Archives, genealogy group partner for 'Ancestry Day'

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Twenty years after he was a student at Florida State University, Atlanta resident, Stan Thomas, shook his family tree, and two of his fraternity brothers fell out of it.

Thomas said he was not really that into genealogy when he was in college. It did not come until later, when he started attending family reunions, that he got into finding out about relatives he never knew he had.

Well, as it turns out, two of the people he discovered in his family tree were not exactly strangers. "I found out two of my fraternity brothers were my [second] cousins," said Thomas at the Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta, as he took a break from researching people who owned his ancestors. "Talk about six degrees of separation. It just shows you should be kind to those you meet, because you never know ... Who knew?

"I knew one of them had family members from the same town I was from, but I never thought twice about it at the time," Thomas added.

A genealogy group Thomas is a member of, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Metro Atlanta Chapter, is partnering with the National Archives of Atlanta, to hold an "Ancestry Day at the National Archives of Atlanta" event on Sept. 18, from 9 a.m., to 4 p.m. The archives is located at 5780 Jonesboro road, in Morrow.

Presentations are scheduled to be given by Lisa Arnold, a content manager for Ancestry.com, and Reginald Washington, an archivist and genealogist from the National Archives, in Washington D.C., according to a flyer for the event. Arnold is expected to talk about how to use Ancestry.com, while Washington's presentation is slated to be called "Southern Claims Commission: A Source for Southern Genealogy."

The event costs $10, and people interested in attending, can register online at www.rootsweb.com/~gaaahgs/, but they will need to do so quickly.

National Archives at Atlanta Program Specialist Mary Evelyn Tomlin said there is only room for 275 to participate.

Emma Hamilton Davis, the vice president of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Metro Atlanta Chapter, said 250 people have already registered.

Both Thomas and Davis said holding this event fits into the mission of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, which, they said, is to promote genealogical research, and educate people on how to do it. "We're genealogists," Davis said. "This is what we do."

As a repository for public records, the National Archives at Atlanta sees its fair share of people who come around, looking to do some genealogical research. "About 75 to 80 percent of our visitors come to do genealogy research," said Maureen Hill, an archives specialist at the National Archives at Atlanta.

Hill explained that the facility has approximately 100,000 rolls of microfilm, containing copies of federal documents from across the Southeast, and another approximately 130,000 cubic feet of physical documents. She said there are roughly 1,000 pages of records per cubic foot, in the archives.

"We have some outlining earlier records, such as records of pirate trials, but we pretty much start with the Revolutionary War [1776] onwards," Hill said.

And, there is a variety of records held at the archives. In terms of military draft records, alone, Hill explained that there are Union Army draft rolls (for Tennessee and Kentucky only) from the Civil War, draft cards from World War I, and Selective Service registration cards from World War II, until the Vietnam War.

Other records include federal court records, coast guard records, naturalization records, cemetery re-internment records, family re-location records, Tennessee Valley Authority records, and slave ship manifests, Hill said.

People who come to the archives, to do genealogical research, can also search records on genealogy web sites, such as Ancestry.com, and Footnote.com, for free, Hill said. Outside of the archives, or even some libraries, a person would have to buy a subscription to use those web sites, she added.