Latino Genealogy & Preservation of Family Archives

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Nancy Godoy, curator and librarian of the Chicano/a Research Collection, talks about the importance of tracing your roots and how to preserve family artifacts, photos, etc.

JOSE CARDENAS: Recently there was a Latino genealogy and family preservation of archives workshop held where attendees were taught to trace their roots and preserve their family's history. Here to talk about the workshop is Nancy Godoy-Powell, curator and librarian of Chicano Chicana Research Collection at ASU. Welcome to "Horizonte."


JOSE CARDENAS: You had this conference, how many people did you have going?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: About 60 people.

JOSE CARDENAS: You talk both about how to trace your roots and what to do with the artifacts that they may have.


JOSE CARDENAS: On the first part, 21st Century, a lot easier to do. We have a picture on the screen of somebody using one of these many data bases that are available. And this was somebody using it, I think, at the conference, right?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: Yes, at the workshop. So, we were using a few different data bases,, and and showing the people how they could search archives. For example, archives like ours, which is the Chicano research collection. We preserved Chicano, Mexican American history in Arizona for 45 years. We're celebrating our 45th anniversary. So, this workshop was a way to celebrate the history, roots, and culture, and we're trying to basically engage the community, educate the community, and empower the community.

JOSE CARDENAS: And what kind of reaction did you get from people like the gentleman here in the picture?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: They were waiting for something like this. A lot of the times it is really hard for Latinos to do genealogy research. So when I actually provided the tools, people were so excited.

JOSE CARDENAS: And part of it, I assume, is data bases.


JOSE CARDENAS: And there has been announcements about different data bases that are available. You don't have to pay for all of this.

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: Yeah, so, through ancestry, you have a subscription, and it is a monthly subscription. Family search is actually free. So depending on what your style is when you are doing research, you can use either/or.

JOSE CARDENAS: So many of the people in the valley would have their roots in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Is it harder for them to do the kinds of research we're talking about?


JOSE CARDENAS: And is that because the data bases are just not there as they might be in the United States?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: A lot of times you find documents archives, for example, in my case, I was able to trace my family history back to the 1600s. And the reason I was able to do this was because a lot of the Catholic church records from this period were actually digitized and put available online.

JOSE CARDENAS: Is that something that has happened in recent years?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: Yes, yes, I would say within the last 10, 15 years.

JOSE CARDENAS: Before that, it was just more physical research.

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: If you wanted to do the research, you probably would have to go to Mexico or see if anyone had micro film in the archives.

JOSE CARDENAS: Anything else you told the people attending the workshop in terms of the researching part of this?


JOSE CARDENAS: What other things did you tell them about researching?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: When doing genealogy research, there is different pathways you can take. You can search for documents that pertain to census records, Catholic church records, like I mentioned, baptism records, death records, also border crossings. This is through the Mexican and United States government. You can see when a family member crossed the border. I was able to find actually documentation of my grandfather who crossed over the border to work in the Bracero program. All of these documents are out there. You have to have patience to do the research.

JOSE CARDENAS: The picture on the screen, is not your grand father, but illustrates the other half of the workshop, how people should handle and treat their historic documents.

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: Yes, I brought a kit with me today. This is something that we gave out during the workshop, and it is a little starter kit for the community. We essentially provide materials that will help the community start preserving.

JOSE CARDENAS: You have a brochure with instructions.

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: Yes, the brochure has instructions, and it is written in English and Spanish and we provide basically four tips, easy tips to archival -- essentially archival theory. So, step one would be actually do an inventory of what you have. A lot of the times people don't realize that they have these amazing things in their basements and attics. Step one, do an inventory of what you have. Step two would be start organizing the material. Have family members identify people in photographs. A lot of times --

JOSE CARDENAS: A lot of it is communication. I want to make sure we get to the gloves cause we're going to run out of time. You also have a mylar, what to protect photographs?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: We have gloves you can use when working with photographs. Your fingers have oils that can damage photographs, and so we have mylar that protects the images and folders and an archival box.

JOSE CARDENAS: Another picture on the screen somebody doing what you say. Using the gloves and holding magnificent photographs actually. Once you found the photographs, you handle them with the gloves, and you put them into the folders?


JOSE CARDENAS: Other instructions about how to preserve these artifacts?

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: Yes, especially in Arizona, try to find somewhere where the light isn't an issue, and then also find a controlled temperature. We don't want something that is too hot or too cold or too humid. So, something as easily as putting something in your closet would be a good idea. But also create copies so that you can share with your family so it is not just you're putting things away. You are trying to actively preserve it. Make this a family activity. Encourage family to work on something like this together.

JOSE CARDENAS: It sounds like a bonding experience as well.

NANCY GODOY-POWELL: I actually did this with my family.

JOSE CARDENAS: That's great. Thank you for joining us on Horizonte to talk about it and thanks for doing the workshop.


JOSE CARDENAS: And that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and your Arizona PBS station, thank you for watching. I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Nancy Godoy:Curator and librarian of the Chicano/a Research Collection

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