Arkansas is celebrating October’s Family History Month with a variety of related activities, presentations, and a music festival that showcase the state’s diverse heritage and inspire us to research genealogy.
Starting early in the month, Queen Wilhelmina State Park was the location for a genealogy seminar hosted by the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives (SARA). Held October 5 near Mena, it was “Behind the Scenes: How to Start Researching Your Family History.” The workshop introduced basic genealogy research.
“In order to form a more perfect union” comes to mind with a creative and striking new Arkansas symbol. Women’s Suffrage Centennial Plaza in Little Rock now features a commemorative bronze sculpture that shows female suffragists standing together.The monument was unveiled this month in Little Rock’s Riverfront Park to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Arkansas adopting the 19th Amendment.
Were women in your family suffrage activists, supporters, or opponents? Research them at the Arkansas State Archives, local libraries, and other facilities.
The Clinton Presidential Center has been celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, reminding us of a group that has contributed much to the state’s history. Were Hispanics among your ancestors? On Oct. 12, the center hosted a family event that kicked off with the Oscar-winning movie “Coco.” Guests also saw the center’s current temporary exhibit “José Sacal: A Universal Mexican.” Sacal is internationally renowned for contemporary sculptural art.
And following the opening of its interesting new Little Italy Arkansas Heritage Museum last month in Roland, Little Italy’s 92nd Annual Italian Festival was held October 13. This longtime tradition included a spaghetti dinner, bingo, silent auction, crafts, children’s games, raffle, and homemade Italian treats. Especially if your ancestors were Italian, the Heritage Museum may have photos and artifacts of interest for research.
The Arkansas Genealogical Society will host its statewide annual fall seminar Oct. 18 and 19 at the Benton Event Center. It will feature UALR’s Dr. Brian K. Mitchell Friday evening and “The Legal Genealogist,” Judy Russell for Saturday’s programming. Please see details here for times and registration.
A famous Arkansas musical family holds its own annual heritage festival this month. The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival will be held on the grounds of the boyhood home in Dyess in eastern Arkansas Oct. 17-19.
This benefit event raises funds to continue the mission of “bringing attention to the rich history of my father in the Arkansas Delta and the New Deal-era colony in which he was raised,” says musician Rosanne Cash. The festival includes an academic symposium, regional evening music, special panels and speakers on Friday afternoon, and an outstanding Saturday afternoon of music and memories.
Lineage groups that hold family research information are also active in October. The Re-Dedication of the Arkansas State Capitol War of 1812 Memorial Fountain (celebrating the services of 634 patriots added to the fountain) is scheduled for October 22.
The War of 1812 Memorial Fountain was erected in 1917. Inscribed with the names of 59 War of 1812 patriots buried in Arkansas, this 2019 addition of 634 names of patriots was made possible by the National Society United States Daughters of 1812.
If you had military ancestors, you may research them through the many lineage societies that document their genealogy for new applicants’ memberships.
The Arkansas State Archives will present a free symposium, “1819-1836: A History of Territorial Arkansas,” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History in Little Rock.
Speakers at the symposium will include: Theo Witsell, chief of research and inventory of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, who will discuss the Thomas Nuttall exploration of Arkansas; Dr. Charles Bolton, emeritus history professor at UALR, who will present “Federal Aid and the Infrastructure of Arkansas Territory;” Callie Williams, education outreach coordinator with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, who will talk about Territorial era buildings; and historian Gary Pinkerton talking about Trammel’s Trace.
Also on Oct. 26, there will be a fall field trip to historic Oakland/Fraternal Cemetery at2101 Barber Ave., Little Rock from 9-11 a.m. Sexton & cemetery expert JohnRains will demonstrate and then teach participants how to witch graves & probe for grave markers with an overview of cleaning. A $10 donation is recommended, and the Heritage Seekers Genealogy Club is the organizer. Much unexpected family history about groups of family members is often revealed in cemeteries and their associated records.
The festivals, commemorative sculptures, seminars, field trips, and dedications remind us of the unique, varied pathways to explore to find family history research resources and learn about ancestor culture for our growing family trees.
Jeanne Rollberg is a genealogy specialist with American Dream Genealogy and Research who serves on the boards of the Friends of the Arkansas State Archives and the Arkansas Genealogical Society. She teaches genealogy classes at LifeQuest of Arkansas and the Arkansas Extended Learning Center.