Jax genealogy

Jacksonville Public Library Director, Barbara Rowell with some of her children books on genealogy. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

When Barbara Rowell was beginning to plan the Jacksonville Public Library’s annual October cemetery stroll, she had an idea.

“As I was doing research on local families for our cemetery stroll, I thought it would be a perfect time to teach kids about family histories during our summer reading program,” said Rowell, the library’s director.

The library will hold a free event on Saturday at 10 a.m. to help introduce children to genealogy, the study of family history.

Rowell said the workshop, which is aimed at children age 8 and up, will describe the basics of how they can research their family’s history. She encouraged kids to bring names, dates and places associated with parents and grandparents to get started.

Rowell will introduce kids at the workshop to viewing census records and military and ship rosters, as well as free sites that let users build a family tree, such as familysearch.org.

“I hope they leave with their notebooks filled and a good idea on how to keep looking into their family history,” Rowell said.

Rowell said she began researching into her genealogy in the 1970s.

“I’m a genealogy nut, as are a lot of librarians,” Rowell said. “In school, I was an average history student, but genealogy made history come alive for me.”

Rowell hopes Saturday’s event can bring family history to life for attendees. 

“Learning family history can make a kid see how important they are by realizing their ancestry,” she said.

Rowell said the study of genealogy has changed throughout the years, as it used to require traveling to visit different courthouses, libraries and cemeteries. 

“That is still important, but today with the internet, it makes it possible to do a lot of that without traveling,” Rowell said.

Saturday’s study on genealogy is one of many events going on at the library as part of its annual summer reading program.

This year’s program, “Universe of Stories,” is a space-themed selection of books and events designed to get people of all ages reading throughout the summer. 

According to Rowell, this year’s program has seen 853 sign up, the most for the library since 2014. 

For Rowell, the goal of the library’s summer program, including Saturday’s event, is to spark the interest of learning in kids.

“We want them to be interested in history not just for school,” Rowell said. “We want to build lifelong learners.”

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or danielmayesstar@gmail.com. On Twitter @DMayes_Star.