Friday, April 28, 2017

FGS 2017: Focus on Societies Day

FGS national conferences kick off with a day devoted to genealogical societies. Focus on Societies Day features tracks geared to society leaders, society members, and those interested in learning more about societies. Attendees will learn:
  • innovative ways to manage and grow societies
  • how to adapt changing technology to meet society needs
  • about becoming more involved with societies

Focus on Societies Day at FGS 2017 begins with “Creating, Packaging, and Sharing Your Society to Non-Genealogists.” In this opening session, D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS, focuses on ways to package genealogical societies for non-genealogical partners, including local media, donors, charitable organizations, and politicians.

The rest of the day features 35 sessions in seven tracks. A few of those are highlighted below, but you can find the complete program on the FGS 2017 Conference website.

Members & Volunteers

How to Find Volunteers and Keep Them!
by Cari A. Taplin, CG

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any society. This lecture gives societies tips and ideas for ways to locate volunteers, motivate them, and keep them engaged.

Putting the Customer Back in Customer Service—Strategies for 21st Century Organizations
by Curt B. Witcher, MLS, FUGA, IGSF

This presentation will explore how a focus on good customer service will bring organizations in the genealogy space more members, and move them from surviving to thriving.

Programs & Events

Dynamic Programming for Societies
by Teri E. Flack, MA, MBA, FTxSGS

Educational programs are central to the mission of genealogical societies. Learn innovative and creative ways to develop dynamic education programs that can revitalize your society.

DNA and Your Genealogical Society
by Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD

DNA is here to stay, and your members are asking about it. It is a unique opportunity to attract new members with much-needed educational programming, yet many genealogical societies are ignoring the valuable opportunity. Let’s review what other genealogical societies are doing to educate members and explore ways you can engage your members.


Digitizing on a Dime: Digitization Basics for Individuals and Small Genealogical Societies
by Kristin Britanik

This presentation demonstrates the basics of digitization for your collection of historic photographs and documents. Learn best practices for creating and keeping digital files with limited resources.

Creating a County Record Guide
by Tina Lyons

Put your society’s knowledge into a printed or online guide to help members and nonmembers find records in your area.

Reaching Out

Your Society Is on Social Media. Now What?
by Amy Johnson Crow, MLIS, CG

Do you feel like your society isn’t getting all it can from social media? Is your Facebook page lonely? Learn what one society did to increase their performance and reach more people.

Outdated Outreach: Breathing New Life into our Outreach Approach
by Cheri Daniels, MSLS

The challenge of attracting and engaging an ever-changing audience and/or member base has increased over the years and our previous methods can miss the mark. Learn new approaches that engages various groups and connects them through content-based programming.

Society Boards

Plain Spoken: Updating and Simplifying Your Society Bylaws
by Randy Whited

Do the bylaws of your organization guide or hamper its actions? Are they hard to interpret or perhaps ignored altogether? Let’s tackle how to clean up ambiguous language, make use of other guiding documents, and get our bylaws working for us.

Grant Writing Success for Societies
by Tina Beaird, MLS

Grant writing can be a daunting task for small societies and museums. Learn how to find grant opportunities online, define various types of grants, and decode a typical application process. Tina will share strategies on raising your application to the top of the pile and winning that grant!


Building Your Society’s Digital Library
by Jen Baldwin

Societies are increasingly creating and maintaining digital collections. Learn about best practices, overcoming financial obstacles, choosing your nonprofit or for-profit partners, and the necessary technology to achieving digital success. Sponsored by Findmypast.

Calling All Members: Your Society’s Website Needs Help
by Cyndi Ingle

A society’s website should be as diverse as its offerings and its membership. Is it time for you to give it a critical look and help overhaul your site? What can you do to help?

Discussion Groups

Delegate 101
by FGS Board Members

Join FGS leadership to discuss your role as a society delegate and how to get the most out of your society’s FGS membership.

by FGS Board Members

Do you have problems finding content for newsletters or journals? Are you considering moving from print to digital? Discuss issues your society has with publications.

