Lecture Topics

Demystifying Eastern European Research 

Anyone who has attempted to trace their   ancestors back to Eastern Europe understands the special challenges and frustrations involved. Border changes, language differences, political considerations, and exotic-sounding surnames often complicate the research process. This session covers the most common myths/misconceptions and how to work around them.

Writing Your Family History Step-by-Step

As genealogists we often focus on facts and uncover so much information that our research produces nothing but boring lists. In searching for the “facts” it is easy to overlook how historical events influenced our ancestors’ lives. This workshop covers how to bring your family tree to life by placing your own family stories in an historical context, how to organize your material and divide your writing tasks into small manageable pieces, and effective ways to illustrate where your family fits in with local, national and world history. As time permits, participants will have time to work on a selection of writing exercises.

Researching Your Roots in the 21st Century

This talk will provide an overview of the necessary steps to take for researching your ancestors, including what sources (traditional and online) to consult, how to identify and locate the ancestral village (where appropriate), and tips for networking with other researchers.

Beginning Slovak Genealogy 

This workshop will provide an overview of how to begin the research process using both traditional and online sources. Learn how to identify your ancestral village, locate and interpret vital records, trace ancestors through census and immigration records, utilize the Family History Library, tips for contacting possible relatives, writing to Slovak archives, and how to find and hire professional researchers. The basics of organizing your research and strategies for overcoming the most common pitfalls and problems specific to researching Slovak ancestors will also be discussed.

Immigrant Cluster Communities: Past, Present and Future

There are a handful of “cluster” immigrant communities throughout the United States that blossomed during the immigration influx of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Exploring “cluster genealogy”—the process of researching those relatives, friends, and neighbors who lived near an ancestor—can often break down brick walls in the search for individual family lines and help to place our ancestors’ lives in historical context. For those descendants who’ve moved away from such traditional immigrant enclaves, 21st-century technology can be used to rebuild “cluster communities” in the virtual world. This lecture will cover: How to identify chain migrations/cluster communities using key records; ways to share and collaborate with other researchers, and the benefits, pitfalls, and obstacles associate with a shift to “virtual” cluster communities; and how to use tools such as social networking sites, Wikis, etc. build online genealogical communities.

Silent Voices: Telling the Stories of Your Female Immigrant Ancestors

While most historical records have been created for and/or about men, making it more challenging to research and write about female ancestors, this session will demonstrate: effective ways to discover your female ancestors and how to document the important roles their lives played in culture/society,  Various methods for writing about your female ancestors (from short, informative biosketches or profiles to writing a complete book), along with options for publishing your family history will be discussed.

365 Ways to Discover Your Family History

Serious genealogists recognize that they are never truly “done” when it comes to their research.  However, while researching our roots, we often find that the process can become tedious and even frustrating, especially when you stumble across the inevitable “roadblock(s).”  This session will discuss some of the ways to make the research process fun and challenging throughout the year, using your calendar as a genealogical research guide, and even how to utilize holidays to enhance your family history quest.  Presentation will offer innovative approaches to common research tasks to assist both the novice and more experienced researcher.

Virtual Reunion: Connect Your Family Online

This session will highlight a few specific ways to use your computer and the Internet to build and strengthen family ties. Topics will include: Using multimedia techniques to preserve family photographs, converting old film, audio/video clips to digital format, creating online family newsletters, digitizing scrapbooks, publishing an online family history and creating and maintaining family Web sites and more.

Find Your Roots Online

Did you know that more than two million genealogy-related sites exist on the Web? Computer use and the rise of the Internet have encouraged the already growing interest in genealogy, dramatically changing the manner in which research is done.  This talk will present methods for identifying and searching the most popular online databases and websites, and will includetips and tricks to narrow your searches for names, vital record and other documents.  An overview of the most popular online databases (free and fee-based) will be provided.

Crossing the Pond: Successful Strategies for Researching Eastern European Ancestors

A vast number of immigrants came to America from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Border changes, language differences, political considerations, and exotic-sounding surnames often complicate the search for Austrian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Rusyn, Slovak, Ukrainian, and other Eastern European ancestors. Traditional methods and online resources for tracking ancestors both in the U.S. and the old country will be discussed, as well as techniques for overcoming some of the most common obstacles and problems faced during the research process.

Three Slovak Women: Telling the Story of One Slovak-American Family Using Oral and Social History

While conducting genealogical research, it is easy to become absorbed in finding and obtaining facts about our ancestors and overlook the stories of how their lives were influenced by local, national or world historical events and conditions.  Often, the most interesting details are not found in the records or documents uncovered, but in the life stories of family members and individuals who lived through some key events in history such as the first two World Wars, the immigration wave or the Great Depression.

Three Slovak Women chronicles the lives of three generations of Slovak women living in the steeltown of Duquesne, Pennsylvania.  This session will cover how I used oral history and social history in addition to traditional genealogical research to flesh out the story of my ancestors.  This talk will also discuss how the immigrant experience, Slovak culture/customs, economic, employment and social factors shaped the three different perspectives of three generations of women and detail the oral history techniques and historical research processes used to build the story.

The Evidence! Following Online Clues to Solve Your Family History Mysteries

The Internet can often be the place to start searching for clues to our family history mysteries. This talk will illustrate a step-by-step research plan to search the Internet and get results, how to set realistic expectations and work through false leads and online pitfalls, and how to recognize the shortcomings for relying on the Internet for genealogical information and work around then to follow the clues track even your most elusive ancestors.  Sample case studies will be presented.

Packrat or Genealogist?  Effective Methods for  Organizing Your Family History Research”

Are you drowning in a sea of papers, documents, old photographs and other research materials?  This talk will cover how to organize family history documents, photographs, etc. for quick retrieval. Traditional methods and computer technology will be featured along with ways for distributing/sharing this information with others.

Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestors

America is a nation of immigrants, comprised of people who left home to find a better life for themselves and their families. Tracking down your immigrant ancestors can often be a daunting task. This talk will show you tips and tricks for locating and searching passenger lists and other key immigration documents both on and offline to help you trace your roots.

The Interactive Genealogist

Genealogical research in the 21st century is no longer just a solitary activity performed in the dark corner of a library or courthouse. Technology and the Internet have opened up the world to family history sleuths. This talk will demonstrate how to utilize the new interactive components of some of the major genealogy sites to build family trees, find cousins and share information. Specific tips for how to “make the Web work for you to advance your family history research will be emphasized.

Websites You Might be Missing

Just about everyone in the genealogical community knows about the commercial sites and other “heavy hitters” for online research. This session will discuss some useful family history web sites or databases that typically fly “under the radar” and a few cool tools and applications to help make the research more productive (and fun)! Talk will include a demonstration of several selected sites (as many as time permits).

Murder, Mayhem, and Town Tragedy

This talk, which includes a complex case study, demonstrates how to use Census records, funeral records, obituaries, cemetery inscriptions, historical newspapers, town histories, court and jail records, and many other underused records and sources to find the heroes and villains in your family tree.

Cool Tools for Publishing Your Family History

Now that you’ve written your family’s tome, what do you do with it? This presentation covers options for publishing your work and methods for sharing it with others, including: Booklets and family newsletters, Books (Self publishing options), Blogs, and more. The focus will be on utilizing technology and online publishing tools. An example of each format will be provided. Talk will also include a brief discussion of copyright/privacy issues and concerns.