When local residents want to research their family history, a group of volunteers is ready to assist them. The Marion Area Genealogy Society (MAGS) helps people find marriage licenses, birth records, death certificates, and other documents to shed light on family trees.
MAGS is a fantastic resource for people looking into their ancestry. MAGS President Susan Hoffman Matthews and other members love to help residents find key information.
“We’ve literally helped thousands of people research their families,” Matthews said. “MAGS is a great starting ground for any local family history search.”
Matthews was born in Marion. Her journey with genealogy started with a 4-H project when she was 12 years old. She has been intrigued ever since. Matthews grew up hearing the stories about various ancestors, and because of that, she became more interested in people, history, and the stories of those who have already passed.
The Hoffman family moved just across the county line. She graduated from Wynford High School in 1985 and The Ohio State University in 1989 with a degree in psychology.
One of Matthews’ first jobs was making advertisements for The Marion Star. Matthews has worked in various county agencies for most of her adult life, including 10 years at MARCA and the Marion Health Department, where she learned about birth and death certificates. Matthews currently works at the Marion County Family/Probate Court.
Matthews created a “Where to Find Research Materials” page on the MAGS website. This page shares where to find records such as births, marriages, deaths, and other documents with an emphasis on Marion County records. She’s served as MAGS president for nine years.
Matthews encourages genealogists to keep track of the source of all information found.
“I recommend verifying all information for yourself and not assume that someone else’s information has no mistakes,” Matthews said. “I encourage new researchers to watch webinars and connect with the local genealogy society.”
Matthews has done presentations for the Marion County Genealogy Society, other local genealogy groups, and local adult learning programs. Currently, she is presenting a three-part series on Beginning Genealogy at the Marion Public Library. The next session is Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Marion Public Library, where she will offer tips on interviewing family members and the twists and turns of research. This is free and open to the public.
The library offers access to the Ancestry Library Edition, one of the largest collections of genealogy information online. Other library tools provide access to military records and African American family histories. Librarians can assist patrons in tracking down documents. MAGS volunteers also help with record searches at the Marion Historical Society Resource Room on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“Birth and death certificates started on December 21, 1908; however, Marion County is fortunate to have a birth and death index prior to that date which started in 1867. These indexes are available online for free,” said Matthews. “The Probate Office has marriage records back to 1920. Probate Court houses records such as wills, estates, guardianships, marriages, and more. Marriages before 1920 are available online or through the Ohio History Connection in Columbus. The Recorder’s Office has land records and cemetery maps for Marion County. The Marion Public Library and MAGS both have a research area for genealogists.”
MAGS supports the Ohio Genealogy Society’s mission. MAGS offers local newsletters. MAGS members review applications for the First Families of Marion County lineage society. Matthews herself is a member of the Morrow County First Family Society, Marion County First Family Society, and the Daughters of American Revolution.
MAGS is entirely volunteer-run.
“We always need volunteers to help with various projects such as indexing books as well as volunteering at the Resource Room,” Matthews said. “MAGS is fortunate to have such a wonderful agency partnering with us.”
MAGS meets monthly on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. Visit the group’s MAGS website for more details.