In addition to programming that will help you with the challenges of managing a modern society, Focus on Societies Day will allow you to connect with other society leaders and members.

Register today for FGS 2017 in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

FGS 2017 Tracks: Learning Opportunities for Researchers and Societies

The annual FGS National Conference offers a unique experience for those interested in genealogy with one day dedicated to genealogical societies followed by three days of tracks dedicated to individual researchers of all skill levels – beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

The 2017 conference, scheduled for August 30-September 2, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will be no exception. Focus on Societies Day features tracks devoted to helping society leaders and members best the challenges of managing a modern society.

If you aren’t a member or leader of a genealogical society, then join us for the genealogy program, which features world-famous speakers covering topics from basic to advanced methodology, ethnic specialties, local history, and family history trends.

The FGS 2017 Conference kicks off on Wednesday, August 30 with Focus on Societies Day and offers seven tracks designed to help society leaders better manage and grow genealogical societies of all sizes and levels.

Focus on Societies Day Tracks:
  • Members & Volunteers
  • Programs & Events
  • Projects
  • Reaching Out
  • Society Boards
  • Websites
  • Discussion Groups

The genealogy program runs Thursday, August 31, through Saturday, September 2. With 16 tracks designed for individual researchers of all experience levels from novice to expert, you are sure to discover new ways to help you solve your genealogy research problems.

Genealogy Tracks:
  • Methodology
  • Records
  • Land & Taxes
  • Immigrant/Ethnic
  • DNA
  • Military
  • Regional
  • Analysis
  • Skills
  • African American
  • Religion
  • Understanding Ancestor’s Lives
  • Finding Records
  • Occupations
  • In the Field
  • Ancestry

 The full program, including topics, descriptions, and speakers, is available on the FGS 2017 Conference website. You can also download the conference registration brochure in pdf format.

We will take a closer look at individual tracks over the next few months leading up to the conference in August. In the meantime, take a look at the program and start thinking about the skills you want to improve and the areas you want to learn more about!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Get practical, hands-on experience at workshops

Conference workshops allow attendees to get hands-on experience in specific topics. The FGS 2017 National Conference in Pittsburgh offers four two-hour workshops that cover:
  • caring for keepsakes
  • research planning
  • storytelling
  • transcribing and analyzing
All workshops require pre-registration to attend.

Caring for Keepsakes

Bring your questions to this hands-on preservation workshop to learn how to archive family Bibles, photo albums and scrapbooks, quilts, documents, and memorabilia. Explore best practices for digitizing photos, documents, and awkward artifacts. Learn how to construct simple archival containers to hold books and fragile documents.

“Caring for Keepsakes” will be held Thursday, August 31, 2017, from 2:00-4:00. Tickets are $25. Skill level: Beginner, intermediate, advanced.

Denise May Levenick, MA (English Literature), is a writer, researcher, and instructor specializing in archiving and sharing personal and family artifacts. She is the creator of the award-winning blog, The Family Curator.

What Next? Hands-on Research Planning
by Paula Stuart-Warren CG, FMGS, FUGA

Analysis of information, recognition of detail gaps, and the creation of research goals form the basis for excellence in our quest. Success improves with careful planning, small group discussion, and proven techniques to develop step-by-step research plans. This hands-on workshop involves a variety of records and geographic areas.

“What Next? Hands-on Research Planning” will be held Thursday, August 31, 2017, from 2:00-4:00. Tickets are $25. Skill level: Intermediate.

Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA, works internationally in genealogical and historical research, lecturing, and consulting. She is a course coordinator for SLIG and GRIP and former board member of APG and FGS.

Preserve Your Roots Through Storytelling: James Leech’s 1763 Passport Unlocks Leech Family Migration Story

This workshop will cover the process and application of storytelling to family history research and working through an exercise that will allow the participants to begin working on the creation of their own stories. Bring results of prior research with you.

