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Utah genealogist hooked on 'the hunt'

Her Timeless Genealogies helps others with research

SOUTH JORDAN — Claire Brisson-Banks has been a genealogist for many years, but she considers her work timeless.

In fact, that's her business' name.

As owner of Timeless Genealogies, 2340 W. South Jordan Parkway and online at www.timelessgen.com, Brisson-Banks helps people negotiate the sometimes-tricky road of family history research, including occasionally breaking through "brick walls."

"Sometimes I help people just starting out, and sometimes I help people who have done some research, but they're stuck and can't go any further," she said. "I make a proposal about how to break through the brick walls and proceed with the research."

Timeless Genealogies offers research on one or more of family surnames; computerization and digitization of miscellaneous collections of names, dates, places and photos people may have in a box or container; consultation services; searches for specific records or documents; lectures for conferences or courses on family history; and a range of family genealogy products in book or CD format available at the Web site.

"Sometimes people want to do the work themselves, and we will meet and do a consultation and then they will do the work themselves," she said. "Sometimes they hire me to do 'x' amount of hours of research and produce a report, and I'll update their databases and produce a physical report that they can have in their hands, with all the documentation to back up the research — for instance, census records, copies of birth certificates or death certificates or whatever it is to substantiate the research."

The amount she charges varies. "It depends on what they need," she said. "Every project is different. Each person's needs are different."

Brisson-Banks did her own genealogy research when she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1978 while living in Australia. In 1984, she moved to Rhode Island, raising a family of six and serving as family history director in New England for 17 years. Along the way, she planned conferences and seminars, did public speaking, conducted private research, did research domestically and overseas, instructed private and public high school students on family history and picked up a degree in computer information systems from Roger Williams University.

"Inspired" to move to Utah, she and her husband did so a couple of years ago, and the decision to open a genealogy business followed. "I just had the opportunity present itself," she said. "I talked to someone about it, read about it and thought it was just the right time to do it."

Brisson-Banks believes her close proximity to the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City is beneficial, as is her experience in genealogical research and computer skills.

"In order to do good Internet research, you need a good computer background," she said. "Some people can get onto Ancestry.com or other genealogy sites and not know what they're doing, and they spend hours and hours and don't find anything. But because I know how the search engines work and how the computer thinks, I'm able to give the person more value for their hard-earned money."

She's building up a clientele "little by little" and augments her business with contract work from time to time for other genealogy companies. She lectures occasionally and teaches workshops at conferences. It's almost like she can't help but do genealogy.

"I think it's the hunt that you like. Someone told me there's such a thing as a genealogy gene, and I have it. You have to have a passion to find these people. Everyone has this yearning and thirst to find out who their ancestors are and where they come from. I taught genealogy in high schools back East a little bit, and I think the identity crisis wouldn't be there so much for the youth if they had this in high school. They knew where they came from and how important and how wonderful they are because of who they descend from and who their ancestors are," Brisson-Banks said.

"Everybody wants to know where they came from, not just Mormons. It's everybody. It's one of the top hobbies in the world."

And, despite doing genealogy for years, she still gets satisfaction from helping people through the process.

"There's nothing more rewarding than to hand a person a report with family information and sit down and review it with them and see the pleasure and response in their eyes, their gratitude for what I've been able to find for them, especially the people who had those brick walls."


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com