by • August 21, 2013 • 10:55 am

The Internet can be blamed for many evils, not the least of which is wasting time. One valuable use of time that the Internet now makes possible is genealogy. New tools now available online offer Latino’s who want to build their family tree astounding results. Before websites like FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com, if you wanted to trace your ancestors you’d have to travel to the towns your family had lived in and possibly foreign countries to try and get access to government and church records.

I started using these tools in May to build my family tree and was stunned. Using the free FamliySearch.org I was able to trace my mother’s family all the way back to 1791. FamilySearch.org is a completely free site that has extensive records from the Catholic Church. Baptisms, marriages and deaths were all recorded in meticulous fashion by local parishes and since Latin America was predominately catholic for so long there is great info to be had. It took me a few hours to get used to the elaborate, beautiful handwriting of the time, but once I did I was flying through the records. In my case, I found better records for the Cuban side of my family through Ancestry.com and was able to trace it all the way back to 1797. I still have a lot of work to do on both sides, and may be able to go back even further.

My grandfather Augusto Saenz Lobo as a young man.

My grandfather Augusto Saenz Lobo as a young man.

Most people don’t know that the Downtown Rochester library has many resources you can use for free. They even offer free on‐site use of the Ancestry.com site and several other paid sites. Barb Koehler, who heads the Local History and Genealogy Division at the library explains, “Except for copies or scans, all resources are free”.

Koehler adds that, “an appointment is not necessary, however if you have something specific you are researching, a call or email ahead of time will allow us to gather materials and have them waiting for you.”

If you wanted to get started right away go and visit familysearch.org. Koehler also mentions that, “for any records not digitized online through FamilySearch.org,, they have a huge amount of microfilmed records that can be ordered from their repository in Salt Lake City and brought to this library or any local Family History Center library to view.”

The last tip I will mention is that I looked at several family tree apps and bought Mac Family Tree 7 for the Mac and Mobile Family Tree 7 for my iPad. The ability to take the tree on my iPad and get info at family dinners, relatives’ houses and libraries was invaluable. Whatever system you decide to use, make sure it has a mobile version you can sync with your desktop version.

In the next part in this series I’ll be talking to Jose Olivieri Rivera about his journey researching his family tree in Puerto Rican.

Julio Sáenz was born in Rochester and grew up on Roth Street on the city’s Northeast side. He was editor and publisher of OC Excélsior, the nation’s 24th largest Hispanic newspaper based in Orange County, Calif.

Sáenz is the founder of ConXion, a publication started in 2003 to serve the Hispanic community of Rochester. Julio was named to the prestigious “20 under 40” list of the nation’s outstanding newspaper industry leaders by Presstime Magazine in 2006. He is active in several professional and community service organizations, including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.