WXXI Education has pulled together educational support resources related genealogy, research, history, DNA and storytelling.
PBS LearningMedia Genealogy & Ancestry Resources
Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr Collection: The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Lessons in this collection are appropriate for 6-12 grade level students.
Connections Podcast: ‘Finding Your Roots,’ and the challenges African Americans face in tracing ancestry: Discussion with lead genealogist from “Finding Your Roots” about the challenges African Americans face in tracing their ancestries, about resources available in the process, and we hear from two women who found their roots. Listen Here:
- Nick Sheedy, lead genealogist for “Finding Your Roots,” season seven
- Cheryl Wills, award-winning journalist, anchor for Spectrum News NY1, and author of “Emma,” “The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills,” “Emancipated: My Family’s Fight for Freedom,” and “Die Free – A Heroic Family Tale”
- Teej Jenkins, Teej Jenkins, Rochester resident who researched her genealogy with her family. Teej is also a host of WXXI’s Arts in Focus and a producer for WXXI-TV of such series for the City of Rochester as Cultural Expressions and What’s Good Rochester.
Here are a few of our favorite FYR lessons and activities:
- What is a Genealogist and a DNA expert? (lesson by National Science Teaching Association)
- DNA and the Human Variation (lesson by Personal Genetics Education Project)
- What is DNA and DNA Fingerprinting? (lesson by National Science Teaching Association)
- Mitochondrial DNA Analysis (lesson by National Science Teaching Association)
- What is Admixture Testing? (lesson by Personal Genetics Education Project)
Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings: Inspired by the popular PBS series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” and shot on the campus of Penn State University, “Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings” follows 13 young people in a genetics and genealogy camp as they explore their family history and DNA ancestry with techniques never before used in an educational setting.
- Download Full Curriculum: Resources include an introduction to genealogical research from prominent genealogists, clips from the show demonstrating how personal stories connect to larger events in history, and brief historical introductions to key people, places, and events in U.S. and World History. Fill out the form at fyrclassroom.org/curriculum/ and you will be forwarded to a Box folder where you can download the full curriculum.
- Download At-Home Activities: Here are free eight activities for families and future genealogists to do to begin learning about their own family history. Activities include: family tree, family interviews, family migration, observable traits, DNA extraction, and more!
Faces of America: What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The lesson plans and media resources based on the series address a wide range of topics including historic waves of immigration, anti-immigrant sentiment, family genealogy, and state-of-the-art genetic research. Through this collection, students will gain a broader perspective of America’s immigrant history (both past and present) and learn what it really means to be an American.
Ken Burns’ The Gene: An Intimate History: This four-hour documentary weaves together science, history, and personal stories to create a historical biography of the human genome. It tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world’s most complex and challenging diseases. The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.
NOVA Cracking Your Genetic Code: What will it mean when most of us can afford to have the information in our DNA—all six billion chemical letters of it—read, stored and available for analysis? NOVA’s Cracking Your Genetic Code reveals that we stand on the verge of such a revolution. But what are the moral dilemmas raised by this new technology? Will it help or hurt us to know the diseases that may lie in our future? What if such information falls into the hands of insurance companies, employers or prospective mates? One thing is for certain: the new era of personalized, gene-based medicine is relevant to everyone, and soon you will be choosing whether to join the ranks of the DNA generation.
Other Historical Resources for Schools
Black History in Two Minutes: It’s Black History delivered in short, lively, fact-packed stories accessible to people of all ages and education levels. It’s fast, accurate U.S. history available in free video podcast recordings describing major historical events and introducing less well-known experiences involving Black Americans. The series is narrated by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- Also accessible on YouTube Black History in 2 Minutes Channel
Rochester Voices: From the collections of Local History & Genealogy Division of the Rochester Public Library, this interactive, mobile-friendly website is designed to engage a K-12 audience, as well as the general public, in the study of local, state, national, and even global history, by allowing users to explore the stories of Rochesterians who experienced the past first-hand. Combining the features of an online special collections catalog and interpreted digital exhibits with those of an exploratory learning laboratory, this site enables diverse users to interact with unique historical materials in a variety of exciting new ways. The original letters, diaries, interviews, and other primary sources that make up the Rochester Voices digital collections are held in the Local History & Genealogy Division’s special collections and those of its partners.
