Monday, October 07, 2019

Genealogy Expert John Philip Colletta to Speak October 26 at the Central Library

What: BPL 2019 Family History Month Keynote Workshops by John Philip Colletta
When: Saturday, October 26, 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library's Linn-Henley Research Building, Arrington Auditorium

The Birmingham Public Library’s Southern History Department is proud to present an all-day series of workshops Saturday, October 26 featuring nationally renowned genealogy expert John Philip Colletta.

Colletta’s four workshops in the Linn-Henley Research Library are the highlight of 16 free programs BPL is hosting throughout October as part of its 2019 observance of Family History Month. Frazine Taylor, president of the Alabama Historical Association, presented a workshop on how to research your family tree using Census records at BPL last Saturday.

Since being passed by Congress in 2001, Family History Month has been observed annually in the United States during the month of October to promote the importance of family and researching your family tree.

Colletta, who resides in Washington, D.C., is well known in Birmingham, serving as a faculty member of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University from 1996 until it relocated to Georgia in 2016.

Colletta has been an instructor and course coordinator for the National Institute on Genealogical Research in Washington D.C. and other genealogy institutes, and has written numerous articles and manuals. He has spent 20 years working at the Library of Congress and teaching workshops at the National Archives. Today, he lectures nationally teaches at schools and conducting programs for the Smithsonian Institution's Resident Associate Program.

 One of Colletta's presentations at BPL on October 26 will be based on his popular manual, Only a Few Bones, which tells the story of Colletta's great-great grandfather, Joe Ring, who moved his family from Buffalo, New York, to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, during the Civil War.

Colletta appears often on podcasts, local and national radio and television programs. He was featured in Episode Four of Ancestors, a 10-part BYU-TV series and its sequel. Colletta has received many professional honors, including a fellowship in the Utah Genealogical Association, and has won distinguished service awards from leading organizations such as the Dallas Genealogical Society and the National Society, Daughters of Colonial Founders and Patriots.

Colletta’s four workshops will be as follows, all Saturday, October 26 in the Arrington Auditorium of Linn-Henley Research Library:

Breaking through Brick Walls: Use your HEAD!, 9:30 -10:30 a.m.

When the path of genealogical investigation leads to a brick wall, it’s time to use your head. This lecture offers guidelines and points of methodology for overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, such as: several men of the same name; several towns with the same name; several names for the same town; errors in original sources; families with common surnames; insufficient or contradictory information. Six case studies demonstrate the principles.

Discovering Your Ancestors’ World through Maps and Gazetteers, 10:45-11:45 a.m.

The facts you discover about your ancestors did not occur in outer space. They represent real-life events that took place in a physical place at a particular time. Cartographic collections—maps, atlases and gazetteers—are essential tools for grounding all of your genealogical discoveries in the real world. This lecture describes different kinds of maps, current and historical, U.S. and foreign, and illustrates the broad range of information they provide.

It explains how to use Internet sites to locate cartographic collections in libraries, archives, courthouses, historical societies, as well as those available online in digitized format. Specific examples illustrate how maps form an integral part of thorough genealogical investigation.

The County Courthouse: Your ‘Trunk in the Attic’, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Courthouses vary from one county to the next. They may be congenial places to do research or dismal places to do research. They may be modern with records organized for easy access or old and totally chaotic. Some burned down once, some burned down twice. County clerks and their staff members differ dramatically in temperament and expertise, too. In general, though, courthouses are chock full of family information.

This lecture examines the full scope of their precious contents and reviews many resources for learning about the records created in your ancestors’ counties. Using courthouses, you will get tired and dirty. But you will reap a rich harvest of information about your ancestors, almost like discovering a trunk in the attic.

Only a Few Bones: Case Studies in Assembling Sources to Reconstruct Real-Life Events, 2:45-4:00 p.m.

The biographical facts we discover about our ancestors did not happen in a vacuum. Our ancestors were born, lived and died in specific physical circumstances at specific moments in time. To reconstruct their lives, therefore, the facts we discover about them must be “situated” in the proper historical context.

Three 19th-century case studies drawn from Only a Few Bones, a True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath demonstrate how to use multiple sources to assemble vivid accounts of ancestral events and generate biographies that portray individualized ancestors.

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