DNA and Family History

Now that you’ve received the results of your DNA test, what can you do with them? This class will
show you the basics of interpreting results to expand your family tree and to make connections that may have been hidden before. Join us at the Main Library at Goodwood on Monday, January 22 at 3 p.m. to learn about the big testing companies and how to download and move files to smaller sites. We will also look at some tools to help you interpret results and fill in the gaps. Space is limited to 10 in-person and 15 virtual attendees. Registration is required. To register, please visit here or call 231-3751.

Genealogy and Family History

Genealogy and the sources we use can teach us about far more than the bare facts of our ancestors’ lives. We can use these sources to add context, and understand what was going on around them as they lived their daily lives. For example, newspapers, the first drafts of history, show that some elements of the past are familiar to us today. The Advocate Historical Archive, available through the digital library on the EBR Parish Library web site, is a fully searchable archive of every iteration of the Advocate going back to the 1840s.

We have all been reading the news: An illness sweeping across our country; forced closure of public buildings; pleas to keep inside; a grim and growing total reported daily in the newspaper. 

This headline appeared in the Baton Rouge State Times on June 24, 1952: 

Just a month later, on July 23, this sentence appeared: 

This article also came with this advice from Dr. J. D. Martin, the parish health officer:

Polio in 1952, like COVID-19 today, was a frightening, often deadly illness. It attacked the muscular system, so many of those who escaped with their lives were left with mobility problems. Most of these victims were children. Unlike the Spanish flu, Polio outbreaks occurred within living memory. However, with a massive societal effort, and the discovery of an effective vaccine, polio has been eliminated from the United States. The last known case here was reported in 1979, according to the CDC. 

As you undertake your genealogy journey, you should contact older relatives for information about their lives. A good way to start a conversation is to ask about the events that they lived through, especially those that are similar to our lives right now. You might ask how it affected their lives, or if they knew of anybody who got the disease. These sorts of questions can lead to broader discussions of family relationships.

guest post by David Laatsch, EBRPL genealogist

Who Are You? Find out with genealogy research!

Have you ever wondered who your ancestors could be? Maybe you’re a princess, or a pirate! The library has access to many of the premier genealogy databases to help you get started on your search:

  • Fold3 can help you find your family’s military history.

  • Are you definitely British or Irish? Check out Find My Past.

Ancestry.com and Find My Past can only be used in-house, so when you’re done using them, why not stay for one of our genealogy classes? You can find a complete schedule in our monthly newsletter, the Source. There’s an introduction class coming up this weekend at the Pride-Cheneyville branch this Saturday at 1 PM!

Free Archive and Genealogy Classes

If genealogy, archiving or learning about history is your hobby – or maybe your passion, you won’t want to miss the FREE upcoming classes for adults hosted by the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Special Collections Department at the Main Library at Goodwood, located at 7711 Goodwood Blvd.


An example of a stylized family tree.

In *Introduction to Genealogy, held 7:30 p.m. Monday, December 18, adults are invited to join us for a beginner class that will cover how to conduct genealogical research, which types of records are used to track a family’s history, which databases the Library offers to assist your research, and what types of resources the Genealogy Department has in its collection to help you fill in the gaps in your family tree. The class will last approximately one hour and will include time for questions. To register, call (225) 231-3751.

In Researching Female Ancestors, held 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, December 20, we will explore some common problems that arise when researching female ancestors. We will discuss research techniques, explore records created by women, and highlight resources that will help guide genealogy research. To register, call (225) 231-3751.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Special Collections Department consists of the Genealogy and Archives Departments, plus the Baton Rouge Room. The Baton Rouge Room collects, manages, preserves and provides access to items that represent significant historical actions of local governments, businesses, residents and institutions of the City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. These items include but are not limited to photographs, manuscripts, documents, periodical publications, audiotapes and memorabilia. The Genealogy Collection focuses on southern states and includes and includes FREE patron access to microfilm of slave papers, legal records, city directories, plantation records, church records and passenger records, plus print resources including books, newsletters, magazines, local histories, family genealogies and vertical files. The Department also offers electronic resources such as Ancestry.com Library edition, HeritageQuest, Fold3 and other internet resources.

Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist

Judy G  Russell Flyer--The Winner

Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist, is an internationally-known genealogist, lawyer, and public speaker. We are proud to host her for three lectures on using genetic material to access and supplement family history, accessing and understanding slave records, and “the family black sheep.” Please call our genealogy department at (225) 231-3751 for more information, or to register.

Discover Your African American Roots in Special Collections


Guest post by Angelo Sideris

If you’re fascinated by Henry Louis Gates’ Finding Your Roots series on PBS or intrigued by all those commercials for Ancestry.com, then visit the EBRPL Special Collections Department and start your personal journey to discover your family history!

In the Special Collections Reading Room, we have resources that can take you hundreds of years into the past! Begin your journey at Ancestry.com (or our other great databases, like HeritageQuest and Fold3) where you can document your family in the 20th century with census records, military records, and much more. If your family resided around Baton Rouge or New Orleans, try our Newsbank database to find articles from The Advocate or The Times-Picayune. Don’t just look for obituaries, either! Newspapers will have birth and marriage announcements, graduation notices, and sports results.

Ancestry.com is only available inside the library, but the other databases are available from home.

And we have much more than electronic databases. Search the library catalog for books on family and local histories and parish courthouse records. Once you’ve made it back to the 19th century, the records are harder to come by, but we have plenty of resources to document your ancestry. Those all-important census records can tell you if your ancestor was a free person of color, in which case, you’ll find much more in court records.

Otherwise, you can turn to collections like the WPA slave narratives, published under the title The American Slave. If you want to feel like a “reel” researcher, you can go old school and view our microfilm-only selections from the Records of Antebellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Records of Southern Plantations from Emancipation to the Great Migration, and the Papers of the American Slave Trade.

But if that’s a little bit too advanced, and you’re not sure how to get started with all this, we have numerous beginner’s guides that you can check out and we regularly hold classes on databases and other genealogical topics.  On Wednesday, February 24 at 10:30 am, we’ll be teaching Resources for African American Genealogy at the Scotlandville Branch Library; please call (225) 354-7550 to register.  For information on other class dates and times, check out the Source newsletter or the Genealogy Infoguide.

If you’re curious how a researcher puts together oral history and historical documentation, read Got Proof! by Michael Nolden Henderson, who became the first African American in the Georgia National Society, Sons of the American Revolution as a result of documenting his Creole ancestry.

Find My Past: New Genealogy Resource

We are happy to announce a new resource for genealogy research, Find My Past. This is a database of family history records from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Also, you can search newspapers from the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world. You can even create a free account and keep track of the records you find and add them to your family tree. Another valuable resource available from Find My Past is the current version of the PERSI Index from the Allen County Public Library. This periodicals index has over 2.5 million entries from thousands of historical, genealogical, and ethnic publications and can help you find information about people and places. Most of PERSI’s articles are from periodicals covering the United States and Canada, but you can also find thousands of genealogy and local history entries (in both English and French) from Britain, Ireland, and Australia.

Full access to Find My Past is only available at the Main Library. However, you can perform a search and view other tools on the site from home. Visit  Find MyPast Free Resources for more information. And don’t hesitate to call the Genealogy Room at 225-231-3751 for research help.

find my past

Fold3 Genealogy Resource

Fold3_2011_logo_smallFold 3 is a relatively new addition to our Digital Library. This database is a great resource for genealogy researchers especially those searching for military records. You can access service records, draft cards, pension and casualty lists, and many other records.

Fold3 separates its records into several collections. Most records will be in the Fold3 Genealogy and Archives collection, but Fold3 also includes collections relating to African Americans, Native Americans, the Revolutionary War, World War II, and case files from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. You can both browse and search individual collections. Even if you aren’t looking for military records, you will also find access to newspapers, civil service records, city directories, naturalization records, and many others that may help you in your family history search.

To learn more about the features of Fold3, consider taking a class at the Main Library at Goodwood. For class times, please check the Genealogy Infoguide or call 225-231-3751 to reserve your spot!

Easy Ways to Talk Family History Over Turkey

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

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.