20th annual Family History Fair helps East Texans learn their genealogy

Family history experts from across the country are coming to Tyler this weekend for the 20th Annual Family History Fair: “Discovering Your Roots & Branches.”
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:52 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Family history experts from across the country are coming to Tyler this weekend for the 20th Annual Family History Fair - “Discovering Your Roots & Branches.”

This is the first time the fair has been held since it shut down due to COVID in 2020 and organizers say they are excited to help people trace their lineage.

“There are a lot of people that have kind of a deep-seated desire to find out where they came from and so this is an opportunity to link them to their ancestors,” said. Michele Bailey, the President of the East Texas Genealogical Society. Bailey has been doing family history work for about 25 years. She said this event is a partnership between them and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“They can bring information if they have it with birth dates, parents’ names and grandparents names, great grandparents names, whatever they have,” Bailey said.

This year is their biggest fair yet with 16 breakout sessions and 12 speakers. Jill Taylor is with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said as a church, they are passionate about families and connecting people with their ancestors.

“There’s been many advances in the software used to trace family history and so we hope when people come they can see how easy it can be,” Taylor said. “That with a simple name and a birthday, they can connect to people that they love and to learn stories, to upload photos and just have that world come alive.”

Bailey said they have also started a special interest group for African American research and will have speakers there on that topic.

“It’s much harder for them to trace their lineage. It takes different tools and different skill set,” Bailey said.

According to the Pew Research Center, because of slavery, it can be difficult to trace their ancestry prior to the 1870 census. Records of the enslaved are often handwritten, poorly maintained, or lost over time. Topics include finding the best DNA test kit, writing your family history, and where to start in your family history journey.

“I hope that when they walk away they can go back and start searching their ancestors and finding the information that they’re looking for,” Bailey said.

This free event is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tyler Public Library. To register, go to https://discoveringyourrootsandbranches.com/