Genealogy websites

Gateway to a Dream, Leominster Public Library to host genealogy program

LEOMINSTER — It may be a small island, but Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor, has had a huge impact on how we see America today.

Ellis Island was opened on New Years Day in 1892 and over the years over 20 million people have been treated by the stations.

The island was also used as a deportation point.

“When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Ellis Island became a Coast Guard station,” said Diane M. Sanabria, local history and genealogy librarian at the Leominster Public Library. “It closed on November 12, 1954 and was declared a national park in 1956. After years of disuse it was restored and in 1990 it was reopened as a museum.”

For people with ancestors whose first experience of America was at Ellis Island, they might not want to miss “Ellis Island: Gateway to a Dream,” which will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 23 in the Leominster Community Hall. Public Library, 30 West St.

This program will be presented by genealogist Seema-Jayne Kenney, who is the founder of Ancestral Books, Legacy & Education.

“Seema-Jayne will explore the island’s history and American immigration history, including other inspection sites,” Sanabria said. “She will talk about who was processed at Ellis Island and what it involved, as well as how immigration laws have affected the island.”

Kenney started in the field of genealogy after completing the Genealogy Research Certificate Program at Boston University’s Center for Professional Education in 2010.

She is a member of several genealogy societies, has been a speaker at local conferences, and presents webinars on various genealogy topics.

“I started exploring my family history when I was still in high school,” Kenney said. “My paternal family roots run deep in colonial New England, particularly in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine.”

Kenney says his European roots include English, German and Swedish, with further research “recently adding a branch to my Dutch family tree”.

“This program is sponsored by the Friends of Leominster Public Library, a wonderful group that funds so many extras at the library, including museum passes and programs like this,” Sanabria said.

The Ellis Island Program is presented in partnership with the Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society, a local organization dedicated to promoting interest in genealogy and family history and serving as a resource for the exchange of genealogical information.

The society also publishes genealogical and historical information in its newsletter “The Searchers” and always welcomes new members.

Sanabria says the library’s partnership with the Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society has produced wonderful programs in the past on a variety of genealogical and historical topics.

“The most popular are the in-person help sessions in the local library history room,” she said, which take place the first and third Saturdays of each month from 10 a.m. to noon.

Sanabria urges library patrons to bring “your questions, your brick walls and your curiosity, and the society’s amazing volunteers will help you whatever your level,” she said.

Beginners and seasoned pros alike are all welcome to attend these in-person help sessions and attend programs such as “Ellis Island: Gateway to a Dream.”

“The promise of Ellis Island continues to resonate, more than ever, with people around the world fleeing war, political persecution, economic hardship and environmental disaster,” Sanabria said. “They come to this country today for the same reason immigrants came to Ellis Island more than a century ago: America is still a beacon of hope and opportunity for the world.”

Light refreshments will be served.

For more information about this and other library programs, call the Leominster Public Library at 978-534-7522 or visit