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Family History and Genealogy Festival

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland State Archives is about more than dusty old books.

So, the staff is hosting a first-ever open house Saturday and showcasing - dusty old books.

But the Family History and Genealogy Festival will feature a lot more than a behind-the-scenes glimpse some of the rare documents in the archives' climate-controlled collection.

There will be guest speakers, free problem-solving tutorials on researching genealogy (called brick-wall sessions), tours, children's activities - such as making a family tree - and a raffle. Everything is free, including parking. There'll even be two food trucks parked outside for those who hunger for more than just knowledge (they're not free).

"Once you get in here, you can find all your family drama for each decade," said research archivist Maya Davis.

She planned the festival with Emily Oland Squires, director of research and education. They began work in January. The archives received a $1,000 grant from the Maryland Humanities Council for the event.

The aim of the festival is twofold: to help those already interested in genealogy further their research; and introduce those unfamiliar with the archives to its resources.

A lot of times, Davis said, residents walk or drive by the Rowe Boulevard building without realizing its purpose. Or they mistakenly believe the archives houses only "serious records," such as business documents.

"There's a lot (here) for individuals," Davis said. "One of the biggest things is for African-Americans."

People may mistakenly believe there aren't any records available if their ancestors were slaves, but that isn't the case, she said.

And even if you aren't from Maryland, people can still learn valuable research techniques.

"I'm hoping for those moments of reconnection," Davis said, "getting people engaged in the ... process."

And it can be a process - hence the brick-wall sessions.

"You can never stop working on family history," Davis said.

About 45 of the staff of 80 at the archives will be in attendance for the open house. There are seven speakers scheduled, addressing topics ranging from how to use court records in genealogical research to preservation of family photos. Tours include the conservation lab, as well as the storage areas.

Among the items to be raffled is a one-year World Explorer subscription to ancestry.com. A print from the Marion Warren photo collection is also available. Two paper preservation kits will be given away. Others can be purchased for $50 each.

Representatives from other archives and museums will also be on hand.

"The goal is grow the next generation of people who respect and love history," Squires said. "If we don't take responsibility for making young people care about these records, then one day archives will be gone. In the most basic sense, we'd lose a connection to our culture."

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