Classes for the free 'Keys To The Past' course are scheduled to begin from 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Thursday nights from Feb. 15 to May 3 in the upstairs room at the Miami Public Library.

MIAMI – Small images of keys line the flyer for the 11th year of the Miami Public Library's genealogy workshop series inviting potential attendees to "unlock the many doors to find your ancestors."

Classes for the 'Keys To The Past' course are scheduled to begin from 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Thursday nights from Feb. 15 to May 3 in the upstairs room at the Miami Public Library.

The free workshops are led by MPL's resident genealogist Barbara Becker, who has been committed to the art of family research for over 44 years and welcomes everyone from beginners to seasoned researchers.

"I love to work with people. It does my heart so good to help find something for somebody," said Becker. "There are so many funny stories and tender stories."

During the workshops, participants will learn how to fill out charts, organize documentation, and how to begin their search and find sources. There will also be an exploration of the many tools and methods used by genealogists, such as the use of maps, census information, land deeds, tax records, along with birth, marriage divorce, military, death, and adoption records.

Becker said what motivates many people to begin looking into genealogy is often a desire to better understand their family origins and fill in the gaps in what they know.

"What I hear time and time again is 'If I had only listened' and we've all done that," said Becker. "I remember as a child sitting with people all around me talking, but I did not know what I was listening to and I can't know if my memory of everything is right."

She added that a love of history is also important to genealogy, along with a healthy curiosity.

"I'll tell you most of us that do genealogy, we have a love of history, and that's one thing you have to have, a real love of history. And you've got to be a snoop," Becker advised with a chuckle. "I tell everybody, you've got to love history and you've got to be a detective. That's the best way I know to put it."

Supplementing the annual course, Becker also provides extra class time throughout the year with additional learning sessions at the library. There is currently a group that meets on Wednesday's twice a month, and Becker is hoping to form even more with interest, as the current group is already well attended.

“We've also started offering extra class time in afternoons for students from workshops to fine-tune working and learning more in-depth study of genealogy,” Becker said. "You know, what's interesting is I have people in my genealogy group that runs every two weeks that come to this workshop every year. When I asked them why, they said, 'Because every year you teach something new!' and thinking about it, it's true. I learn at least 10 new things every week. And that's the way it is, there is always something new to learn in this."

The free learning series is comprised of 12 workshops, each with their own primary theme.

Feb. 15: Key to the front door, beginning charts and how to fill them Feb. 22: Key to the desk, organization, and documentation March 1: Key to the filing cabinet, beginning search and sources March 8: Don't lose the car key, maps and census records March 15: Key to the vault birth, marriage, divorce and adoption records March 22: Try the skeleton key death records and visiting cemeteries March 29: Key to the courthouse, land, deeds, and tax records April 5: Key to the for, military records April 12: Key to the longhouse Indian tribal research April 19: Open the gates, immigration records April 26: Fill your key ring, course review May 3: The magic key, preservation of records, artifacts and going grave dowsing

Space is limited. For more information or to sign up for the classes contact Becker at 918-541-2292.

Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.