Family History is for Everyone Spotlight: Autumn Zobrist
Tell us about yourself.
How did you get started in family history? Do you remember an initial “spark” or incident that inspired you? Did you have any experiences as a child/teen in school or at home that helped you be more inclined toward family history?
My parents are both converts and as a child I longed to be part of a big extended Mormon family. Unfortunately my extended family is small and scattered across the United States so I didn’t have many opportunities to develop my relationships with them. But my father always insisted on helping me see the bigger picture—that I could be part of a big extended Mormon family if I chose to do family history and temple work. He used to take my sister and me up to the Family History Library on Saturdays to do research on our family lines. I loved the time with him and the thrill of finding our family in census records and county marriage records. I didn’t love rewinding the microfilms quite as much! My father was definitely my first mentor!
What personality traits, hobbies, or professional pursuits have helped you in your genealogy research?
I think that my attention to detail, persistence, and patience have probably been my best gifts in this work. I’m a person who really likes to get things right and be thorough, so the painstaking research that is sometimes necessary really doesn’t frustrate me. It’s always been helpful that I’ve been comfortable around computers and technology as well.
Why do you do genealogy? Why do you think it’s important?
I think that genealogy is important because it helps connect us to our past and gives us courage to face the future. When I contemplate the many people who come before me, I realize that they overcame difficulties and raised their children to be survivors and thrivers. This is who I am and who I am teaching my children to be as well. In all honesty though, sometimes you just need a little piece of the world that you can immerse yourself in as an escape. For me, researching family history is a great escape at the end of a long day.
What is the most rewarding part of researching your family’s history?
Of course the most rewarding part is when you discover that person you’ve been missing! I will never forget the absolute thrill of finally discovering my 3rd great-grandma Sarah Pauline Beaver Patterson. I was only 12, but it was the first time I had discovered someone who had been lost to us. That’s the feeling that keeps me going still.
What has been the most difficult part of your genealogical journey?
Sometimes I’ve just had to realized that there are brick walls that are not meant to be dealt with at this time. I have to just let them be and have the faith that the way will become clear in the future. I’ve learned that some puzzles are not for me to solve right now, but it’s hard to just let it go.
What are your research interests?
Right now I’m working on my Italian roots in Canischio, Italy. This has forced me to learn some Italian and Latin so I can read parish records and civil registration records. It was a huge leap for me to start learning about international records collections. I’ve been so used to the census and other records common in the United States that it was very intimidating to try something new. But it’s been a tremendous experience in the last year to figure out how to use those collections effectively. At first I had to use Google Translate extensively, but slowly I developed enough language skill to read the records fairly easily. I’ve indexed so many images and entered approximately 2,000 new people into my direct and collateral lines. I had no idea the project was so big when I started, and looking back it’s kind of amazing that I was even able to accomplish so much. But step by step, I’ve gotten a lot done and developed the confidence to try new things!
How do you preserve your family history?
My strength is researching records and using primary sources to develop our family pedigree. But I love to help my mom add pictures and stories to the our tree on FamilySearch.org from her memory books, family files, and photo albums. I think that sharing stories and discoveries with my siblings and children are also really significant ways to reinforce our family heritage and preserve our family history.
What is your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others?
I like posting new discoveries on Facebook to share with my family and friends. But lately I’ve also been developing a website called www.CanischioConnections.com to help other people use the parish records that I’ve indexed and extracted in Canischio, Italy. The records are simply a collection of images, so there is no way to search them. My website is an attempt to create an expanded index to those records that helps other researchers connect the families together and locate the primary sources. It’s been so fun to start connecting with distant cousins from around the world who also come from that area.
If you had all the time in the world to spend on family history, what would you do?
Well, what I really want is all the money in the world as well! I’d spend a substantial amount of time in Italy and Wales researching original parish records for my family. I also really would love to connect to the places that my family is from. I like to travel and I’d really love to take my children to their various ancestral homes in throughout the United States, Great Britain, and Italy. I have a goal to attend mass in the parish of San Lorenzo in Canischio, Italy.
Who is your most interesting ancestor?
It’s so hard to pick just one!! Usually the most interesting ancestor is the one that I’m working out the puzzle on right now. So obviously that changes regularly. I would also say that my adore my grandparents and have been blessed to have had the time to develop relationships with them. I love asking them about their youth and their memories as young parents. They are probably my favorite “ancestors.”