Explore Your Family Tree

Ancestry projects grow in popularity as more people connect with their roots


Published:

Photo Courtesy of Diane L. Richard, MosaicRPM

Genealogy might be a study of the past, but it continues to attract millions of enthusiasts in the present. In fact, according to the 2014 “Ancestry Global Family History Report” from ancestry.com, which compiled data from 6,000 people across the globe, one in three adults has turned to the internet to uncover information about their ancestors. Two-thirds of those surveyed say knowing more about family history is increasingly important. This Saturday, Oct. 15, starting at 10 a.m. the North Carolina Government and Heritage Library and the State Archives of North Carolina is offering a free webcast to North Carolinians about the tools they can use to track their family history.

Diane L. Richard of Raleigh, a professional genealogist at Mosaic Research and Project Management, suspects that the mobility of modern families contributes to a desire to connect with their roots, which have potentially gotten lost in the process.

“I’ve lived about five different places,” Richard says. “My kids were born some place we don’t live now. You don’t have the family stories, you don’t have the connections, you don’t have that sense of where you came from. In a way, that was always an anchor for people … there was a security to knowing where you came from.”

Moving around leads many families to want to rediscover their roots to understand more than just their branch on the family tree, says Meghan Bowden, a professional genealogist at Kinfolk Genealogy in Charlotte.

“I think for a lot of us (who research our family’s history), there’s just a curiosity,” she says. “Where did I come from, who came before me … and placing your family within the larger picture.”

Image of an Acey family immigration document courtesy of Diane L. Richard, MosaicRPM

Beginning Your Search

Setting out on your own treasure hunt to collect pieces of your family’s puzzle has never been easier. Below are some tips to consider as you begin exploring.

1. Start with what you and your relatives know. “You always start with yourself,” Richard says, as well as with your family and their stories. Bill Beyea, a father of two in Winston-Salem who has done extensive genealogy research, recommends writing down everything you can think of about your family’s history, as well as reaching out to relatives to see what information they might have. With thousands of potential members in a family tree, Bowden says “it can really get overwhelming,” but narrowing your search to a particular branch helps.

2. Find a way to make the search work for you. Beyea says the amount of time he spends researching his family comes and goes in “phases.” Growing up, his family would look in phone books when they traveled on the off chance they might find someone else who shared his uncommon last name. This was one of the seeds that grew into his desire to fill out his family tree.

Image of a passport document for an Acey family member COURTESY OF DIANE L. RICHARD, MOSAICRPM

“It was always a curiosity — the name itself,” Beyea says. “It’s a very uncommon name, and it was most likely a name that was spelled differently at some point, but the records don’t go back that far.”

He has traced the name back to a group of New York brothers, but the trail ends there. Any records of the brothers’ parents’ names have been lost.

“There has always been this ongoing quest — will some bit of information that exists somewhere ever turn up to crack that code?” Beyea wonders.

3. Look up local genealogy societies and county records. A last name also inspired Richard to seek answers through genealogical research. She has rarely heard of anyone else who shares her maiden name, Acey. She knew her father’s family was Finnish, but after his father died, his mother ceased contact with that side of the family.

Richard called a government office in the Massachusetts county where members of the Acey family had lived in the past to see if their records could help. The clerk who called her back said she hadn’t had luck finding anything about the name Acey, but she had found a paper mentioning another last name in association with it.

“Long story short, Kujanpää was the name they immigrated with and within a year, they changed it to [Esi then] Acey. That just opened the door to Finland.”

Photo Courtesy of Diane L. Richard, MosaicRPM

With only that nugget of information, Richard was able to trace her family back to their Finnish town’s founding. All because the clerk — a stranger — took a little bit of extra time to investigate for her.

“This is a massive puzzle of the world and we all have certain little pieces,” she says. “You don’t know where that will come from.”

The North Carolina Genealogical Society supports researchers statewide. There are also multiple local societies across the state, Richard says. The societies often have journals and newsletters that can help you think through research.

Genealogists are a very caring, sharing, giving crowd,” she says. “They love helping somebody get started on their journey.”

4. Search the web. A plethora of virtual resources exists to point you in the right direction. One of the most popular, ancestry.com, takes the information you have and tries to connect it with other records and family trees on the site.

Familysearch.org, a free site provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is another “great place to dabble” and explore records, Richard says. Other sites, such as myheritage.com also offer access to family-tree-building software and historical records. Findagrave.com can enable you to locate ancestors’ headstones.

“Ultimately, it’s helpful to use a combination of all of (the sites) if you can,” Bowden says, with a warning that ancestry.com is “not foolproof” and can easily lead you down the wrong path if the information other members have posted isn’t accurate.

5. Get the kids involved. Have children interview their grandparents, or help sort through family photos or keepsakes, perhaps making a scrapbook from their findings.

“Children really benefit from knowing those stories and feeling like they’re part of a larger family or a larger story,” Bowden says.

Bowden’s interest in her family history bloomed from grandparents who “both just loved to tell stories.” When she was working on a school ancestry project in elementary school, her grandmother shared with her that Pocahontas was one of their ancestors.

“As a kid, I was just totally fascinated,” Bowden says.

Later, she studied history in school and began to research her family’s past. Some of her most interesting finds? Letters exchanged between ancestors.

“Finding pictures or poems or things like that that you would never have known existed, you’re like ‘Yes, I’ve found this treasure!’”

Older children also benefit from this research. Not only does it make history personal, it helps them develop research skills, problem-solving techniques and experience evaluating the veracity of information, Richard says.

6. Call in a professional. Richard and Bowden consult with clients who want help tracing their family’s history. They offer a variety of services and packages tailored to their clients’ needs, and the research they do complements what you do on your own.

