The Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society’s Sahyun Library recently reopened following an expansion of services including a new classroom, modernized computer facilities and hundreds of new books.
The society began in 1972 and initially met to discuss family lineages in churches, libraries and members’ homes. The group currently helps people trace their ancestry using various documents such as national census statistics and military draft records — some from the Civil War era — as well as cemetery records and immigration forms.
According to SBCGS President Mary Hall, the organization helps people get in touch with their origins.
“We are a genealogical society — a nonprofit organization,” Hall said. “Our purpose is education and helping preserve history.”
Dr. Melville Sahyun’s family donated his old laboratory to the society in 1998 to establish the original Sahyun Library for research into family history.
The newly expanded facility provides public assistance and education in genealogical research, offers numerous classes and workshops and hosts annual seminars with speakers from around the world, Hall said.
“We are very excited about our library,” Hall said. “The library has books and now software subscriptions as well, like ancestry.com; as you know, those [subscriptions] can cost a lot of money.”
Two-time former SBCGS President Jan Cloud said the library is a unique resource for the region’s youth.
“I think that it is so important for our children to know where they fit because we are all immigrants,” Cloud said. “You can find out about your heritage at the society. It is a fascinating place to do genealogical research … [it’s] considered the best from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Santa Barbara has a jewel here.”
According to Cloud, the SBCGS contains records from all over the world, particularly England and Germany.
Cari Thomas, a society member since 1996 and Germanic genealogy teacher, said the institute boasts over 500 members who can trace their roots from around the globe.
“You can find somebody in this chapter that has ancestry from anywhere in the world,” Thomas said. “We have Swedish, Norwegian, South American and Australian members.”
The society will host a free open house this weekend on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in honor of Family History Month. SBCGS staff as well as print and digital resources will be available for visitors to begin or continue their genealogical research.