Library program promotes researching family trees
You just never know who might be hiding in your family tree.
The Friends of the Bonner Springs City Library hope to help people learn how to research their genealogy Sunday with their first-ever Friends of the Library Appreciation Tea at 2 p.m. at the library, 201 N. Nettleton Ave. Cheryl Armstrong, president of the Wyandotte County Genealogy Society, will be the featured speaker, and the Friends also will take time to recognize some library volunteers.
Armstrong said she will discuss how to start researching your family’s genealogy and offer tips on how to find an elusive maiden name. She said too often, people focus on researching paternal family trees.
“A lot of people say ‘I never trace the mother’s side of the family,’ and it’s like, why not?” she said. “Women were the ones who wrote letters. They’re the ones who made sure their sister-in-law got a picture.”
Those who don’t dig into the mother’s family may miss out on interesting family connections through the maternal lines, Armstrong said.
“You never know who you’re related to,” she said. “When I researched my husband’s family, I found out he’s related to Melvil Dewey, who created the Dewey Decimal System, through his great-great-grandmother. It’s kind of fun.”
But often finding a maternal line can be hard because women were often listed only by their married name. Armstrong said she would give tips on how to find maiden names, as well as how to search through marriage records, death records, wills and even some lesser-known documents.
She said she was able to find a lot of information about her great-great-grandfather through his discharge papers from the British military in 1820. She not only discovered that he was present at the Battle of Waterloo, she found out where he was born and his correct birthday.
“He was a lot older than people thought he was,” she said. “You just never know what you’re going to find.”
Armstrong also will discuss free online genealogy databases and local resources, including the National Archives in Kansas City, Mo., local libraries and the Family History Center at 87th Street and Haskell in Kansas City, Kan.
Carol Geary, president of the Friends of the Library, said Armstrong’s presentation and the tea is the latest attempt for the group to increase the number of activities the library offers, grow its membership and keep raising funds to support the library.
While the group has been around for several years, in the past it has boasted only six to 12 members. The group’s member count now totals almost 60.
“Since we’ve moved into the new library, we’ve really become energized,” Geary said. “We really are trying to do more to make the library more interesting than it already is. We have a very enthusiastic bunch now.”
So in addition to the annual book sale, Geary hopes the Friends can organize a fun library event quarterly at the library. The first event was in April, when Bonner Springs native Barbara O’Brien, curator of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, came to speak about an exhibit at the museum.
The Friends also plan to have a second book sale this year and each year from now on for the library — one in the spring and one in the fall. This year’s fall sale is set for Nov. 18, 19 and 20 in the library’s basement storm shelter.
The Friends of the Library Appreciation Tea also will include recognition of the library volunteer. Tea and other refreshments will be served at the event, which is open to the public.