Though the Salem Public Library's main branch is closed for upgrades, the genealogy researchers from a local society are still helping local people go back in time. (Salem Reporter/file)

Volunteers are ready to help area residents trace their ancestry even as the genealogy room in the Salem Public Library remains closed.

“During this time we are offering limited free research to residents of Marion and Polk counties,” said Tony Hoff, corresponding secretary for the Willamette Valley Genealogical Society.

The service helps trace Census records along with birth, death and burial information. In addition, researchers have access to military, immigration, citizenship, family tree and city directory resources.

“We also can locate all types of newspaper articles,” he said.

The society moved to temporary location after the main library closed for renovations.

“Our office space in the temporary location was small, which didn’t allow for social distancing,” Hoff said. “If everything fully opens and the pandemic is under control, then we would probably return to the Broadway location if the main library isn’t open yet.”

Anyone with ancestry questions or who wants to get started tracing their family tree can contact the society at [email protected].

The group also has a website: www.wvgsor.org, where people looking for help can complete a research form.

The website lays out the policies for doing detailed research and lists the charges for looking up that information. Basically, the cost is $10 per hour for general research but if there is a request for documents, newspaper articles or other items the charge is $10 per piece or three for $20.

Once the library reopens, visiting patrons can get research help without charge, Hoff said.

“When we are at the library, we have access to our large collection of 5,000 genealogy and history books, periodicals and family histories,” he said. “Our trained volunteers also use computers to visit genealogy websites.”

When open, the society utilizes 30 researchers working three-hour shifts to assist anyone with genealogy questions.

Hoff said that in 2019 workers helped 1,469 people at the library through a total of 3,491 volunteer hours.

Requests for information are made from all ages, teens to seniors.

“Many come from retired individuals I suspect because they have more free time,” he said. “We encourage everyone to get started on family research. It can be very rewarding, and it is surprising what you may learn about your ancestors.”

Hoff says anyone can join the society that was formed in 1968 as a nonprofit organization to create, encourage and foster interest in genealogy.

Membership includes access to a quarterly publication and all prior newsletters, meeting minutes, tips for maximizing DNA testing, publications from other genealogy societies in Oregon and Washington and discounts on research.

There also is a scholarship program that pays the cost of online courses offered by the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

The society also holds monthly meetings that are open to the public.

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