"There are no magic wands, but there are no stone walls either," Scouras said. "You never know what we're going to have. Just be sure to ask. We could keep you busy for life."
Indexes of the State Archive collections, plus free, searchable databases of selected county birth, death and marriage records, are available at www.wvculture.org/history.
"The thrill of the hunt is part of it for most people," Scouras said. Sometimes people are delighted by what they find. Sometimes they are dismayed.
"Sometimes what they find can help soften the blow," she said, telling the story of a man who learned that his father, who died when the man was a child, had killed himself.
"By reading the page-one [newspaper] article he learned that his father was well-respected and that his death may have been prompted by the recent death of his beloved wife," she said.
The library staff also can help people paint a fuller picture of the people behind the names and the type of lives they lived. Details about ancestors' lives, the communities in which they lived and the times in which they lived help to bring life to family genealogies, Scouras said, and each new piece of information often leads people to want to learn more.
"You don't want to become just a name collector," she said. "If you can't imagine or have an idea of how your grandparents lived, you're missing the point."
The reasons people get hooked on tracing their family trees varies. Some just want to learn where they came from. Others want to learn more about their family's medical history.
White said she plans to take her findings to her family reunion this summer. By sharing what she's discovered about her ancestors, she hopes to spark an interest among other family members to join her quest.
"It's just amazing what you can find here," White said.
P.J. Dickerscheid is a cultural program associate for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Contact her at 304-558-0220, ext. 148, or by email at Pamela.J.Dickersch...@wv.gov.