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Tracing His Roots

Even at a young age, John Sorli was interested in his family history. Around the age of 10, he created his first family tree for a school project, and many years later as an adult, he is still just as infatuated with genealogy.

“Once you get involved it’s kind of like a bug you know?” said Sorli. “It’s like you don’t want to stop”

Sorli, a Hicksville resident, has an online family tree account that is set up with around 2,500 people who are related to him, or his wife. “I have probably another 300 people I haven’t had a chance to enter into the database,” he said.

“You find out different things about your family you’ve never really thought about,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of interesting people who are no longer with us, and I’m glad I met them.”

“I’m still doing it because you really never stop,” joked Sorli. “When you find someone, it leads you to someone else. It’s like a big puzzle”.

The furthest back Sorli has tracked parts of his family was Germany in the 1660’s, on his wife’s side.

Sorli has made some interesting discoveries about his family history, as well as his wife’s. “I found out my wife’s father’s grandmother was Jewish, and her father never knew that,” he said.

He also found out that his grand-uncle was a Rough Rider in the Spanish American War and has a picture of him from Cuba in 1898. Sorli also has a picture of his great-great-grandmother who died in 1886. Sorli has even discovered that his great-grandfather was one of the few witnesses who saw President Chester Arthur being sworn into oval office.

Sorli stated that he spends about five to six hours a week dedicated to his research. He is a member of three different genealogy groups on Long Island. He is the director of the Irish Family History Forum, as well as a member of the German Genealogy Group, and the Jewish Genealogy Society.

When Sorli started tracking his family history many years ago, it was a lot harder. “There was no access to computers like there are now,” he said. “Now, you don’t even have to walk out the door to find information.”

To do his research, Sorli would have to go to New York City to receive records, or he would have to request copies of Mormon records. “Mormons copy records from all over the world,” explained Sorli. “It’s part of their religion.”

Sorli would order the films he wanted that were stored out in Salt Lake City, and it would be brought into the Mormon Church in Plainview for him to view.

During the day, Sorli works as an immigration officer. He has two children, but says they haven’t caught the genealogy bug.

“My kids aren’t very into genealogy,” he said.  “Maybe in 20, 30, or 40 years from now they’ll gain interest.”

Luckily enough for his kids, if they do develop interest in genealogy, they will have access to hundreds of years of family history mapped out by their father.