Laura Lacy is a freelance writer based in Chapel Hill. She fell down the ancestry.com rabbit hole while researching this story.

 

Proof is in the DNA

DNA testing is another way genealogy research has entered the modern age. AncestryDNA and 23andMe both offer tests that can indicate where your ancestors originated from, as well as potentially connect you to living relatives who have also taken the test. Both companies allow you to submit saliva samples from home via a $99 kit.

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July 2017

Kids can enjoy a free cookie with any purchase, and enjoy kid's books, chess, tic tac toe, and card games. 

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41 North Coffee Company
41 N. Main St.
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3603 Witherspoon Blvd., Ste. 112
Durham, NC  27707
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Raleigh Convention Center
500 Salisbury St.
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N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Ages 5-8 embrace science and nature while developing skills and knowledge about the natural world. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free. Donations welcome.

Where:
Judea Reform Congregation
1933 W. Cornwallis Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $9/child

Where:
Millstone Creek Orchards
506 Parks Crossroad Church Rd.
Ramseur, NC  27316
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Telephone: 336-824-5263
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From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: Free

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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: Free

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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Cost: Free

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Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: $1/member, $3/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-807-7979
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Whole Foods North Raleigh
8710 Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: $16/child

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Ages 3-6 enjoy fun games and drills. Call to RSVP.  

Cost: $5/child

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Fitness4Life
6701 Glenwood Ave.
Suite 103
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Telephone: 919-787-2250
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: Free

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The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Meet a real turtle and hike to see others. Play turtle games and take home a turtle made of rock in a terrarium you design for it. Ages 3-5 with an accompanying adult. Register online. Choose...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson Nature Preserve
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Join others for an easy-paced walk along the greenway accompanied by a naturalist. Registration encouraged. Choose course #203544.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Look under logs, in the soil and among the trees for fascinating little animals. Ages 2 and older with adult. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
Dorothea Dix Park Big Field
Barbour Dr.
Raleigh, NC
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
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From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Learn to fish. Instruction and bait provided. Participants 16 and older must have a valid N.C. fishing license. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet at the boat rental dock. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Meet a staff member at the information desk to visit one of the museum galleries. Have a look around and listen to a history-related story. Ages 3-5 with adult.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Listen to nature-themed books and enjoy hands-on explorations in the garden. Ages 3-5 with caregiver. Register online.

Cost: $3/child

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolia Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3370
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Ages 6-8 investigate the habitats and behaviors of a few of the turtles that call the nature preserve “home.”  Dress for outdoor fun. Register online. Choose course code...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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More information

Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

From alligators to opossums, come face-to-face with a new live animal each week. All ages. Programs start on time; arrive a few minutes early. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Search for lightning bugs and enjoy games and crafts. All ages. Register online. Choose course #203358.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Sertoma Arts Center
1400 W. Millbrook Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Attend a private pop-up event with songs for seeds at SnickerDoodles. Enjoy a concert and 30 minutes of private use of play space for all attendees. Space is limited....

Cost: $15 per child and $10 for each additional sibling

Where:
SnickerDoodles
3721 Lynn Road, #112
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: songs for seeds
Telephone: 984.219.2022
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Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Children with disabilities discover what's happening in nature on a stroll through Hemlock Bluffs. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #104852.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: Free

Where:
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706A Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27712
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Telephone: 984-219-2284
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Contact Name: Kidzu Marketing
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904 W Chapel Hill St
Durham, NC  27701
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Telephone: 919-830-8339
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Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Holly Springs Towne Canter
NC 55 and New Hill Road
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Telephone: 775-354-7437
Contact Name: Brandi McDonald
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More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Discover the rich history of the American Tobacco Trail. Take a walk through time to learn how people historically used and shaped the land in the park. Ages 8 and older. Advance online...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
American Tobacco Trail -New Hill Parking Area
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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North Carolina's food history and heritage take center stage for the day with barbecue and pie competitions, live music, arts and crafts vendors, kids' games, living history reenactors,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Meet a real turtle and hike to see others. Play turtle games and take home a turtle made of rock in a terrarium you design for it. Ages 3-5 with an accompanying adult. Register online. Choose...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson Nature Preserve
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Learn about dragonflies with a craft, games, songs, stories and a guided walk through the wetland. Ages 2-6. Register online. Choose course #203554.

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Families enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn about one of the most historically important crops in North Carolina—corn. Take a tour of the outdoor "History of the Harvest" exhibit, which traces the...

Cost: $1/member, $3/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-807-7979
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Mark Morris Dance Group brings their 1981 masterwork Gloria to the DPAC stage. With music by Antonio Vivaldi, performed live by the Durham Symphony, the North Carolina Master Chorale, and...

Cost: $16/person

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Street
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Mollie O'Reilly
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Sample classes, crafts and goodies for kids, and fun for the whole family. View a complete schedule of classes on the website. RSVP by email to info@gracefuldance.com

Cost: Free

Where:
Graceful Expressions Dance Education
312 W. Chatham St.
Suite 103
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Graceful Expressions Dance Education
Telephone: 919-758-6003
Contact Name: April Schweitzer
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Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
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Learn the basics of crochet. In this class, you’ll learn the starting chain, single crochet, half-double and double crochet stitches. Make a swatch which you can use as a dish...

Cost: $30 (tuition + materials)

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: The Scrap Exchange
Telephone: 191-921-31278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
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Explore what lives in a creek. Walk along the stream, turning over rocks to catch minnows and other creatures. Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes and be prepared to get wet.  Ages 5 and...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: Durant Nature Preserve
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2016-17 Education Guide offers 643 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.