North Delta’s George Mackie Library. (James Smith photo)

COLUMN: Exploring heritage for Family Day

There are lots of resources available at the library to help you learn more about your family

By Frances Thomson, Fraser Valley Regional Library

British Columbia is one of five provinces in Canada that observe Family Day in February. The holiday celebrates families and family life. Delta celebrates Heritage Week in February. These two celebrations make the month an ideal time to explore ones personal heritage, and the library offers a variety of resources on family history.

For anyone interested in researching his or her ancestors, the library has a subscription to Ancestry Library Edition. It is available in the library only and cannot be accessed from home, but it is free to use. A monthly home subscription to Ancestry costs between $14.99 (for Canadian records only) and $29.99 (for worldwide records).

Ancestry is a valuable collection of census, vital church, court, immigration and other records from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and other areas of the world. A “learning center” offers tips and tricks from experts on various topics such as getting started, using the census and moving beyond the basics. There are downloadable charts and forms to help with your research.

I have used it a lot for my own family history. When he was two years old, my father moved from Scotland to Gary, Ind. with his parents. They returned to Scotland when my grandmother grew uncomfortable with the rise of American gangsters. My dad could not remember exactly when that was, but by using Ancestry’s passenger lists I was able to find the exact date and the name of the ship on which they sailed to Glasgow.

In It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree, journalist A.J. Jacobs explores genealogy from a biological, socio-cultural and historical perspective. Jacobs’ three-year investigation into what constitutes family began when he received a strange email: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.”

The journey took him to all seven continents, where he drank beer with a U.S. president, sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and unearthed genetic links to Hollywood actors. He provides information about genealogy and ancestry, the impact of American slavery on family histories, his own Jewish heritage, the reliability of DNA testing as a genealogical tool, and much more. Although the subject is serious, the author’s gift for humor makes it easy to read and informative.

Karin Bojs is a Swedish science journalist who grew up in a small family, and she felt this more than ever at her mother’s funeral. As part of the healing process, she decided to learn more about herself through DNA research. She succeeded in tracing her ancestors through recorded history and into prehistory, documenting it in My European Family: The First 54,000 Years. Realizing that her direct ancestors must have been living in the area when the cave art was painted, Bojs visited France. When a second DNA analysis revealed her Sami roots, she learned about her Viking relatives. It is a thoughtful, fascinating story.

Celebrate your own family heritage in February with a visit to the library.

Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit

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