“Preserve our Roots Through Storytelling” will be held on Saturday, September 2 from 9:00 to 11:00 AM. It is sponsored by the Ulster Historical Foundation. Tickets are $25. Skill level: Beginner, intermediate.

Mary Jane Kuffner Hirt, PhD, recently retired as professor of political science at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She developed and taught a university-wide, upper-level synthesis course, Climbing Your Family Tree.

Getting the Most Out of Your Research
by David McDonald, DMin, CG

How does a researcher find the gems buried in a document and use the information to advance their research efforts? A workshop-style session to analyze handwritten documents, develop research plans, and analyze the material contained therein.

“Getting the Most Out of Your Research” will be held on Saturday, 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Tickets are $25. Skill level: Intermediate.

David McDonald, DMin, CG, is a trustee and past president of BCG. He has presented at multiple national conferences since 2005. Particular interests: migration, religions and their records, US Midwest, British Isles, and Germanic research.

Workshop Registration

Advance registration is required for all workshops. You can register for workshops when registering for the FGS 2017 conference.

If you have already registered for the conference and received a confirmation email, then you can 
use this form to add registration for any workshop to your schedule.

Workshop seating is limited so register early!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Are you ready to dive deeper into DNA?

Using DNA for genealogy can help you break down long-standing family history research brick walls.

At the FGS National Conference in Pittsburgh, we have two special four-hour DNA workshops. The DNA workshops will help you dive deeper into using DNA for your genealogy research. Both DNA workshops are sponsored by Ancestry ProGenealogists and require pre-registration in to attend.

Connecting the DNA Dots

“Connecting the DNA Dots” is a beginner-to-intermediate level workshop. It will help participants maximize the use of their DNA test results to answer genealogical questions. There will be discussion of types of DNA tests available and examples of genealogical questions they may help to answer.

Participants will also learn how to review and evaluate their own results, join appropriate surname or haplogroup projects, and upload their data to other testing services and websites. Lastly, participants will determine other family members to test and how those tests may benefit their genealogical research.

“Connecting the DNA Dots” will be held on Friday, September 1, from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Tickets are $60.

Using Genetics and Genealogy to Smash Through Brick Walls
by Blaine Bettinger PhD, JD, Angie Bush MS

“Using Genetics and Genealogy to Smash Through Brick Walls” is for genealogists with intermediate-to-advanced DNA experience. This is a four-hour, hands-on workshop designed to help participants maximize the use of various third-party tools and websites for autosomal DNA.

We will discuss the in-depth use of spreadsheets for organization, the tools available at DNAGedcom (ADSA, GWorks), Tier 1 tools available on GEDMatch, and Kitty Cooper’s Chromosome Mapper. Workshop participants should have accounts with GEDMatch and DNA GEDcom and have multiple sets of autosomal raw data to work with. Each participant should come to class with a research goal in mind.

Pre-requisites for “Using Genetics and Genealogy to Smash Through Brick Walls”

Since this is an advanced workshop, pre-requisites are required. If you do not meet all of the pre-requisites, you won’t get the most from this workshop and should not register.

  • Must bring a laptop to the workshop. (This cannot be an iPad or tablet.)
  • Must have a minimum of three close, known family members tested, with access to their resultsT
  • The raw data for these tests must be uploaded to GEDmatch.
  • For visual mapping, these three family members should be siblings.
  • For segment mapping, these close family members should be cousins. Ideally, attendees will have a mix of cousins and siblings tested so they can do both types of mapping, but one or the other is acceptable. 
  • Must have the DNAGedcom Client ( installed and working on your computer.
  • The DNAGedcom Client works primarily with AncestryDNA tests.
  • Attendees should have at least one test at AncestryDNA. 
  • Must have a basic knowledge of spreadsheets (e.g., Excel). 

“Using Genetics and Genealogy to Smash Through Brick Walls” will be on Saturday, September 2. Tickets for this workshop are $60. Advance registration is required. 

