Speakers, seminars teach people how to trace ancestors

Library’s family history day unlocks stories of immigrants

Greeting people who wanted to trace their ancestors on family day were Burlington County Library System Director Ranjna Das (left to right) and volunteers Kumin Bal and Kelli Quia.

Except for Native Americans, America is a nation of immigrants – a beacon of hope with “streets paved in gold” to people across the world.

From the starving Irish during the Great Hunger to Jewish people escaping Hitler, to Eastern Europeans leaving Communist nations, the Statue of Liberty’s welcome or a landing at JFK Airport must have been overwhelming, an incredible feeling of freedom.

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That’s why hundreds of residents came through the doors of Burlington County Library in Westampton on Oct. 8 to learn more about the immigration of those ancestors.

“This is our second family history day. We had one before COVID in 2019, which was very successful,” said Ranjna Das, director of the county library system. “We hope people learn how to search their family history and share some of their own family stories,” added Das, who has  been with the library system for 20, 10 as director.

“This is another example of the great programs the library puts on and the way it uses the space,” said Commissioner Director Dan O’Connell, who expresses pride in his Irish roots. “The staff and the volunteers do a great job.

“In 2021, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Burlington County Library System, which started at the YMCA in Mount Holly,” he added. “We were the first library system.”

As people walked into the library on family day, they were greeted by Das, library volunteers Kumin Bal and Kelli Quia and Burlington County Library System Foundation members Carla Reinas, Ralph Shrom and Holly Srogota

“We support and raise funds for library initiatives like this,” Reinas said.

Attendees heard one of three presentations in the library auditorium, including “Finding Female Ancestors,” by Laura Cubbage-Draper; “Getting Started in Genealogy,” by Beverly Yackel; and “Navigating Family History for African Americans,” by Charles Lindsay.

“It is easier to find male ancestors because women often took their husband’s surname,” noted d Cubbage-Draper, owner of LCD Genealogy Services in Metuchen. “Also, they couldn’t vote or own land unless they inherited it, so they were not listed on county records.”

Her tips to finding female ancestors included “researching the men in their lives and looking for sponsors or witnesses on baptism and marriage certificates from church records.” 

Library system volunteers Katelyn Loven and Aleyna Kose were at family day “helping people to digitize old photos and documents so they can be posted on social media,” Loven said. 

There were several genealogy webinars, including how to use newspapers to reconnect with past family stories.

Family friendly events included the youth-oriented “Story of Rosie the Riveter,” by Trish Chambers, and “Family and Folks from Around the World,” by Michelle Washington Wilson. 

Attendees could also answer questions and save memories of their pasts during an interview to inspire stories about life in the county.


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