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Genealogy

Resources for researching your ancestors and your family history

Local and Family History Series and Genealogy Classes

All BPL events are free and open to the public. Registration is required to attend the events listed below.

Where Did They Come From? Irish Migration Routes

Thursday, September 29, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Online event (lecture)
Register here- https://boston-public-library.zoom.us

Passenger lists don’t always exist for early Irish immigrants to the U.S. and Canada. Surviving or existing lists may not provide enough details about passengers to reliably identify them. However, looking at broader migration routes out of Ireland and their destinations can provide historical context and shed light on immigrant origins.

Pamela Guye Holland lives in Swampscott, Massachusetts, and has been researching family roots found in Ireland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Germany for almost twenty years. She is currently the co-president of The Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA). Pam works for Research Services at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and as the US-based genealogist in the Green Room at https://youririshheritage.com/. Her research specialties are Irish and Genetic Genealogy. Her website is www.GenealogyByPamHolland.com.

Please note that we are requiring registration, as this event is happening over Zoom.

Daniel Shays's Honorable Rebellion: An American Story

Wednesday, October 5, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Central Library in Copley Square, Rabb Lecture Hall
Register here- https://bpl.bibliocommons.com/events/62ed4f7a76d18229006290ff

Join us for a lecture with Daniel Bullen on his new book on a different look at Shays's Rebellion.

On January 25, 1787, in Springfield, Massachusetts, militia Major General William Shepard ordered his cannon to fire grapeshot at a peaceful demonstration of 1,200 farmers approaching the federal arsenal. The shots killed four and wounded twenty, marking the climax of five months of civil disobedience in Massachusetts, where farmers challenged the state’s authority to seize their farms for flagrantly unjust taxes.

Government leaders and influential merchants painted these protests as a violent attempt to overthrow the state, in hopes of garnering support for strengthening the federal government in a Constitutional Convention. As a result, the protests have been hidden for more than two hundred years under the misleading title, “Shays’s Rebellion, the armed uprising that led to the Constitution.” But this widely accepted narrative is just a legend: the “rebellion” was almost entirely nonviolent, and retired Revolutionary War hero Daniel Shays was only one of many leaders.

Daniel Shays’s Honorable Rebellion: An American Story by Daniel Bullen tells the history of the crisis from the protesters’ perspective. Through five months of nonviolent protests, the farmers kept courts throughout Massachusetts from hearing foreclosures, facing down threats from the government, which escalated to the point that Governor James Bowdoin ultimately sent an army to arrest them. Even so, the people won reforms in an electoral landslide.

Thomas Jefferson called these protests an honorable rebellion, and hoped that Americans would never let twenty years pass without such a campaign, to rein in powerful interests. This riveting and meticulously researched narrative shows that Shays and his fellow protesters were hardly a dangerous rabble, but rather a proud people who banded together peaceably, risking their lives for justice in a quintessentially American story.

DANIEL BULLEN earned a PhD in American literature from New York University. He is the author of The Dangers of Passion: The Transcendental Friendship of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller and The Love Lives of the Artists: Five Stories of Creative Intimacy. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Applying for Dual Citizenship by Descent

Thursday, October 13, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Online event (lecture)
Register here- https://boston-public-library.zoom.us

While most countries base citizenship on place of birth, parentage, and marriage, some countries also offer citizenship by descent—meaning if you have ancestors who were citizens of that country two, three, or even four generations back, you might qualify for dual citizenship! Two well-known examples are Italy and Ireland. In this webinar, New England Historic Genealogical Society's Senior Genealogist Rhonda R. McClure will go over the requirements involved for these two countries, gathering documentation, applying—and waiting—for dual citizenship.

