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Get to Know the Family

Come, learn and share your history

Maryland State Archivists Emily Oland Squires, Allison Seyler, Chris Haley, Ryan Cox, Emily Hubner and Nathaniel Miller.

Seven hundred were way more guests than Maryland State Archives director of outreach Emily Oland Squires planned for at last year’s innaugural Family History ­Festival.
    “I would have been happy if we had more people than staff,” she told Bay Weekly in 11th-hour planning for the second festival.
    No matter how many people come to the Archives, in Annapolis, Saturday, November 7, she and Archives staff will have room. Especially for you.
    “You can be a regular person and come use the Archives. That’s the word we want to get out,” Squires says.
    “Never underestimate your own contribution to history,” adds Chris Haley, director of the Archive’s Study of Slavery. “Just by being born, you are historic.”
    Haley knows whereof he speaks. The nephew of Alex Haley, author of Roots, Haley traces our widened interest in family history to his uncle.
    “Before Roots came out,” Haley says, “African Americans didn’t have that marrow-deep desire to find out about their history. They were likely enslaved, and that was a bad thing. Roots brought out that no matter what your past, if you persevered, if you survived, you were worth remembering, worth commemorating. Roots made it okay to go back and find out whatever your past was.”
    Learning how is what the now-annual festival is all about.
    “You’ll find how to get started learning about your family and how to move forward when you don’t know what to do next,” says Squires. “New this year, by popular demand from last year’s festival, is what to do with all this stuff after you find it.”
    Squires promises fun along with information.
    “We have three food trucks and a coffee stand. We have really fabulous prizes ever hour: preservation kits, portfolios, pictures and, at the end of the day, five different grand prizes from Ancestry.com including a full year’s world membership, valued at over $350. That’s why we call it a festival,” she says.
    As it’s a Family Festival, the kids are welcome, too. Chesapeake Children’s Museum is ready for them, with a room devoted making cornhusk dolls, building with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, playing traditional games and making family trees.
    At the Festival you’ll also meet archivists and learn about the Archives’ resources.
    “The purpose of the Archives is to keep history alive by holding, preserving, organizing and making it accessible for people,” says Nathaniel Miller, one of a new generation of archivists. Miller will show how records are catalogued and how to use them.
    The 21st century genealogy toolbox includes new media as well as old, according to another young archivist,
Emily Huebner.
    “The old shoebox kept your family history tucked away,” Huebner says. “Social media allows you to share. If it’s out there, it sparks conversation and gets people talking. Your history becomes present and current. Sharing keeps the family history alive.”
    At the Family Festival, says Allison Seyler, another of the young crew, “We want people to come and learn and share their history with us.”
    “Every story is important to share and to remember,” adds archivist Ryan Cox. “The effort people are going through to tell their family stories to their descendants is important. It helps everybody understand their collective memory as Americans. We’re the people here who can help you put these stories together.”


Saturday, November 7: Get to know the family in two lectures on family history and three workshops on the Archives, its records and preservation techniques in free sessions; lunch break with food wagons; free preservation kits, takeaways and door prizes; ticketing from 9am.10:00am-4:30pm, State Archives, Annapolis: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/homepage/html/
festival_lecture.html.