Editor’s note: This story is part of the CDT’s Active Life special section.
Justin Houser can date his family roots back to the year 1220.
The former president of the Centre County Genealogical Society said information obtained from the organization helped him identify some of his family members from about 800 years ago.
Houser said he’s related to the Confer family from a bloodline that runs through his maternal grandfather. When he looked up relatives, Houser said, he found some of his family owned vineyards in Switzerland as far back as the 1200s.
“I was able to find his name and what they did,” Houser said. “Some lines are easier to follow than others because some countries kept better records.”
And when he looked into his past, Houser said the most surprising thing was the “diversity of ethnicity” — primarily that coming from Europe.
It was just so fascinating to find where your family is from.
Justin Houser, former president of CCGS
“It was just so fascinating to find where your family is from,” he said.
The Centre County Genealogical Society was founded in 1975 with the goal of helping to point others in the right direction when it comes to looking up their ancestry.
Houser said the group won’t do all the work for people, but it will help educate others on how to research their family history.
“We do our best to help put people on the right path to looking up their family tree as accurately as possible,” he said. “We help refer people to where they need to go, and hold classes and have meeting that provide people with techniques to do that.”
CCGS holds meetings the first Thursday of every month
Meetings are generally held the first Thursday of every month, and attract about 30 to 50 people, Houser said.
The group has also helped make records available with help from the Centre County Library in Bellefonte.
“It’s time consuming when you’re helping transcribe local records,” Houser said. “We’re checking them, and double checking them and processing them to make sure what we’re presenting is correct.”
One of the latest projects from the organization was transcribing what Houser said was just about every cemetery and grave site in Centre County.
He said the most interesting part of that project was working with local churches and researching old records to find graves in the most uncommon places.
“We went around the county with information we had and found graves way off the beat path where there were once settlements with families,” Houser said. “It would be in the middle of the woods or in a field, and there would be nothing but tombstones. ... We hiked the woods and crossed creeks just to find some of these.”
Tips: Interview a relative and find a bloodline you’d like to research. Using the internet is also a good tool.
For those interested in knowing more about their family, Houser said the best start is to interview family members.
“It’s a good start to have at least one specific piece of the tree and then records should help direct you in the right direction,” he said.
He said the internet and DNA testing are also helpful tools.
On the web