You're never done in genealogy.
That's what fuels Jennifer Holik, a Woodridge resident and professional genealogist. Holik opened her own business in 2010 to help clients trace their family roots. Last month, she published a set of genealogy textbooks for kids called "Branching Out."
The textbooks are split between three age levels: first through third, fourth through eighth grades and high school. Each lesson contains a certain goal, vocabulary, some sort of reading and an assignment. The books also include online resources for students to explore.
The "Branching Out" textbooks are not the first books Holik has written. Her book, "To Soar with the Tigers," about Flying Tiger Robert Brouk was published last year.
While genealogy has traditionally been a pastime for adults, it’s important to get kids involved, Holik said. She taught the basics of genealogy to her son's fifth grade classroom at last fall. Holik also blogs about getting kids involved with their family history.
The best place to start, she said, is to write down everything you know about your family. Work backwards. Don’t start with a certain ancestor and work forward, Holik said. Search records to fill in the missing pieces, such as birth, death and marriage records. Then you can go to immigration records, naturalization records, passports and Census data.
Her textbooks are marketed to home-school parents and genealogy societies. They've been picked up by a genealogy society bookseller, she said, and Holik is working to make more connections with local libraries and school districts.
Holik first became interested in genealogy after she received a degree in history in 1993. She was a database administrator at Shedd Aquarium before starting her genealogy business. Holik has traced her own family’s Bohemian roots back to the 1800’s.
Holik said working in genealogy makes her feel like a detective.
"You start with all the puzzle pieces from family or through documents," Holik said. "You start to find the skeletons in the closet and it just becomes more exciting. You just have to keep going."
Holik's clients contact her from around the country, but they all have a Chicago connection. Her clients give her a few clues and she combs through records to find answers. One client lives in California but is working to trace ancestors who lived in Downers Grove and Chicago.
At the end of the project, Holik puts together a family history book for the family to keep.
Not surprisingly, Holik’s three sons are already enthralled in their family history.
“They like to hear about the military heroes,” she said. “All you need to do is engage them with the story. Then they try to find more stories and facts. They ask me to tell them more about this person or about someone who fought in World War II.”
You can meet Holik at the in Bolingbrook at an Author Fair on April 14 and at Genealogy Day on April 21.