Joshua Taylor was just 10 when he began helping his grandmother work on her family history.
He not only became fascinated with genealogy, he turned it into a business by the time he was in high school in Logan, Utah. And he paid for part of his college expenses doing genealogy research for others.
Taylor, who now has a career in the field, will be in Billings for the Montana State Genealogy Society conference, “Digging Up Roots,” Sept. 20-22.
Taylor went onto to get master’s degrees in history and library science, specializing in archival management.
He now works for Brightsolid Online Publishing, which created
findmypast.com, a subscription genealogy research website.
The company started in Great Britain, so it is particularly strong in British documents, including the manifests of ships bringing settlers to the New World.
Taylor’s job is to find original records that can be used on the website.
Taylor also has been featured on NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” that hunts down the ancestors of celebrities.
One of the biggest moments in the series for Taylor was telling actress Sarah Jessica Parker that she was a descendant of a women accused of being a witch in colonial Salem, Mass.
Parker’s look of astonishment at the news was no act. She really was surprised, Taylor said.
Anyone delving into their family tree can find something just as surprising and interesting, Taylor said in a telephone interview from California where he now lives.
“Genealogy connects people to history,” he said. “Everyone has a piece of the American story.”
Nobody can predict where the hunt may lead.
When Taylor was studying his family, he found that one of his ancestors was in and out of jail for petty crimes in Ohio. That man’s father-in-law, who had been deported as a child from England for stealing a handkerchief, fought for his new homeland in the American Revolution.
For those who don’t know where to start looking for ancestors, Taylor suggests attending meetings of a local genealogy society, checking out the Internet and interviewing family members about what they know.
At the MSGS conference, Taylor will speakabout finding ancestors in the United States from 1780 to 1830; online resources for colonial American; and how to narrow online searches.
The conference, which is hosted by the Yellowstone Genealogy Forum, will be at the Big Horn Resort, 1801 Majestic Lane, Billings.
Other speakers will be Robert Larson of the Larimer County Genealogical Society in Fort Collins, Colo.; Joyce Jensen, Billings historian; and Kevin Kooistra, Western Heritage Center local historian.