Evanko explores changing landscape of families

MADISON – Liberty Evanko disclosed one ‘drawback’ in pursuing genealogy: “Family history has been known to be addictive.”

Her lifelong interest in family history started with her paternal ancestors’ sacrifices to relocate from Switzerland to America.

“Everyone has family history. Learning about your ancestors is fun and provides a deep sense of belonging,” Evanko said. “You can build your tree, collect and label pictures, record oral histories, do your DNA or put together a display of heirlooms.”

She recommends finding an inspiring mentor. To become an advanced level genealogist, Evanko studied books, watched webinars and attended local seminars.

Evanko suggested sources to start searching family history:

* Webinars on YouTube by Crista Cowan of “Ancestry” and “Dear Myrtle.”

* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Free assistance at familysearch.org/wiki/en/Madison-Harvest_Alabama_Family_History_Center

* Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society meetings

* Beginning methods course at Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research, Athens, Ga.

Most importantly, she accessed genealogy institutes in Georgia, Utah and virtually for week-long intensive courses in research methodology. “The instructors are amazing,” Evanko said. “It’s fun to be around others who share the same passion for family history.”

Evanko’s goal is to highlight the changing direction of family history, which “is becoming less about names, dates and charts and more about connecting with your ancestors and their stories.”

She is most intrigued by imagining ancestors as real people in their own place and time. “Each person is so much more than their name and a few vital statistics. They lived, loved, cried and rejoiced,” Evanko said. “Because of their experiences, I am who I am today. They inspire me to be the best me for my future descendants.”

As a professional advanced-level genealogist, Evanko has specialized in DNA analysis for family history. Her coaches on DNA results and lectures. “I really like to help people learn their ancestors’ stories and help them learn how to discover those stories,” Evanko said.

Consumer DNA has opened facts – much more than ethnicity estimates shown on commercials. Looking at your match list shows people who also have tested and possibly share your DNA. “I’ve pushed to my husband’s line back several generations into Slovakia and found my maternal grandmother’s birth parents. DNA analysis requires training and isn’t a magic wand but can (lead to) amazing discoveries,” Evanko said.

In her published work in “Alabama Genealogical Society Magazine,” Evanko wrote about her husband’s family, particularly his fifth great-grandmother, Martha Tucker Walpole Roberds, in the Mormon Migration of the mid-1800’s. She left from Mississippi in a wagon with her husband and five kids. They reached Utah but didn’t like the area and continued to northern California and settled in San Bernardino County – an 11-year journey.

“After we moved our own family from San Bernardino to Madison, we actually brought the story full circle where Martha had been born almost 200 years earlier,” Evanko said.

For more information, visit FamilyTreesByDrE.com.

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