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The Family Tree Surgeon

Debbe Hagner didn’t know she could make a career out of genealogy, so it became a hobby. This changed when she was laid off from IBM after 13 years as a systems test analyst.

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By Lisa A. Goldstein

When Debbe Hagner was 12 years old, she was confused about having two Aunt Roses. Her grandfather drew a family tree to explain who was who. That spurred her interest in genealogy. She was curious to see if she had any cousins who could carry on her last name, since she has two sisters and no brothers. She found a male cousin and his son.

At the time, Hagner didn’t know she could make a career out of it, so it became a hobby. This changed when she was laid off from IBM after 13 years as a systems test analyst. She was given $2,000 as an education reimbursement, which she applied to a home correspondence program at Brigham Young University. She finished the two-year program in six months.

The next step was to take an eight-hour written test by the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. Spoiler alert: She passed the test and is now one of two accredited genealogists who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Hagner was born hard of hearing and then became deaf. She has a cochlear implant (CI) in her left ear and wears a hearing aid on the right. While there are some challenges – like understanding people with masks and wishing she had better English writing skills – she doesn’t let anything stop her. She says her CI has made a world of difference in hearing and understanding people.

Patience is one of Hagner’s strengths, which serves her well in her current career. She loves to do research and describes it as akin to solving a puzzle. She also loves helping people with their own family history and giving lectures about genealogy. To date, she’s had over 300 clients and has about 33,000 names in her database. She has traced her genealogy back to the 1600s, and one line back to the 1400s. She discovered she is related to President Eisenhower! “It is always fun to see if you are related to someone famous,” she says.

Hagner’s website, the Family Tree Surgeon, lists the services she provides, which include computer printouts of pedigree charts and family group sheets as well as giving lectures and seminars. Hagner has served as president of the West Pasco County (Florida) Genealogical Society for several years. She specializes in services for the deaf and hard of hearing, with sign language fluency and TTY/VP options. One of her goals is to continue teaching people who are deaf and hard of hearing about genealogy.

Other goals include going to Germany to visit her ancestors’ hometown. She wants to become certified in German research. She has three “brick walls,” which means there are three different lines she’s stuck on. Some records were destroyed in war; she hopes by going in person, she’ll discover what records still exist.

When asked what she would tell younger people who are deaf and interested in this career path, she responds, “Everyone should do genealogy to find out about their family. It is important to learn as much as possible about your family background and it might help you understand who you are.”

La cirujana del árbol genealógico

Cuando Debbe Hagner tenía 12 años, le extrañaba tener dos tías que se llamaran Rose. Su abuelo le dibujó un árbol genealógico para explicarle quién era quién, lo que estimuló su interés por la genealogía. Tenía curiosidad por conocer si tenía primos que pudieran llevar su apellido, dado que solo tiene dos hermanas. Averiguó que tenía un primo con un hijo.

En aquel momento, Debbe no sabía que se pudiese trabajar en este ámbito, por lo que se convirtió en un pasatiempo. La situación cambió cuando la despidieron de IBM después de trabajar 13 años como analista de pruebas de sistemas. Recibió 2.000 USD como reembolso de educación, que empleó en un programa de correspondencia domiciliaria en la Brigham Young University. Completó el programa de dos años en seis meses

El siguiente paso fue realizar el examen escrito de ocho horas de la ICAPGen℠ (Comisión Internacional para la Acreditación de Genealogistas Profesionales). Alerta de spoiler: aprobó el examen y actualmente es uno de los dos genealogistas acreditados con sordera e hipoacusia.

Debbe nació con hipoacusia que posteriormente se convertiría en sordera. Utiliza un implante coclear (IC) en el oído izquierdo y un audífono en el derecho. Si bien se enfrenta a diversos retos, como entender a las personas que llevan mascarilla, y desearía tener mejores habilidades de escritura en inglés, no permite que nada la detenga. Asegura que el IC supuso una gran diferencia a la hora de oír y entender a las personas.

La paciencia es una de las fortalezas de Debbe, lo que le resulta de gran utilidad en su trabajo actual. Le encanta realizar investigaciones que describe como algo parecido a resolver un rompecabezas. También le encanta ayudar a las personas a que conozcan su propia historia familiar y dar conferencias sobre genealogía. Hasta la fecha, ha tenido más de 300 clientes y dispone de alrededor de 33.000 nombres en su base de datos. Ha trazado su propia genealogía hasta el siglo XVII y una línea hasta el siglo XV. ¡Descubrió que estaba emparentada con el presidente Eisenhower! «Siempre resulta divertido averiguar que estás emparentado con alguien famoso», asegura.

En el sitio web de Debbe, The Family Tree Surgeon (La cirujana del árbol genealógico), se enumeran los servicios que ofrece, que incluyen impresiones informáticas de árboles genealógicos y fichas de grupos familiares, así como conferencias y seminarios. Debbe ha desempeñado durante varios años el puesto de presidenta de la West Pasco County Genealogical Society (Florida). Se ha especializado en servicios para personas con sordera e hipoacusia, con fluidez en la lengua de signos y opciones de TTY/VP. Uno de sus objetivos es continuar enseñando genealogía a personas con sordera e hipoacusia.

Otros objetivos incluyen viajar a Alemania para visitar la ciudad natal de sus antepasados. Le gustaría obtener una certificación en investigación alemana. Se encuentra con tres «muros de ladrillo», lo que significa que hay tres líneas diferentes en las que se encuentra estancada. Algunos registros se destruyeron durante la guerra y espera que, acudiendo en persona, pueda descubrir los registros que todavía existan

Cuando se le pregunta qué les diría a los jóvenes con sordera e interesados en esta trayectoria profesional, responde: «Todas las personas deberían disponer de un árbol genealógico para conocer la familia de dónde proceden. Es importante aprender todo lo posible sobre los antecedentes familiares y podría servir de ayuda para conocerse mejor a uno mismo».

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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