Thursday, May 25, 2017

Researching African American Genealogy?

Our African American Research Track Can Help!

We are pleased to offer a conference track focused on African American research at the FGS 2017 National Conference. 

On Friday, September 1, speakers will present on a variety of specialized topics designed to help family history researchers trace elusive African American ancestors and break through brick walls.

Deborah Abbott, PhD

Deborah Abbott, PhD, is a genealogist specializing in African American research, genealogy methodology, and manuscript collections. She is an instructor at IGHR and SLIG and a trustee for the Ohio Genealogical Society.

A Methodical Approach to Slave Research: A Case Study

Identifying slave families and their slaveholders can be challenging, but not impossible. Bridging the gap between the slavery era and freedom requires patience and perseverance. This case study begins with the 1940 census and shows how information from all preceding censuses led to documents that revealed the identity of the slaveholder.
  • Time: 9:30-10:30 AM
  • Skill level: Beginner, intermediate, advanced

Wevonneda Minis

Wevonneda Minis lectures on research methodology, finding African American ancestors, South Carolina, and Georgia. She is ISFHWE president and a Gen Proof Study Group mentor.

Enslaved African Americans in White Church Records: An Overlooked Source

Slaves often attended their owners’ churches. Learn to use records of those churches for details about a slave’s parents, owners, attendance, dismissal, sale, and more.
  • Time: 8:00-9:00 AM
  • Skill level: Intermediate

James Dent Walker Memorial Lecture: Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts: A Closer Look

Researching Freedmen’s Bureau labor contracts can provide more than lists of ancestors’ names. Analyzing them can yield information with evidence to solve genealogical problems.
  • Time: 3:30-4:30 PM
  • Skill level: Intermediate

Judy G. Russell JD, CG, CGL

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, is The Legal Genealogist and provides expert guidance through the murky territory where law, history, and genealogy come together.

“Deemed a Runaway”: Black Laws of the North

Slavery’s force was felt far north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and the Black Laws of northern states created valuable records for tracing African American families.
  • Time: 2:00-3:00
  • Skill level: Beginner, intermediate, advanced

Ari Wilkins

Ari Wilkins is a genealogist and a member of Dallas Public Library’s genealogy staff. She formerly served on the Texas State Genealogical Society’s executive committee.

Black and White Southern Families in Plantation Records

Learn about the abundance of genealogical information that can be found in plantation records and how to research the collection.
  • Time: 11:00 AM-12:00 PM
  • Skill level: Intermediate, advanced

Apprentice Records in African American Research

Learn how to research and analyze apprentice records for children of color. 
  • Time: 5:00-6:00 PM
  • Skill level: Intermediate

Register Now!

Join us for the FGS 2017 National Conference, “Building Bridges to the Past,” in Pittsburgh, PA, August 30-September 2, 2016. Register now to get the early-bird price which ends July 1, 2017.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Research in Pittsburgh: The Detre Library & Archives

The Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives, founded in 1879, is located in the Senator John Heinz History Center. It offers a non-circulating collection of materials documenting life in Western Pennsylvania. The Library & Archives preserves the rich history of Western Pennsylvania and makes its collections accessible to researchers, students, and the general public.

Photo courtesy of the Senator John Heinz History Center

The Library & Archives collection includes:
·         700,000 photographs, prints, and negatives
·         40,000 books, pamphlets, and monographs
·         3,500 individual archival collections of families, organizations, businesses, and industries
·         600 periodical titles
·         500 maps and atlases

The Digital Collection at the Library & Archives includes photographs from the H. J. Heinz Company, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, General Postcard Collection, Pittsburgh Floods, Buhl Foundation’s Chatham Village Photographs, and correspondence, photographs, reports, scrapbooks, minutes, curriculum materials, and business records documenting 90 schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools District.

Photo courtesy of the Senator John Heinz History Center

Also available at the Library & Archives is the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives, which was founded in 1989 to collect, preserve, and make accessible the documentary history of Jews and Jewish communities of Western Pennsylvania.  These collections document the lives of individuals and families and the histories of congregations, organizations, institutions, and businesses. Correspondence, memoirs, diaries, ledgers, minutes, scrapbooks, ephemera, photographs, audio tapes, and moving images are housed in archival containers and stored in a monitored, secure, and climate-controlled environment.

Programs sponsored by the Library & Archives include Finding Your Family History, Preserving Your Family Treasures, Italian Genealogy, Irish Genealogy, Personal Digital Archiving, and programs to celebrate Family History Month in October. 

Learn more about Western Pennsylvania, a region of cultural and ethnic diversity and unsurpassed significance in the history of industrialization and economic development. Search their online catalog for books, archival collections, periodicals, and more at 

The Heinz History Center is a short walk from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Access to the Detre Library & Archives is free for all visitors; however, if you wish to see the museum exhibits, then paid admission is required.

Hours of the Library & Archives are Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Other times available by appointment.  Contact by phone at 412-454-6364 or e-mail  You can complete an Online Form to have materials ready for you to review when you come to visit.

 - guest post by Rebecca Kichta Miller, President Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society

This is the first in a series of posts about research opportunities in the Pittsburgh area.

Friday, May 19, 2017

7 Ways to Make the Most of the FGS 2017 Exhibit Hall

A highlight of every FGS conference is the Exhibit Hall - a place to explore the latest software, books, and gadgets for genealogists, a place to interact with the latest technology, and a place to learn about genealogical organizations.

