‘The library has all the tools’: Chesterfield Library helping residents research their ancestry roots

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond comedian Micah White is all business when it comes to researching his roots.

“Curiosity,” White said. “I’m a very curious person anyway.”

That digging for self-discovery has him back inside a library for the first time in more than 20 years.

Chesterfield County Public Libraries offer ancestry and genealogy tools and it’s all free to use.

“Me becoming a family historian in a sense,” White said. “The volunteer family historian.”

White has been working one-on-one with librarian Lori Purcell.

“We all have families, we all have characters in our families, so it’s nice that we’re not judging,” Purcell said.

So far, White and Purcell have traced back White’s family ties for about 200 years. They’ve found photos, gravestones of distant relatives, and of course — family surprises.

“Genealogy is not quick,” Purcell said. “It’s hours and hours.”

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, White was shocked to learn he has roots in Jamaica. But also in Tuskegee, Alabama.

“You think about Tuskegee and the history of Tuskegee, how much came out of Tuskegee as it pertains to African-Americans and then to know I have a lot of roots coming out of Tuskegee is pretty amazing,” White said.

One of his ancestors was even a member of the famous “Tuskegee Airmen” during WWII. But White says he’s been most fascinated to learn of his grandmother’s ambition for education almost 100 years ago.

“Back then, African Americans going to college was very few far and between, but even further African-American women going to college was almost unheard of,” White said.

This one-on-one work with a librarian in Chesterfield is just one way to find those family ties. The county’s libraries also offer group ancestry classes.

All jokes aside, the comedian feels at home back inside the library.

“There are tools out there to find out about who you are, and the library has all the tools,” White said.

The Chesterfield County Public Library says minorities are the leading demographic when it comes to using these ancestry research tools.

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