Easy Ways to Talk Family History Over Turkey

EBRPL Genealogy Tip

Based on Diane Haddad’s article in Family Tree Magazine. Supplemental information from the staff at the Bluebonnet Branch Library Genealogy Department.

Combine nostalgia, holiday traditions, grandma’s pumpkin pie and immediate access to a bunch of relatives, and what do you get?

An atmosphere ripe for talking about family history!

Thanksgiving is a good time to tell and listen to stories, get IDs for mystery faces in photos, and share your genealogy discoveries. It doesn’t have to be weird or forced—don’t announce “Time to talk about genealogy!” just as everyone’s settling in to watch football.

Here are a few easy, unobtrusive ways to start family history discussions:

  • Identify the “connector” at the gathering—the relative who knows everyone and starts conversations. Get this person curious about your research by sharing a genealogy discovery or a photo related to his or her ancestor.
  • Show off a photo of an ancestor who looks remarkably like a relative who’ll be there.
  • Over dinner, ask about family recipes, for example, “Where did Grandma learn to make pie like this?”
  • Bring up a Thanksgiving from your childhood: “Remember the time Aunt June used salt instead of sugar in the sweet potatoes?”
  • Mention changes to an old family home you drove past recently—maybe it’s on the market, or someone built an addition.
  • You probably have at least one relative who’s interested in your research. Arrange to show that person some genealogy records at the Thanksgiving gathering, and you may arouse others’ curiosity (but be prepared for people to ask for copies).
  • If your child or grandchild is working on a family history project for school or scouts, let him bring his blank ancestor chart and ask relatives for help filling it in.

What is the best way to start a family history interview?

The best tactic for oral history interviews is to ask open-ended questions (rather than ones with yes or no answers), and to focus on people’s memories and experiences. It’s much more interesting for you and the interviewee to talk about the stories and emotions behind the events in your family’s past. Use these questions as a springboard for planning your interview:

  1. What is your earliest memory?
  2. Who’s the oldest relative you remember (and what do you remember about him or her)?
  3. How did your parents meet?
  4. Tell me about your childhood home.
  5. How did your family celebrate holidays when you were a child?
  6. How did you meet your spouse?
  7. Tell me about your wedding day.
  8. Tell me about the day your first child was born.
  9. Tell me about some of your friends.

10. Describe your first job.

11. What did you do with your first paycheck?

12. What is your fondest memory?

Remember, family memories last for generations, so don’t miss out on this holiday opportunity to preserve your family’s history. Be sure to write down everything you hear and document your sources for use in your continued genealogical research.

Happy Thanksgiving from the EBRPL Genealogy Department!


2013 Relic Reading and Discussion Program: Creole Identity & Experience

EBRPL Book, EBRPL Events, EBRPL Genealogy Tip

Relic 2

Dr. Olivia McNeely Pass will introduce and lead discussions on “The Creole Identity and Experience” at the Fairwood Branch at 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays, April 18-May 23, as a part of this year’s RELIC (Readings in Literature and Culture) program.

The six sessions are entitled:
1) What Is a Creole?
2) Gens de Couleur Libre: Neither White Nor Black;
3) Gens de Couleur Libre: Between Privilege and Oppression;
4) Cane River: Complexity of Slavery and Race in a Simple Setting;
5) Cane River: The Persistence of Creole Family;
6) Creole Identity at Mid-Twentieth Century: Assimilation and Survival.

Readings will be taken from: The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice, Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization by Arnold Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon, Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana’s Free People of Color edited by Sybil Kein, Catherine Carmier by Ernest Gaines, and Cane River by Lalita Tademy.

Book sets are limited, so participants should pre-register by e-mailing ltomlin@ebrpl.com or by calling (225) 924-9380.
This program is funded by the East Baton Rouge Parish Library and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.


History of Scotlandville High School

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By Peggy Carter.

This past school year, the students from a class at Scotlandville Magnet High School were assigned the task of writing the history of their school. They soon discovered that there was very little written information about their school. So Pamela Donaldson, a Library Technician who works with the Black Heritage Room at the East Baton Rouge Parish Scotlandville Branch Library, and Elva Jewel Carter (Peggy), the Reference Librarian at Scotlandville Branch Library, decided to research the subject so that we would have some written history about the school. We decided to create an InfoGuide on a useful topic.

We gathered information from a variety of sources: newspapers, newspaper archives, books, and people. It took a long time to get all the information and check for accuracy since the school began in 1952 and changed many times to fit the needs of the community. Scotlandville Magnet High School started as a junior high school, evolving into a junior/senior school, a senior high school, a magnet high school and finally a three-tier school with educational programs for magnet and community students as well as an engineering curriculum.

The final result of our research can be accessed through this The History of Scotlandville High School InfoGuide.

Scotlandville High School Info

Featured Database: Sanborn Historical Maps

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The library subscribes to the Sanborn Historical Map collection featuring maps of Louisiana cities dating back as far as 1885. For Baton Rouge, you will find well over a hundred maps. The maps for Baton Rouge are dated May 1885, June 1891, May 1898, June 1903, April 1908, August 1911, August 1916, 1923, 1923-1947, 1923-May 1951. It is fascinating to see how our city has changed and grown over time.

Maps can be downloaded as PDF files, and are printable (just not for commercial purposes). On the database you can select the size of the viewing window, re-center maps and zoom in and out.

We also have a physical collection of historic Baton Rouge maps that are part of the Baton Rouge Room collection at the River Center Branch. To find out more about our map holdings please visit the Baton Rouge Room InfoGuide.

To access the maps you can go to EBRPL.com, then Online Databases, or go straight to the maps through the Sanborn links on this page. All you will need to access them is your library card.

Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore

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We have a fantastic Louisiana audio archive to share with you. The complete Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore is housed by the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Part of the collection has been digitized and is now accessible within the Louisiana Digital Library. In this collection you will hear oral history interviews, stories, jokes and musical performances. The collection is entertaining and offers a real insight into Cajun and Creole life over the last 35 years or so.

To find out more, you can also visit the website for the physical Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore.