Library to host family research forums

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published January 11, 2024

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SOUTHFIELD — Since last February, the Southfield Public Library has hosted a Family Research Forum 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month for people seeking to uncover their genealogy.

The monthly forums teach people about research methods and tools, and is hosted by librarians Kitty Allen and Nicole Baron, who split the hour into 20-minute increments.

Allen, the adult services librarian, explained that the forum was born out of librarygoers approaching the reference desk for help with genealogy research.

“We’re targeting mostly hobbyists, but anybody who wants to just sit and think about genealogy for an hour, once a month — it can be like going to church and listening to a sermon — is welcome. We really love beginners and people who are just starting. There’s so much to know.”

Allen said that genealogy research can be a long and tedious process, which is why it is helpful to research in a group setting. Every few sessions, they host a “live search,” where attendees are encouraged to bring in an ancestor they’ve had difficulty tracking down information on, and the forum spends the entire hour researching together to help find data about that individual’s life.

“It’s like people hit a brick wall with certain ancestors,” she said. “That’s a great thing for live search. Bring in your brick-wall ancestor, and we’ll see if we can poke around and get a clue that might lead us in a direction to figure that out.”

She explained that most research takes place online, making it important for people to know what resources are available. The library offers online genealogy tools, such as Ancestry, MyHeritage Library Edition, HeritageHub, Family Research Forum, Family Search and WikiTree, and specialized resources like the Digital Library on American Slavery and JewishGen.

Allen warns potential researchers against sloppy work.

“You’ll always want to double-check your work,” she said. “One of my favorite databases is WikiTree. They strongly encourage references. You need to cite your sources for every fact that shows up.”

She added that Family Search, which was developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is another one of her favorite resources.

Documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, censuses, baptismal certificates, and “anything that reflects their life events” are great clues, Allen explained. For those just starting out, she recommends that they start with the county where their ancestor lived.

Darla Van Hoey, Southfield Historical Society president, attends the monthly forum regularly, and she had previously mentioned to the library that a hands-on approach to genealogy would be really helpful to library patrons. Van Hoey is pleased with the forum.

“I’m getting some good helpful hints on African American genealogy,” she said.

The next Family Research Forum will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 in the library auditorium. This forum will be a live search, so visitors are encouraged to bring in an ancestor they’d like help researching.

For more information on the forum, contact Kitty Allen at or Nicole Baron at

To access the library’s genealogy tools online,