WARSAW — Jim Barber believes it is important to know one’s family history. “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve come from,” he said.
Barber, of Warsaw, and retired from Sprint in 2007 where he worked in various departments, is an avid genealogy researcher. As proof, he’s written four family history books and is working on numbers five and six. One of the books is a historical novel based loosely on his Uncle Charley’s life.
He also volunteers his time two afternoons each week at the Warsaw Community Public Library looking up obituaries on microfilm of old Warsaw newspapers. In addition he is helping to create a database of death notices found in those newspapers.
Genealogy is one of the three or four most popular hobbies in the United States according to various sources. There is a keen interest in digging into the family tree and discovering where ancestors came from. “It gives perspective when you find out where your ancestors came from,” Barber noted.
His interest in genealogy can actually be traced back to his childhood when he was about 10 years old. “I used to go to an aunt’s house for Thanksgiving every year,” he said. “I loved going through her boxes of old family photos. I would ask myself, who are they (in the photos)?”
Genealogy was naturally put on hold when Barber grew up, married and started his own family. But since retiring in 2007, the interest has clearly been revived. Another of the books he wrote was a very thorough analysis of Barber family history.
The other books cover his mother’s side of the family and his father’s mother’s family. He is presently working on researching his wife’s family under the Hilgendorf name.
Barber said he enjoys the research aspect of genealogy and “the challenge of putting the pieces together.” There is also the writing aspect and putting everything on paper so it can be preserved for future generations.
Genealogy can become addicting and when one door shuts, another one may open. One clue discovered may lead to another clue.
The internet has opened up genealogy research to more people and records previously only available in a courthouse or library are now online. “The internet has made a huge difference, but it can be too easy,” he cautioned. “Sometimes it makes for sloppy research,” citing in particular family trees found online but which can’t be verified with documentation.
Barber highly recommends talking to relatives, especially aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles, as a good starting place for genealogy research. “Get their stories because they are the number one source,” he said. A family Bible or family stories passed down from generation to generation are other sources.
“Local records, maps and the courthouse are other good sources,” he added.
Local Genealogy Resources
- WCPL, 310 E. Main St., has an Indiana Room with multiple genealogy sources. Death record index books, marriage record index books, cemetery records, funeral home books, city directories, township plat maps and tax records are among the resources available.
- A database is being created on the library’s website that will give the name of the deceased and date of death. Those interested in the information can then contact the library for the full obituary.
- The Old Jail Museum of the Kosciusko County Historical Society, 121 N. Indiana St., Warsaw, has an extensive genealogy library with the resources listed above plus others. The museum and library, though, are closed through March 6.
- Bell Memorial Public Library, 101 W. Main St., Mentone, has local online obituaries, as well as obituary card files, a card catalog, a genealogy and Indiana history area, old Mentone newspapers under various names on microfilm and some Mentone pictures and newspaper articles online through the card catalog.
- Libraries in Milford, North Webster and Syracuse also have genealogy resources.