Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, January 11, 2013
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Workshop focuses on ancestry

Who's your daddy?

That question is easy enough for most people to answer.

But what about your great-granddaddy? Your great-great-granddaddy?

Next Saturday, Jan. 19, the public will have a rare opportunity to participate in a genealogy workshop sponsored by the Florida Keys chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a patriotic organization that promotes civic pride and contributes to local and international charities.

The event, titled "Who Do You Think You Are?" and conducted by Davie resident Debbie Duay, will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. Columba Episcopal Church, 451 52nd St., Gulfside, in Marathon.

Duay, who serves as the lineage research chair for the Florida State Society of DAR, has helped more than 300 people discover their eligibility for membership in the group. She said she receives 1,000 visitors per day on her online genealogy tutorial website, www.learnwebskills.com/patriot/.

"I do this full time, for free," she said. "I travel the state with it, and it's a lot of fun. This will be my first time in the Keys."

The workshop is geared toward those who suspect they may have a Revolutionary War patriot in their family history, but the instructions could be useful for anybody interested in learning about the process of researching their past. (Duay suggests her other website, www.learnwebskills.com, as a good starting point for more recent immigrants looking into their family history.)

"The way it works is, I teach them how to do it, and I also gather the information to take home and work on," Duay said. "I'll walk them through the important part of the online tutorial, and then I get them to fill out a one-page genealogy worksheet which asks questions about parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, on both sides of the family, and their death dates. Then I'll take it home and do the research. I'll write them back with whatever I find. Eventually, I'll get eligible members in touch with the Florida Keys chapter."

Duay said it usually takes her about a week to conduct preliminary research online, at which point she turns the project over to the interested party.

"For instance, if their grandfather died in New York state in 1950, I'll provide them with a link to where they can obtain a death certificate. I'll provide them with the information they need to move forward with their research."

Some jurisdictions are faster than others in producing this information, with the Sunshine State being one of the more efficient.

"In Florida, a death certificate only costs $5 and takes about two weeks," Duay said. "They're wonderful in that regard."

Duay first became interested in genealogy following the death of her last grandparent.

"About six months after my grandfather's death, in 1998, I got curious and went online," she said. "In about 15 minutes, I found a biography that was written about his family. After that I was hooked."

The local DAR chapter was started in 1982 by the late Kay Wilkinson. It's been headed up by Tavernier resident Virginia Spear since 2005, and meets monthly, from October through May, at Hawks Cay Resort.

The organization has about 50 members scattered the length of the Keys, and contributes to such charitable programs as Soles 4 Souls, which distributes lightly worn shoes to the needy in the United States and around the world. All of its meetings are open to the public.

Like Duay, Monroe County Public Library Administrator Anne Layton Rice joined the organization, in 2008, in the wake of a grandparent's death.

"After my grandmother died, I was trying to find ways to deal with my grief," said Layton Rice, who serves as the local DAR's historian. "So I started doing some genealogy and was surprised to find that our family went all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Now I know that we go back even further, all the way to the second Jamestown settlement, in fact. It was a big surprise."

According to ABCnews.com, genealogy research is second only to gardening as the favorite American pastime.

"It's very addictive," Layton Rice said. "You're never done with genealogy. It's not just about who the people were and when they died, but also discovering the stories behind them. Like they say, it's fun to try to put some meat on the bone of history."

tschmida@keysnews.com

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