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MHS becomes the place to dig for roots


This is Ancestor Week, at the Convention Center and also along Monument Street. It's family history week, twice over -- at the National Genealogical Society's annual convention, the first in Baltimore since NGS' 1903 founding; and at the Maryland Historical Society, the just-announced recipient of about 5,000 genealogy books from Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Library.

The NGS -- Wednesday through Saturday -- will draw 1,500 delegates. If many also walk up to MHS, it won't be just to line up at the photocopiers and microfilm readers; the historical society will be selling 1,350 books that, by virtue of the Peabody shipment, are duplicates.

The other books will stay at Peabody until Aug. 20, but then are unavailable through 1994, while MHS reclassifies (from Dewey Decimal System to modified Library of Congress) and shelves them. All were published since World War II. Peabody is free admission; MHS is open more hours daily. Book-sale admission, Wednesday-Saturday, is free.

Genealogy, head librarian Penny Catzen says, is big business at 201 W. Monument St. Of the library's 60,000 pre-transfer books, one-fourth are genealogical; of its 6,000 visitors yearly, four-fifths are ancestor-trackers. The flow peaks in summer, reference librarian Francis O'Neill says, drawing many a nonmember at the rate of $2.50 a day for elders. Later, many publish.

For leads on your missing maternal great-grandfather, the Hall of Records in Annapolis is an additional resource. But the Peabody transfer, strong in out-of-state census records, reinforces the Maryland Historical Society as the genealogy capital of Maryland.

Outsiders continue to view this city as a likely role model for the easing of national frictions, the growth of a we're-all-in-this-together spirit. In "Black Baltimore" (Temple University Press, $34.95), Harold A. McDougall, professor of law at Catholic University in Washington and a resident of Silver Spring, develops "a new theory of community" -- that is, the forming and linking of groups within the black population.

In small base communities, particularly the West Baltimore neighborhoods of Upton, Park Heights, Harlem Park and Sandtown, Mr. McDougall finds a vital "private- and voluntary-sector, vernacular complement to public-sector" efforts toward rights, benefits and privileges. Not just for blacks "but for most Americans," reliance on elections and the courts is no longer enough; there must be concerted assumption of responsibilities and participation in democracy.

Citing many earlier scholars and observers, Mr. McDougall interestingly tries to bridge the old philosophical gulf between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois.

"Celebrations: A Century of African-American Literary Lore" will be the theme of the annual Zora Neale Hurston Society conference,

Thursday through Saturday, at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel, 202 E. Pratt St. The playwright Mari Evans is featured. To register, call Dr. Ruthe T. Sheffey of Morgan State University at (410) 319-3435.

The followers of Jacob Ammann, an Alsatian Anabaptist, arrived in America 300 years ago. Known now as the Amish, they have spread out in 200 colonies, some in Maryland.

Johns Hopkins University Press marks the occasion with a $35.95 book, "Old Order Amish: Their Enduring Way of Life." The text is by Donald B. Kraybill, who grew up on a Mennonite farm and now teaches at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania; color plates by Lucian Niemeyer.

A copy of the 1886 edition of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," inscribed by Lewis Carroll to John Tenniel, the book's illustrator, highlights the June 21 auction of Baltimore Book Co., 6:30 p.m., at the Quality Inn in Towson. Also in the sale are two portraits in watercolor by Alfred Jacob Miller.

Baltimore author Madison Smartt Bell will read from his new novel, "Save Me, Joe Louis," at Borders Bookshop in Towson, Thursday at 7 p.m. . . . A rare public meeting of the Baltimore Bibliophiles will be at Maryland Historical Society June 16 at 1:30 p.m. to hear Ellen Dunlap, director of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. She will give "An Insider's Look at Special Collections Libraries in Transition."

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