Growing up, Thresa Chism spent each Memorial Day visiting the local cemeteries with her family.
Chism grew up near Clark, Mo., a small town 25 miles north of Columbia. Her father has always had a passion for family history. While the Chism family walked through and viewed the headstones, Thresa’s father pointed out their extended family – or anybody else he knew – and told who they were and who they were related to.
Thresa has always had a general interest in genealogy but got hooked when she joined a beginning genealogy class in Columbia.
“My dad knew just about everyone in our local cemeteries and how they were related to everyone else,” Thresa said. “It was always impressive how much knowledge he had about the history of others. So I grew up with that all around me.
“For me, I really got into it about 25 years ago. I needed to find something to get me out of the house. I was looking through several classes and found that they had a beginning genealogy class. I signed up for it thinking that whatever I learned, I could pass on to my dad and sister to help them.
“I have taken over being the family genealogist now.”
Thresa later joined The Genealogical Society of Boone County and Central Missouri.“You just have to start with yourself and you work backwards. There is a lot of stuff online, and a lot that isn’t. Some sites are free, some do cost money. All of the information about my family history, I received from my sister. You really take whatever you can get and go from there.”
She serves as the membership coordinator and one of the web administrators for GSCM currently.
GSCM meets each month and usually holds a program with a guest speaker. Past speakers have included Rudi Keller, a Civil War expert who works for the Columbia Daily Tribune, and Tanja Patton, with the Columbia Cemetery.
“We’ve had a lot of great speakers,” Thresa said. “It’s a great variety and each bring a different look at genealogy.”
During meetings where a speaker isn’t available, the group discusses a variety of topics. They will dive into their “brick walls,” which are specific family members that are stopping the searcher from finding the rest of their family tree. They also do a show and tell session where they show off family heirlooms. Another discussion will focus on what genealogy computer program an individual likes and why they like it.
“It’s great to have those discussions because you never know where someone else has looked,” Thresa said.
The group meets in the Boone Electric community room and also have a library in the Boone County Historical Museum.
Thresa’s current brick wall is her third great-grandfather on her father’s side. He was born in 1790.
“I’ve actually always known about him,” Thresa said. “My dad has a Chism family bible that his uncle gave him. It was my great-grandfather’s bible and someone, we don’t know who for sure, wrote the birth and death dates of my third great-grandfather, as well as his wife and their children.
“It’s a great piece of family history, but he’s my brick wall.”
While it can be somewhat frustrating finding constant dead ends, Thresa still enjoys the history. She is a relative of Omar Bradley, who became General of the Army after distinguished service during World War II. Bradley is a relative on Thresa’s father’s side.
“I knew my dad’s aunts and uncles very well,” Thresa said. “We were around them all of the time. On my mom’s side, it was a little different. Her father passed away when she was nine years old, so I never knew him. Her mother passed away when I was seven. I didn’t know them as well, so it’s fun to be able to learn more about them through our genealogy.”
Popular sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com are used, as well as several other sites, to research genealogy. Thresa uses those tools, especially ones that have census data. Those records are very valuable because it tells you where a specific person was at during a specific time.
“You just have to start with yourself and you work backwards,” Thresa said. “There is a lot of stuff online, and a lot that isn’t. Some sites are free, some do cost money. All of the information about my family history, I received from my sister. You really take whatever you can get and go from there.”
Thresa recently celebrated her 35th anniversary as an employee at the University of Missouri. She began her career in accounting in Jesse Hall. She joined the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources in 1988 and, in 1992, joined the Bradford Research Center in Columbia.
John Poehlmann was the superintendent at Bradford when Thresa joined. Poehlmann was not only doing the superintendent’s job, he was doing all of the fiscal work as well.
“The job actually didn’t exist before 1992,” Thresa said. “I know John was happy to have some help with the fiscal responsibilities. Working with CAFNR has been a great experience.”