Workshop Registration

Advance registration is required for both DNA workshops. You can register for workshops when registering for the FGS 2017 conference

If you have already registered for the conference and received a confirmation email, then you can use this form to add registration for either DNA workshop to your schedule.

These DNA workshops will likely fill quickly.  Don't delay!

About the Instructors

Blaine Bettinger, PhD (Biochemistry), JD, is an intellectual property attorney by day and a genetic genealogist by night. He authors the long-running blog The Genetic Genealogist.

Angie Bush, MS (Biotechnology), is a professional genetic genealogist with Ancestry ProGenealogists and director of Region 1 for NGS.

Diahan Southard, with 15 years in the genetic genealogy industry, instructs at all levels of interest. She has a passion for genetic genealogy and a gift for making the technical understandable.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Online registration is now open for the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ 2017 National Conference. 

The conference will be held August 30 – September 2, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. This year's local host is the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society and the theme is "Building Bridges to the Past." Register by July 1, 2017 for the early-bird discount at

Attendees can look forward to strengthening their research abilities no matter their skill level or area of interest. The program is available online. An 8-page pdf  is also available to download.

Rorey Cathcart, FGS President, shares, “FGS Conferences offer genealogists of all skill levels an incredible learning opportunity as well as a chance to meet others who share their passion. Whether you are beginning your genealogy adventure or have been at it for decades, FGS welcomes all. With a day devoted to programming for society leaders and members, followed by three days of genealogy programming that features world-famous speakers, exciting workshops, a variety of special events and luncheons, FGS 2017 has something unique to interest all attendees. Don’t miss your chance to join the Federation for a fun-filled and informative experience in Pittsburgh!”

Conference Highlights
Keynote Speaker
Rick Sebak makes unusual television programs. His slightly wacky documentaries now celebrate various aspects of modern American life and the unexpected charms of Pittsburgh. In “Take the Unexpected Bridge,” he will explore the idea that when searching for information of any sort, from historic and genealogical to gastronomic and adventurous, often the best route is along unfamiliar roads and across unexpected bridges.

Conference Sessions
Learning opportunities abound in the FGS 2017 program. The program includes four full days of sessions, workshops, and interactive seminars. Learning tracks include Immigrant/Ethnic, Records, Regional, DNA, Methodology, Analysis, Skills, African American, Land & Taxes, Religion, Occupations, and more. Attendees of all skill levels will find new ways to uncover more about their family history.

Exhibit Hall
The large exhibit hall will feature the latest software, books, maps, databases, and gadgets on the market for family historians. Many genealogical organizations will be present to share information as well. Society Showcase will feature representatives of FGS Member Societies to share how their society can help attendees with their family history.

Special Events
Wednesday evening's event is sponsored and hosted by Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. Registrants are invited to a dinner cruise along Pittsburgh’s three rivers on board the Gateway Clipper Princess. Friday and Saturday evening offer a special treat for baseball fans. FGS is partnering with the Pittsburgh Pirates to offer discounted tickets for games against the Cincinnati Reds.

Focus on Societies
Wednesday, August 30 is Focus on Societies Day. Sessions are jam-packed with ideas and tools to help societies promote themselves, develop projects, increase membership, and leverage technology. D. Joshua Taylor will kick off the day with the plenary session. He will discuss ways to package genealogical societies for non-genealogical partners, including local media, donors, charitable organizations, and politicians.

Librarians’ Day
Tuesday, August 29, is the pre-conference event sponsored by ProQuest. Librarians, archivists, and other information professionals won't want to miss this event. It will be a full day of sessions focused on serving family history researchers.

Platinum sponsors include leading family history companies, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage. Bronze sponsors include AncestryProGenealogists and Internet Genealogy/Your Genealogy Today. For the complete list of sponsors and partner organizations, visit

Also visit the conference website for details including links to conference hotels, research opportunities, and more. Keep up with conference news and announcements by reading the FGS Voice blog and by subscribing to the FGS Voice Newsletter.

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