October and scary go together; it’s that time of year when bats, ghosts, witches and other creepy decorations pop up on lawns and porches throughout the neighborhood. But what about all those skeletons in the closet? October is also Family History Month, and we think that’s the perfect time to delve into the good, the bad and the ugly of genealogy. In fact, it’s an entire month dedicated to poking around in dusty tomes at the library, visiting cemeteries and graveyards, and just generally digging into the past.
Your library has a collection of great resources to help you get started, and we’ve also planned some special Family History Month events to encourage you to celebrate with us. On Saturday, Oct. 8, we’re hosting Family History Day at the Burlington County Library. Sponsored by the BCLS Foundation with contributions from The Law Offices of Matarazzo & Lubcher and former Library Commission Chair Ralph Shrom, the event will feature speakers focusing on family history research topics, children’s entertainers and even document scanning. On Thursday, Oct. 13, genealogy researcher Eric Migdal will conduct a virtual presentation entitled Using DNA to Aid in Your Research. We’re also hosting Shining a Light on (Her)story, a weekly Tuesday morning lecture series offered both in-person and virtually by Dr. Jacquelin Agostini that runs through Nov. 15.
For those ready to trace their roots on their own but unsure where to start, we think the best resource is family. Ask your parents, grandparents and other relatives what they can tell you about their memories of the past. What was their childhood like? What did their parents do to earn a living? Are there any family heirlooms or photo albums they can show you? Our living ancestors are the best resource and most direct connections we have to the past.
Once you’ve found out as much as you can from your family members, it may be time to hit the books! Your library provides Ancestry.com access to in-house visitors, but we also have quite a bit more to offer. We have several thousand local history and genealogy items in our collection, with many housed in the New Jersey Room at our main location. While our focus is on New Jersey (and Burlington County specifically) we have an astounding range of resources at our disposal. We have books for beginners and introductions to the topic, archived wills with invaluable records, broad and general guides alongside hyper specific primary source documents. Our microfilm newspaper collection serves as a go-to resource for contemporaneous information about Burlington County, and our volunteer-generated index is a handy tool for finding leads. If we do not have the records you are after, we can connect you with one of the many historical societies and genealogy clubs available throughout South Jersey.