Genies are making magic happen right here in Santa Barbara. These genies don’t live in a lamp. In fact, they have a spacious, well-lit and inviting work area they call the Sahyun Genealogical Library at 316 Castillo St.
But they do use their magical powers to travel back in time. They can fly back decades, centuries and sometimes millennia in their search for ancestral links and family ties. Amazingly, they also have the power to bring the deceased back to life — not in the literal Dr. Frankenstein way of reanimation of the dead, but still in very substantial ways by giving form and substance to the ancestors they find in their family history searches.
Genealogists refer to each other as “genie buddies,” so the title can elicit smiles and images of magic carpets and mystical abilities. Like the magicians of antiquity, the alchemists and sorcerers, these genies spend much of their time searching through archives and books looking for clues that will link the present with the past. Now, however, instead of paging through dusty old tomes, much of the research is conducted on line at websites like Ancestry.com, Fold3.com and AmericanAncestors.com. The Sahyun Library has member access for these and other sites that can speed the research process.
The genies that inhabit the Sahyun are members of the Santa Barbara Genealogical Society and, unlike the wizards of antiquity, the members of this group are more than willing to share their secrets and to welcome those who would like to join their group. They are especially welcoming to the novice who might not even know where to begin the search for their family roots. Looking back into the past can be like peering into a dark crypt but the intimidation lessens when someone knowledgeable lights a torch and shows you the way.
Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society.
— Glenn Avolio is publicity chairman at the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society.