Towson library to host Black History Month session on genealogy

The Baltimore County Public Library will host an African-American genealogy presentation at the Towson branch Feb. 8 as part of a series of Black History Month events across the county.

The Research Your Roots event, in Towson, will teach participants how to start researching their family histories, according to Vivian Fisher, manager of the African-American Department at Enoch Pratt Free Library’s State Library Resource Center in Baltimore and host of the event.

“People are always interested in who they are and who their relatives are, but for African-Americans they want to know who first came on the ship,” Fisher said. “That’s difficult because a lot of records weren’t kept.”

The free event will include guidance on where and how to get started with your research, accessing records and other tips. Though the presentation is geared toward beginners, more “seasoned” genealogists also might learn a thing or two, Fisher said.

The event is one of many planned throughout the month, according to Baltimore County Public Library adult and community engagement manager Julie Brophy. A similar genealogy presentation will also be hosted at the Randallstown Branch Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.

Genealogy presentations have been hosted at county libraries before, but events focusing on African-American history help deal with the additional challenges of tracing African-American lineage, Brophy said.

It wasn’t until after the Civil War that Africans brought over to serve on slave plantations in the United States were counted in census data, she said.

“There are unique challenges addressed,” Brophy said. “While you can use some of our regular resources, there are additional resources that this instructor will talk about to help African-American communities find out more about their histories.”

Fisher, who has been able to trace her family back to the 1800s, said it’s important to know one’s history.

“Any group of people should know from whence they came,” Fisher said. “They may discover things about their relatives they didn’t know.”

Research Your Roots will start at 7 p.m. at the Towson branch. Registration is not required, however, past sessions have been well attended, Brophy said.

A list of Baltimore County Public Library Black History Month programming is available at http://bit.ly/2BBm8HM.

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