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PROFILE

Guiding the path to our ancestors

Marcelle Greenbaum, of Haverhill, teaches a genealogy class at Northern Essex Community College for Life Long Learners.
Marcelle Greenbaum, of Haverhill, teaches a genealogy class at Northern Essex Community College for Life Long Learners. (Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe)

As a former biology and chemistry teacher, Marcelle Greenbaum knows how to do research. Now she is focusing that skill on genealogy.

It began with her own family after her mother and father, first-generation Americans whose parents had emigrated from Russia, died a few years ago.

“I thought Greenbaum was a weird name and didn’t know how common it was until I found my cousin in New York,” said the Haverhill native.

“I tried to do my mother’s side, with no success. But then I took it on and found them.”

Greenbaum is helping others do the same.

She teaches an Introduction to Genealogy class in the Life Long Learning Program at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays from Oct. 7 though Oct. 28.

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She also runs ongoing genealogy discussion groups.

“People don’t know how to do research,” she said. “They hit a roadblock and I like to take it on and help them.”

One problem, she said, is “People think they can look at every country. Some people’s [heritage] goes back to the Mayflower; others’ grandparents came from Europe. Each is different and you have to specialize.”

Greenbaum said it’s key to have birth dates or other personal information about the people you are trying to find. The Internet, she added, isn’t always reliable.

It also can be costly getting documents from overseas, which she said is why “a lot of people go over for vacation” to places like Poland or Ireland to do their own research.

Greenbaum does help people find reliable genealogy websites, and lets them know about local seminars, lectures, and groups. She’s also available after class to help people.

“It’s a process,” Greenbaum said of genealogical research. ‘I love the challenge; it’s a puzzle.

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“Everyone has an interesting story.”

WENDY KILLEEN

Wendy Killeen can be reached at wdkilleen@gmail.com