research has lead to, Garrison-Terry said, “I cannot recall any ‘finds’ per se, but the most interesting research request was to validate that a family did indeed own a weapon used in headline making crime. Because of the notoriety of the crime, I was able to use newspapers, court transcripts, and other documents to verify who was in possession of the weapon at the time of the crime and during the trial, and then was able to verify that yes, indeed, the possessor of the weapon was a direct ancestor of the person making the inquiry.”
Garrison-Terry is always careful to respect the privacy of her clients. “While what I wrote sounds like a teaser, I am bound by an ethical code that does not allow me to reveal who or what I research,” she noted. “So while I might share an interesting story, I always make sure that the identity and privacy of the individual/family are protected. That being said, requests to connect to famous people or into well-known families are not unique.”
During the Westhampton Free Library series, Garrison-Terry, who has worked with authors, journalists, and realtor researching people, places, and events, will assist attendees with their research, or create a completely complimentary basic five generation tree for them.
“My research is much more than just straight family trees. People often walk in with objects, documents, or photographs about which they want more information,” she noted. “If family historians have hit a brick wall, I work with them to find a solution. Each person brings a personal story, comes with a unique request, and I work individually with what the person brings. While I am a volunteer at the library, I am a retired librarian, and ALL my services are confidential and FREE.”
So if you’re interested in learning more about your family’s past, it’s so worth visiting the library to meet with Garrison-Terry. “Every family is interesting in its own unique way. It may be where they are from or something they did,” she noted. “It might be a person in their five minutes of fame or infamy. People are endlessly interesting. It just takes a little time and effort to discover.”
I Seek Dead People History will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. While making an appointment is not required, it is highly recommended, and Garrison-Terry is willing to stay after 5 p.m., if an appointment is made. She will also be visiting the library on Wednesday, March 1st, Wednesday, March 22nd, Wednesday, April 5th and Wednesday, April 19th.
Westhampton Free Library is located at 7 Library Avenue in Westhampton Beach. For more information, call 631-288-3335 or visit westhamptonlibrary.net.