Finding enough time to fully explore the exhibit hall during FGS conferences is often difficult, but we are making that easier at FGS 2017. Here are 7 ways to make the most of the FGS 2017 Exhibit Hall.

1. Exhibit Hall Grand Opening

As always, we'll have the Exhibit Hall Grand Opening on Thursday from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. (immediately following the Keynote Address). Get your first look at the latest software, books, maps, databases, and gadgets on the market for genealogists and family historians, as well as information about genealogical organizations.

2. Exhibit Hall Lunch: Eat, Explore, Shop

On Friday, the two-hour lunch break will be devoted to the exhibit hall with a catered boxed lunch served. A ticket for this special lunch is included with each full conference registration. Tickets will also be available as an add-on purchase for Friday-only attendees.

Sponsored by

(Please note that other luncheons will not be held on Friday.)

3. Exhibit Hall Passports

All attendees (including one-day registrants) will receive an Exhibit Hall Passport with their registration materials. Get your Passport stamped at the booths you visit during the conference and turn it in at the FGS booth for an opportunity to win prizes. Passports with a minimum of 20 stamps will be eligible to win a variety of prizes. Passports that are 100% covered will also be eligible for the Grand Prize Package. Details about prizes will be announced closer to the conference.

4. Vendor Bucks are back!

Introduced at the FGS 2016 conference in Springfield, Illinois, Vendor Bucks were highly popular with conference attendees and exhibitors alike. We are delighted to announce that Vendor Bucks are back for FGS 2017! Each full conference registrant will receive $10 in Vendor Bucks in their registration material to spend at the vendor booth of their choice.

5. Exhibit Hall Live

Join FGS and our exhibitors from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday for a 90-minute exhibit hall gala featuring door prizes, special activities, shopping, and networking with vendors and societies. This will be a great time to spend your Vendor Bucks and finish up your Exhibit Hall Passport, if you haven’t done so by Saturday morning.

6. Society Showcase

If you've attended an FGS conference in the past, you've seen Society Showcase - a section of the Exhibit Hall dedicated to FGS member societies. It's been a focal point of FGS conference exhibit halls for many years. FGS 2017 attendees can look forward to learning about the rich variety of genealogical, historical, and family societies that *may* unlock the clues to their own family history mysteries!

7. Exhibit Hall Learning Center

Free, 30-minute presentations will be given on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the conference in the Exhibit Hall Learning Center. These sessions will be presented by exhibitors and society representatives and are open to conference attendees and the public. Details about these sessions will be available by mid-June, so stay tuned!

If you are an exhibitor and would like to sign up for a time slot, please use the Submit Exhibit Hall Learning Center Presentation form.

Exhibit Hall Hours
  • Thursday, August 31: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 
  • Friday, September 1: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 
  • Saturday, September 2: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Exposure to new ideas, technologies, and organizations can recharge your family history pursuits. Don’t miss this year’s exciting FGS Exhibit Hall full of fun activities!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

2018 FGS National Conference Call for Presentation Proposals

Deadline for submissions is 14 July 2017.

We are very excited to announce that presentation proposals are now being received for the FGS 2018 Conference, “On the Three Rivers—Past, Present & Future” to be held 22-25 August, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The conference will be held in conjunction with the Allen County Public Library as local host. Outstanding nearby research facilities and attractions will enhance the conference experience. The deadline for submission of lecture proposals is Friday, 14 July 2017.

FGS 2018 Conference Call for Presentations Now Open

The program committee specifically seeks new and dynamic proposals that will provide exceptional and unique educational experiences for conference attendees. Proposals for workshops and sponsored talks are also encouraged. Categories for submissions include:

·         Society Management                     
·         Methodologies and Strategies
·         Transportation
·         Midwestern Records
·         Military Records
·         Repositories
·         Record Types
·         Technology
·         Religious Groups
·         Ethnic Groups
·         Genetics and DNA
·         Migration/Immigration

Please note that there are approximately 130 slots to fill and we are looking for presenters that can give talks on multiple topics. Speakers are encouraged to submit 6 or more presentations for the committee to consider. The committee reserves the right to contact presenters for more details and/or clarification of submission.

Submission Requirements

Each proposal should include:

·         Speaker(s) name.
·         Speaker(s) contact information, including mailing address, phone, email, and website, if applicable.
·         Prior speaking experience.
·         Speaker(s) biography.
·         Speaker(s) brief brochure biography (40 word maximum).
·         Lecture title (not to exceed 12 words).
·         Lecture brochure description (50 word maximum).
·         Lecture outline/summary.
·         Lecture audio-visual requirements. FGS does NOT provide projectors, computers, or internet access for speakers.

Proposals should be submitted online at:

Submissions are due no later than 14 July 2017.


Selected speakers receive an honorarium, travel compensation, and conference registration as well as per diem and hotel nights based on the number of lectures presented. (Sponsored speakers only receive conference registration and syllabus materials. See more about sponsorships below.) Non-sponsored speakers receive compensation according to the FGS Conference Speaker Policy.

Sponsored Lectures
Societies and businesses are encouraged to submit proposals for sponsored talks. The sponsoring organization will cover its speaker's costs to present the lecture. Sponsored speakers will abide by all speaker deadlines and syllabus requirements. Sponsored speakers will receive complimentary FGS conference registration.

Invitations to speak will be issued in October 2017. Syllabus format guidelines and deadline will be sent to speakers at that time. The deadline for acceptance and submission of signed speaker contracts is 1 November 2017.

Email questions to
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