Welsh Roots at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington DC, 24 June – 5 July 2009
It was a pleasure to be invited as part of the 200 strong team from Wales to participate in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall. A once in a lifetime opportunity as only one country is chosen each year – Scotland featured in 2003, Northern Ireland in 2007 and Wales this year. Four of us from The National Library of Wales were invited to promote Welsh Family History because of the strong connections between Wales and America. The team consisted of myself as Family History Co-ordinator; Cyril Evans, Marketing Officer; Catherine Tudor Jones, Interpretation Officer and Menna Morgan, manager of the Wales/Ohio project.
We were to promote Welsh Family History throughout Wales not just at the Library and as the theme of the Festival was ‘Sustainability’, we decided to produce an information CD rather than have piles of leaflets that would probably be discarded. The CD including information from all over Wales along with The Really Useful leaflet produced by the FFHS, it proved to be useful as numerous questions related to England so we had to hand information about English family history societies to refer enquirers to.
The Library had arranged access to Ancestry Library during the Festival as it contained numerous British, American and international databases that were of great assistance to us and proved to be a great hit with the Americans.
We had enquiries about family history, Welsh history and the Welsh language, the number of visitors over the 10 days was 1,057,000; 3000 searches were made on Ancestry and 1800 information CDs were distributed.
For the children we had a large poster with maps of America and Wales and a tree and asked children to write their name on a leaf if it was a Welsh Surname and pin it to the tree. However, children of all ages enjoyed placing their names on the tree regardless if they had a Welsh surname or not, it was soon overflowing.
It proved to be a successful visit for Wales, especially for us as family historians, as it raised the profile of researching Welsh Roots in Wales.
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Beryl Evans, Family History Co-ordinator, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth