Home Feature Articles Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall 2017

Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall 2017

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Just a couple of months ago, in honor of our annual Boone Day celebration, KHS hosted an amazing family history event called Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall. For those of you who missed out on the energy and excitement provided by over 200 attendees, you’ll want to pay close attention to this report as plans are in the works to bring back this event next year!  

Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall Guest Host: D. Joshua Taylor

The planning for Town Hall began over a year ago, with concept and guest host availability. Did we mention that D. Joshua Taylor from PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow was our guest host this year? He did an amazing job and taught us a lot about flow during the reveals. Our family history reveals were based on Kentucky family history mysteries, which we called for in October of 2016. Over 111 families submitted their most challenging brick walls for our genealogists to bust through – and bust through we did! After reviewing these entries, we narrowed down our focus to three families: One from the Hickman/Fuller County area, another from the Maysville/Mason County area, and the third from the Breathitt/Clay County areas. After many months of research, we invited the families here to KHS so they could be filmed as Josh revealed the findings of the genealogists. All reveals were filmed before a live studio audience – and the gasps were audible when the most intriguing segments were revealed!

Joanna Hay interviewing members of the Mefford family after Josh’s reveal on stage.

In addition to Josh’s role as our main presenter, we would also like to thank Dr. Gerald Smith – University of Kentucky Professor, Elaine Kuhn – Librarian at the Kenton County Public Library, and Joanna Hay – talent from Joanna Hay Productions. All of these talented individuals helped with presenting special components of the stories. The event also included an exhibitor expo, lineage luncheon, with various lectures going on throughout the day. We would like to thank our local organizations for their participation in the expo hall – they provided some wonderful information and definitely contributed to the festive atmosphere – after all, researching your family is FUN!

Exhibitor Expo in Commonwealth Hall

For now, we’ll have to keep quiet about some elements of the family history mystery reveals because the filming that took place is in post production and will be available to viewers soon. Be watching KAO and the KHS main website for future announcements regarding these filmed segments. 

Walter Bowman of KDLA handing criminal case files to KHS Library Technician/Genealogist, Linda Colston

As for the reveal segments, they told shortened versions of the family stories since we really couldn’t fit all of the research into a few minutes. The work that went into putting these stories together took most of the previous year with lots of help from several folks. We researched here in the KHS library, made many trips to KDLA for court records (Thanks, Walter!) and even had a researcher on the ground in Washington D.C. at the National Archives. For further assistance, we hired an intern, University of Kentucky graduate student Bill Burchfield. He was assigned many projects, from early elimination round investigation, to pulling additional newspapers and maps from UK’s collection. As much as the work consumed us, we all had an extraordinary time, and would love to have the opportunity to take on this challenge again for next year!

With all of the research that went into the reveals, we uncovered several other stories that branched off of the trees we were climbing. So, be watching KAO for additional articles about some of the deeper family stories we uncovered over the past year. Some of the topics we’ll be covering from Town Hall research include: An enslaved family and their position of limbo in the court system, court records providing examples of genealogies found in witness testimonies, and epidemic reports as a method for tracking family tragedies.
What’s next for Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall? Stay tuned for further announcements. The filmed segments are nearing production end, and planning is underway for another event next summer – if that happens, another family history mystery all call will be announced within the next couple of weeks. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to have your family history mystery solved by our team of genealogists!

KHS Genealogists with host, D. Joshua Taylor. L-R: Bill Burchfield (UK Grad Student Intern), Cheri Daniels (KHS, Head of Reference Services), Linda Colston (KHS, Library Technician/Genealogist), D. Joshua Taylor (Host, PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow and President of the NYG&B), Louise Jones (KHS, Director of Research Experience)


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  1. wrote on October 18th, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    William Goodwin Speed jr

    18 Oct 2017
    Thank you for the worthy work you do.
    I am just starting, what i expect will be a several year project to update for republication my father’s copy of Thomas Speed’s 1892 book “Records and Memorials of the Speed Family” published in Louisville.
    While it covers nine branches descended from John Speed in Mecklenburg Va., it focuses primarily on the Kentucky Speeds descended from Capt James Speed who came over in 1782 having thousands of acres of warrants for land compensation earned during service in Virginia military.
    I am also using Orman L. Speed’s “Descendants of John Speed” website to improve its genealogical data.

    I’d appreciate your advice on best online genealogical and historical resources for Kentucky families from 1782- present and access.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    all the best,
    w speed
    328 Ilimalia Loop
    Kailua, Oahu, Hawai`i 96734

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