November 8th, 2015

Genealogy Symposium Saturday, November 14th


It wasn’t that long ago that I became interested in genealogy – and at first it was quite daunting! I’ve learned that we have so many resources that you can use! One that could really help you is the upcoming 4th Annual Cecil County Public Library Genealogy Symposium.

On November 14th, from 9am-1pm, we will have three speakers all of which are designed to help people further their research. I’ll be the first speaker and I’ll be presenting “Exploring Library Genealogy Resources.” This lecture is designed to help people discover what resources are available at the Cecil County Public Library. There will also be two other speakers: Mary Mannix, the manager of the Maryland Room in Frederick County, will present “Thinking about Your Stuff: Estate Planning for Genealogists,” and Shamele Jordan, a genealogical researcher, lecturer, writer and podcaster, will present “Visualizing the Past: Mapping Your Ancestors.”
We will have tables with representatives from local and state organizations such as the Historical Society of Cecil County, Daughters of the American Revolution, Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the Delaware Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society.

In case you cannot make it to our symposium on the 14th, we have a great collection of books that you could check out that would be very helpful when beginning this search.

Genealogy online for dummies
How to do everything : Genealogy
Quillen’s Essentials of Genealogy : Tracing Your European Roots
Family photo detective : learn how to find genealogy clues in old photos and solve family photo mysteries
Troubleshooter’s Guide to Do-It-Yourself Genealogy

Another resource that might be of help is our Gale Online Courses which are six-week courses taught by professors and experts. These classes are free with your library card. A good place to start is our “Genealogy Basics” course, which introduces you to the basic concepts of research.

As always, if you have any more questions, please contact any of our librarians. We all would be happy to help you or to point you in the right direction. Hope to see you at the Symposium!

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July 13th, 2015

On Summer Nights and Skirmishes During the War of 1812

IMG_5931With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 just behind us, it would be a shame if this conflict slips back into the realm of forgotten history. With so many good stories and amazing personalities, this era deserves to be celebrated and remembered as one that belongs uniquely to Marylanders.

On hot summer nights when the heat lightning flickers on the horizon, my thoughts often turn to the battle of Caulk’s Field in nearby Kent County. Though time has changed many things, it hasn’t changed a good story—or the steamy quality of a Chesapeake Bay summer.

Caulk’s Field was one of the smaller battles of the war, a kind of prelude to the much more famous battle of Baltimore that would take place weeks later. Yet it was an example of the dire and dangerous times that Upper Bay residents lived through.

Imagine the British troops slipping ashore, intent on a deadly “frolic” with the Maryland militia camped nearby. Wool uniforms were not the most comfortable outfit to wear on a summer night while marching down miles of country backroads in total darkness. The Royal Marines moved as quietly as possible over the unfamiliar roads, carrying heavy muskets and cartridges, trying to keep their swords and bayonets from clanking together. Sound travels far on the humid air of a summer night, and any noise might alert the American sentries.

The Americans, however, were not about to be surprised. They soon turned the tables on the British and ambushed them in a moonlit corn field. In the first volley of musket fire, 28-year-old Captain Sir Peter Parker was mortally wounded.

On July 21 at 6:30 p.m., I will be giving a talk at the North East Branch Library about the “Heroes and Villains of the War of 1812.” Guess into which category Royal Navy Captain Parker falls? The young officer was hardly a real villain—unless you happened to be a Marylander living around the Chesapeake Bay 200 years ago.

The War of 1812 is rich with stories like the battle of Caulk’s Field, about clever Marylanders who fought back against a powerful invader. More often than not, the British weren’t so easily fooled or defeated—at least not without a fight. Just ask folks in Georgetown or St. Michaels or Havre de Grace or Head of Elk about that! Waterfront towns up and down the Chesapeake Bay were attacked. Even the nation’s capital would be captured and burned in the days following Parker’s death.

Fortunately, Marylanders had their share of heroes to thwart these villains. You have probably heard of the famous heroes like Francis Scott Key, but there are others: John O’Neill, who single-handedly defended Havre de Grace; Mary Pickersgill,  who sewed the Star-Spangled Banner flag; and even the boys who helped win the pivotal battle of North Point—and lost their lives as a result.

I think they deserve to be remembered, especially in summertime when so much of the action of the War of 1812 took place. I hope that you can join me this month to rediscover some of these heroes and villains from two hundred years ago, when that rumbling on the horizon wasn’t always thunder, but the sound of British guns.

David Healey is has written several historical novels and nonfiction books on regional history, including “Delmarva Legends & Lore,” “Great Storms of the Chesapeake” and “1812: Rediscovering Chesapeake Bay’s Forgotten War.” His website is

Photo by David Healey. This cannon in Havre de Grace marks the spot near where Maryland hero John O’Neill defended the town from British invaders in 1813.