Genealogist John Kelley leads free three-part class

Where do you come from? Some upcoming classes led by John Kelley will be helping area residents explore their families’ pasts.

Kelley first got involved with genealogy about two decades ago. “I’ve been doing genealogy since the mid-1990s. First my own genealogy, then helping others with theirs,” he said.

A few years ago, Pierson Library reached out to Kelley and asked him if he would be willing to start teaching a genealogy class there. That led to a three-session introductory class. After the first few classes, Kelley realized that he would like to keep the class size at just a handful of students, due to the large amounts of online work involved. A smaller class size would mean more opportunities to offer hands-on help to individuals who were having difficulty with the online material.

The class proved popular, and more participants were drawn to it. The small meeting room in the library was becoming a bit too crowded. “At about the same time, people began asking if we couldn’t expand the classes, which were in the afternoon, to include evening classes. The library is pretty well booked during the two evenings it’s open, so we approached Wright House in the new Harrington Village about having evening classes there, and apart from parking difficulties there, it seems to work quite well. Then we approached the Shelburne Museum about trying the afternoon classes there, since in the new Pizzagalli Center, they have an excellent teaching facility.”

He said, “It does seem like an excellent partnership, and the classes are still free and open to anyone who wants to attend.”

Kelley views genealogy as an excellent hobby—one that keeps expanding as one goes farther back in time. “I have one branch that traces back to the Magna Carta in England, 1215, but above all it gives a real appreciation of what those who came before us went through: their hopes and dreams, the taboos and expectations they lived under, what day-to-day life was like for them, and so on,” Kelley said.

“I actually use specific timelines to give a better idea of what was happening at the time specific ancestors were living, since history is something that is often not paid a great deal of attention in today’s world. So often I think people discover some really interesting stories in terms of what their ancestors did, and it certainly gives a far greater appreciation of the world we live in today,” Kelley said.

A new series starts this month; the afternoon classes will be held at Shelburne Museum on March 22, April 5, and April 19 at 3pm. Evening classes will be held at Wright House on March 23, March 30, and April 6 at 6:30pm. All are free and open to the public. Register by calling the library at 802-985-5124.

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