- 19th Ward Oral Histories: This oral history collection project was initiated in 2018 by the 19th Ward Community Association (19WCA). The 19WCA is one of the oldest neighborhood associations in the United States, having been established in the 1960s as a response to redlining and blockbusting, with a mission to “create, foster, and maintain a multi-racial community where individual and cultural differences are celebrated and where people share a sense of community.”
- African American Oral Histories: Dr. James Wright, manager of the Rochester Public Library’s Phillis Wheatley branch, commissioned a project to record the oral histories of African American Rochesterians in the 1970s and early 1980s. The project was designed to highlight the public contributions of African Americans in the greater Rochester area and to make that information available to the community. The interviewees represent a wide range of occupations, attitudes, and roles in the community, and they discuss a variety of topics from housing discrimination, segregation, and barriers to employment to the importance of community involvement and advances in civil rights.
- Latino American Oral Histories: In 2011, Dr. Isabel Córdova, Associate Professor in History & Political Science at Nazareth College, initiated a student project to record and preserve the oral histories of Latinos in the Rochester area. Her colleague in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Dr. Hilda Chacon, contributed similar student projects to the collection. Shared with the Rochester Public Library and available here, the Latino Voices collection comprises 66 interviews of Rochesterians with roots in a variety of Latin-American countries, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Colombia.
- The Frederick Douglass Voice: The Frederick Douglass Voice began publication on October 6, 1933. The newspaper, published by Howard Wilson Coles, was devoted to the activities, aspirations, and ideals of Black people in Rochester and the vicinity. Howard Coles used the newspaper to call attention to critical issues in the Black community.
- Classroom Connections: Here you will find a variety of activities and resources designed for students and their teachers. Developed with help from local educators, Rochester Voices follows the Common Core State Standards. The content of this site, which is differentiated by grade level, allows you to examine primary sources and explore humanities themes, while interpretive elements foster thoughtful analysis of these materials.
Genealogy and Local Partner Resources
Monroe County Library System (MCLS):
The Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County boasts one of the premier collections of local historical and genealogical materials in western New York, while smaller municipal member libraries such as the Ogden Farmers’ Library in Spencerport, the Henrietta Public Library, and the Penfield Public Library have built collections of materials relevant to their particular towns. MCLS libraries have developed collections and finding aids that try to make sense of the past in an effort to better serve local residents as well as visitors who come seeking their roots.Resources including the New York State Vital Records Index, Life Records, City and Suburban Directories, high school and college yearbooks, microfilmed newspapers dating back to 1818, and subscriptions to e-databases are held by the Central Library’s Local History and Genealogy Division, where Rochester Genealogical Society members volunteer as docents some evenings and Saturdays to provide extra assistance to researchers. (not currently during the pandemic) Connect with your local library to locate electronic services licensed for the public that you can use in your genealogy searches.
To learn more at the Genealogy Resources section of the MCLS website:
OWLL Library System Local History Resources: For Those Living in Livingston, Ontario, Wayne and Wyoming Counties
The Rochester Genealogical Society began in 1938 when several people at a meeting of the Rochester Historical Society formed an informal group to preserve their family heritage. The Rochester Genealogical Society became an independent organization in 1977.
The organization sponsors regular educational activities and encourages member-to-member support as well as community awareness of genealogy and family history. Its membership is comprised of people from all walks of life, who freely offer help or guidance to other members and the community whenever asked. Some members also volunteer at the Local History & Genealogy Division of Central Library and local Family History Centers to assist researchers or serve as speakers on particular topics.
Whether you are a well-seasoned genealogist or family historian, or are just starting out, we are confident that you will find your membership in the Rochester Genealogical Society beneficial.
Meeting and Events
Monthly programs are announced with information on the RGS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NYRocGen, and at the Society web site, nyrgs.org There are also a writers group, and a DNA interest group.
- WXXI Discussion Conducting Family History Research By People of Color with Rochester Public Library and Guests about conducting their ancestry research (Youtube WXXI 2021)