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[PA] Genealogy Like ‘A Puzzle’

Genealogy Like ‘A Puzzle’
Posted 2006-01-21

They call themselves the "Vee-Gees."

The name, short for volunteer genealogists, is a play on the disco superstars, but there’s no mirror ball in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society’s Genealogy Library.

The library occupies space on the second floor of the center, and is one of the biggest such libraries in the region. It’s been around for more than 100 years, making it one of the oldest too.

Jane Smootz is one of the Vee-Gees who volunteers at the center in Dayton, where people come to research area families.

In addition to copies of birth and death records from the area, they’ve got folders full of letters from researchers inquiring about local families.

They’ve also got copies of family histories written by local folks, including a thick book by Larry F. Shifflett on his family’s history.

It begins: "The beginning of the story of Shiflets in America is an elusive tale at best…"

Genealogy isn’t a new trend, Smootz says, but its popularity is as high as ever. She’s been told it’s the number two web-traffic generator, behind the sex industry.

"It’s America’s number one hobby," she said.

Aside from all the how-to knowledge she can help guests with, she has a little practical advice for novice genealogists.

"I don’t recommend doing it at night because I can’t sleep. If I find one little thing, I can’t go to bed, if I do go to bed, I lay there with my eyes open."

Smootz, who worked on her own genealogy for 40 years before filling out her family tree, understands the draw.

"It’s like a puzzle," she said. "You find one tidbit and you want to find more and more and more."

Here are a few tidbits to jumpstart your research:

n Country music legend Patsy Cline was a Shifflett cousin: Her grandmother was Elizabeth Margaret "Maggie" Shifflett, according to research done by Larry Shifflett and published on the site.

n According to another article published at, all the Roaches are Shiffletts because the first Roach, Archie Ball Roach, was born a Shifflett but changed his name to Roach on his marriage license.

n According to, we all have a common ancestor not so long ago. Our DNA comes from a man who lived 60,000 years ago and a woman who lived 150,000-200,000 years ago, said Eileen Krause, an analyst for

"So Adam and Eve didn’t know each other — at least not the mitochondrial Adam and Eve."

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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