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“How cool is that?” asked Cathy Altepeter.

She had just found the death and birth dates of the grandfather of Sam Gallus of Grand Forks. He was eager to know more about his ancestors. Altepeter was anxious to help.

She was working away on a computer.

“There’s a lot online now,” she told him. “You can find a grave free. You don’t always have to pay for this stuff.”

Gallus was among a couple dozen people who accepted the invitation of the Minnkota Genealogical Society to come and get help last week. The event was planned to recognize October as Family History Month.

“You gotta start somewhere,” Altepeter was saying. “The Internet has opened windows.”

 She’s a longtime member of the Minnkota Genealogical Society that meets at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month and usually at the Campbell Library in East Grand Forks. The membership of 45 is based around northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

Mike Swanson, president, will present information available in newspaper files at the next meeting. The location of the meeting will be announced in Herald calendars.

Swanson is an archivist in special collections at the UND Chester Fritz Library. He will discuss information available in files of the Grand Forks Herald and other area newspapers, as well as the websites.

Minnkota Genealogical Society lists its purposes as:

  •   Instruct in basic genealogical research.
  •   Encourage and assist fellow members.
  •   Stimulate a greater interest in family history.
  •  Promote the preservation of and access to genealogical records.

Joining forces at the workshop were members of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). They meet the second Saturday of each month at Parkwood Community Room in Grand Forks.

Members respond to the challenge of looking back in order to move ahead. Barb Knipe, a DAR member, thinks the Tuesday evening Prairie Public television program, “Finding Your Roots,” has created a wider interest.

Bill Graveline of Grand Forks has learned of his French background and is studying the Icelandic background of his mother. He wonders about two of his children who died of an unknown disease, while two others were not affected.

It’s all a matter of looking back before moving ahead.

Cathy Altepeter is dedicated to maintaining the graves of forgotten war veterans in this area. She pulls weeds and washes tombstones. She gets a tidbit of information about a veteran and wants to know more.

She has been working on a self-guided walking tour of Memorial Park Cemetery in Grand Forks. There, she is fascinated by the graves of people who shaped early history of this area.

“She’s always willing,” said Marge Burnstad. And Mona Leake added, “People will help.”

They say Cathy is like a bull dog. She never gives up.

The Minnkota Genealogical Society says: “Genealogy begins as an interest, becomes a hobby, continues as an avocation, takes over as an obsession, and in its last stages is an incurable disease.”


Reach Marilyn Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or by telephone at 701-772-1055