Rhonda R. McClure, Senior Genealogist, is a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer. Before joining American Ancestors/NEHGS in 2006, she ran her own genealogical business for 18 years. She was a contributing editor for Heritage Quest MagazineBiography magazine and was a contributor to The History Channel Magazine and American History Magazine. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of twelve books including the award-winning The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online GenealogyFinding your Famous and Infamous Ancestors and Digitizing Your Family History. She is the editor of the soon to be released 6th edition of the Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research. When she isn’t researching and writing about family history, she spends her time writing about ice hockey, covering collegiate to NHL teams and a couple of international teams. Her work has allowed her the privilege of attending and covering the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Please note that we are requiring registration, as this event is happening over Zoom.

Genealogy: Using Vital Records to Research Your Ancestors

Wednesday, October 19, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Online event (class)
Register here- https://boston-public-library.zoom.us

Vital records are some of the most basic records that can be used in genealogy, they can provide numerous leads for further research. This class will provide information about what vital records are, how they are useful, and how to access them.

Please note that we are requiring registration as this event is happening over Zoom.

The Great Boston Fire: The Inferno That Nearly Incinerated the City

Wednesday, November 9, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Central Library in Copley Square, Rabb Lecture Hall
Register here- https://bpl.bibliocommons.com/events/62e83a219797ff360075eda2

Join us on the 150th anniversary of the Great Boston Fire with local author Stephanie Schorow as she recounts the event's history, from the foolish decisions that precipitated it, to the heroics of firefighters who fought it.

For two days in November 1872, a massive fire swept through Boston, leaving the downtown in ruins and the population traumatized. Coming barely a year after the infamous Chicago fire, Boston’s inferno turned out to be one of the most expensive fires per acre in U.S. history. Yet today few are aware of how close Boston came to destruction. Both the book and presentation are lavishly illustrated with period artwork and photographs. Published just before the fire’s 150th anniversary, The Great Boston Fire captures the drama of a life-and-death battle in the heart of the city.

Stephanie Schorow is a journalist, writing instructor, and the author of eight nonfiction books on a variety of topics in Boston history. They include: The Great Boston Fire: The Inferno that Nearly Incinerated the City (Globe Pequot)Inside the Combat Zone: The Stripped Down Story of Boston's Most Notorious Neighborhood (Union Park Press); and Drinking Boston: A History of the City and its Spirits (Union Park Press), and, with Beverly Ford, The Boston Mob Guide: Hitmen, Hoodlum and Hideouts. She will publish an updated version of her 2005 book The Cocoanut Grove Fire: A Boston Tragedy in November. Her novel Cat Dreaming will be published in 2023 by Small Town Girl Press. She shares her home in Medford with two cats that like to walk over her keyboard when she is typing.

DNA & Your Family Tree

Thursday, November 10, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Online event (lecture)
Register here- https://boston-public-library.zoom.us

DNA is a powerful tool to confirm a lineage for those who know their family history and for those who don’t, it can be life-changing. Learn about the most popular DNA tools and techniques available to researchers today. Join us to explore challenges and successes in the modern world of genealogy.

Jennifer Zinck, CG® is a genealogical researcher, speaker, and educator with a passion for learning and applying genealogy standards to help reclaim lost and forgotten stories of our ancestors. Jennifer earned her credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists in 2021. She serves as the President of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists. Jennifer is a member of the faculty of the Boston University Center for Professional Education Genealogy Studies Program. She enjoys sharing her contagious enthusiasm for family history with people of all ages.

Please note that we are requiring registration, as this event is happening over Zoom.

Genealogy: Newspapers and Print Resources

Wednesday, November 16, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Online event (class)
Register here- https://boston-public-library.zoom.us

This class will provide information about how to use newspapers for family history research and give a basic overview of some useful print resources held by the BPL. We will be looking primarily at resources that can be accessed online, either via a BPL database or on the Internet.

Please note that we are requiring registration as this event is happening over Zoom.

Genealogy: U.S. Military Records

Wednesday, December 14, 2022
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Online event (class)
Register here- https://boston-public-library.zoom.us

Military records can offer a fuller picture of an ancestor’s life. As largely government produced records, they are also easily accessible if you know where to look. This class will offer an overview of what kinds of U.S. military records are available and how to access them.

Please note that we are requiring registration as this event is happening over Zoom.