Searching for Your Puerto Rican Roots …Without Leaving New York

Friday, May 23
6 – 8 pm
Silberman School of Social Work
2180 Third Avenue and 119th Street, Room 115B

By Clarisel Gonzalez

Have you ever wondered about your Puerto Rican roots? Are you interested in learning more about your family history and how you came to be who are you today?

Searching for Your Puerto Rican Roots…Without Leaving New York is a community workshop, aimed at helping explore your heritage by learning how to trace one's family history and lineage as well as how to record their ancestral information. This event, co-sponsored by Centro, is open to the public, and is “for anyone with an interest in research and with a yearning to learn more about his or her own family history,” said Charlie Fourquet-Batiz, co-founder and president of the Hispanic Genealogical Society of New York, which is presenting the workshop. “I’m sure Centro will provide a captivating crowd.”

The Hispanic Genealogical Society has dedicated a website focusing on Puerto Rican roots because there had been a lot of interest shown by people specifically looking for their Puerto Rican story, a lot coming from second generation Puerto Ricans, Fourquet-Batiz said.

Fourquet-Batiz has spoken to diverse audiences from only a handful of people to several hundred about Puerto Rican and Hispanic genealogy. “We have gotten positive feedback; the interest is there,” he said. But he noted that he routinely encounters Puerto Ricans and Hispanics who tell him, “I didn’t know we could do that.”

The Hispanic Genealogical Society is working to change that by promoting the importance of genealogy to Puerto Rican and Hispanic audiences at events throughout the city as well as online via its website and social media channels. The community workshop at Centro, he said, is part of the society’s ongoing efforts

According to the society’s website, tracing one’s roots is a vehicle that helps provide a “sense of belonging and pride.’’ The society is committed to providing the knowledge “on a historical as well as a genealogical level.”

People research their family history for many reasons he said. “I started doing my genealogy because my mom had a stroke,” he said, adding that he wanted to get to know more about her and who she was as a child. “Sometimes they want to know where they came from, sometimes it’s for medical reasons, to find family members, to leave a legacy to their children or to write their own book on their family history,” he said.

At the workshop, attendees will get first-hand advice on how to search a family history without having to go to the island. They will get a better idea of “what is genealogy, what is available and where to find it,” he said. They will also be able to ask questions and see samples and documents of such things as old birth and church records and census data and get tips on how to navigate through the many sources available containing a family’s history right here in New York City, such as in Centro’s Library and Archives; how to read old documents; and how the Internet can further the research.

The Hispanic Genealogical Society, which has about 300 members largely from the New York City area, is a non-profit, public service and educational organization, headquartered in New York City. Volunteer staff members organize meetings, plan projects, provide instructional forums and host seminars. The society’s goal is to establish a library and research center in Manhattan where their extensive collection of reference publications and research materials will be housed. It works with such organizations as La Sociedad Genealógica Puertorriqueña, El Instituto de Genealogía Dominicana and The Puerto Rican Cultural Heritage House.

Membership to the society at $25 a year includes quarterly issues of its newsletter Nuestra Herencia, which publishes articles in English and Spanish, a beginner workbook and a membership card. The society plans to continue holding monthly workshops at different venues throughout the city. While the event at Centro is on a Friday night, the society usually holds its workshops and member meetings on Saturdays.

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