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Adding leaves to a family tree

Genealogy: Family History Fair will be held Saturday in Valencia

Posted: January 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Kimberly Finley, left, and Kevin Large, director of Valencia Family History Center, discuss material gathered on Finley’s father’s ancestors at the center.

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Searching your family tree can offer up some surprising finds, said Kimberly Finley, chairwoman of the annual Santa Clarita Family History and Technology Fair.

You might find yourself related to royalty, or you might find skeletons in your closet.

Classes and workshops will be held at the fair to help people learn how to find their ancestors, stay connected to living family and friends and how to use available technology.

The fair will be held Saturday with registration beginning at 8 a.m., with classes running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“My love for family history really took off in 2007, after my dad passed away. I had worked with him on and off since 1996, trying to trace his roots and find his mother’s side of the family, but with little success and lots of frustration,” Finley said.
“While he was in the hospital, I made him a promise that I would keep working on his genealogy and find his family.”
Finley embarked on a cross-country trip to find the answers to questions that had long plagued the family about her ancestors.

“I hauled my mom and five of my children cross-country on a trip that changed my life,” she said.

Finley said her search  was anything but “boring.”

“My dad loved his grandpa, who was very involved in his life, and had a great desire to seek out that part of his family,” Finley said. “But we hit brick walls every time we looked for information, and anyone who knew anything had passed away long ago.”

On the trip, Finley ended up at a Champaign County, Ill., library that housed the county’s archives. A librarian there spent most of one afternoon helping Finley do research.

“It looked like it was going to end in another brick wall, but a file she brought to my table contained an inquiry from someone who was looking for information on his great-grandparents,” she said.

That file offered up enough clues that Finley was able to eventually connect the dots and discover the mystery surrounding her great-grandmother’s surname.

On the return trip to California, Finley made a trip to the cemetery mentioned in an obituary she had found in her research.

“I found the Kendall I was trying to find — the link to my great-grandpa I’d searched for with no success until that day,” she said.

Several other pieces also fell into place from that visit.

Finley was finally able to determine that a few of her ancestors had spent some time on the wrong side of the law.

“At least three of the boys in the family had gotten busted for rustling cattle, and they were in jail in Oklahoma,” she said.
“They broke out of jail before the hanging, and during their escape, one of them shot a man. They ended up being chased by a posse of Wild West marshals through Oklahoma and Kansas terrain, but the law never caught up to them — at least not my great-grandma’s brothers. They fled to the West and settled in California, changing their last names.”

The mystery of the different last name had finally been solved.

“I spent months practically glued to my computer chair, trying to find out the whole story,” Finley said. “I learned that some stories just take more time to discover.”


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