AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new genealogy conference starts Thursday in Austin, and organizers hope it helps preserve the history of the city’s and state’s black families.
“Growing Your Roots” is a four-day conference kicking off with a photo exhibit at the Austin History Center. The exhibit, “Our Community, Our Voice,” catalogs through archived photos the nearly-50-year history of the Villager newspaper, a publication that focuses on Austin’s black community.
The Austin Public Library is hosting the conference, organized by the History Center’s African American community archivist and librarian kYmberly Keeton. At a time when rising costs in Austin’s historically-black neighborhoods are forcing long-time residents out of the city, Keeton said, it’s important for families to understand their own past.
“When you look at Austin’s history, it can’t be forgotten,” she said.
Keeton organized the conference to give families tracing their lineage more tools to do so, especially those who have hit a “brick wall” in their search.
“Say you’re in 1875 or 1865 when slavery ended and you’re trying to find your family; how do you go back? How do you get back to 1845?” she said. “I will say that every question cannot be answered in four days, but we will be doing our best to ensure that you have something to walk away with to help you in your own personal journey.”
The conference has a second goal, too, she explained: to encourage families to start preserving the documents and records they’re currently searching for to make the job of tracing a family tree easier for the next generation.
So far about 500 people have signed up for the conference from all over Texas, and registration is open through Thursday.
Keeton hopes the event serves the same purpose as the library system she works for: “It’s all about knowledge. It’s all about people. It’s all about literature.”
“Why not keep the black story alive?” she said. “Why not keep the history of African American people in Austin alive?”
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