Irish echo logo 750x550

Drew U. hosts family history symposium

By Peter McDermott

Genealogists were once the poor relations. Not anymore.

A conference at Drew University will hear that the walls between family and professional history are crumbling.

"Academic historians once looked down on family history," said Prof. Christine Kinealy, who is the organizer of "Emigrants and Exiles: A Family History Symposium" at Mead Hall on the Drew campus in Madison, N.J. on April 16. "But they complement each other."

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

She pointed to the example of one of the event's eight speakers, Dr. Anne Rodda, an experienced professional genealogist who last year completed her PhD thesis combining family history techniques with a rigorously scholarly approach.

"It makes history much more exciting," said Kinealy, who is a Famine specialist and most recently published "War and Peace: Ireland Since the 1960s."

The professor herself got work as a family researcher when she was completing her doctorate in Dublin. She has seen academics increasingly use techniques that had previously been confined to family research.

TV history, folklore and oral history have also been helping the discipline, she said. Historians know now that they're not just communicating with each other.

Nationally known genealogist Megan Smolenyak will be the featured guest speaker at the April 16 symposium. She will present her research on Annie Moore, the 14-year-old who was the first person to disembark at Ellis Island in 1892.

Kinealy will give a keynote lecture on the history of Irish emigration to America.