Lecture Topics

New Lectures (Updated May 2024)

New! Popular! Finding Immigration and Naturalization Records: Advanced Strategies and Techniques

Every immigrant has a story. This webinar will discuss how to leverage the data in passenger lists, naturalization records, and other documents of ethnic-based communities and neighborhoods (such as historic newspapers and oral histories,) to uncover key clues about your immigrant ancestors. Learn strategies and techniques to find your elusive ancestor among others with the same name and how to deal with name changes, as well as how to locate missing manifests due to transcription or other database errors. A brief overview of how social history and migration patterns can help you track your ancestors on both sides of the ocean will also be provided.

New!  Popular! New Frontiers in Genealogy

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and the Metaverse. You may have heard these terms on the news, but what do they have to do with genealogy? This session will demonstrate how these emerging technologies will shape a new frontier in family history including how we research our ancestors and share their stories.

New! Notion for Genealogists

Part database, part notetaking/writing space, part Kanban board, Notion is a FREE all-in-one workspace perfect for managing genealogy research and writing projects. Whether you work on your own or collaborate with a team, learn how Notion can help you customize your workflow to write, plan, and get organized. [Can be delivered as a one-hour lecture OR a two-hour, hands-on workshop].

New! No More Excuses: Ten Family History Writing Tips for Procrastinators

Often the most difficult part of writing a family history is getting started. If you feel stuck due to information overload, lack of time, or writer’s block, you are not alone. In this session, learn ten simple tips to stop procrastinating and start writing!

Long-Time Favorites

Popular! Ten Things Every Eastern European Genealogist Should Know

Learn how to maximize your Eastern European genealogy research with the ten key things to know before you even begin. Topics to be addressed: Tips for planting your family tree online, determining names and places, pinpointing places, the best online databases for getting what you need and practices for citing sources and recording information, and what to expect when you cross the pond.

Popular! Show, Don’t Tell: Creative Nonfiction Writing for Genealogists

As genealogists, we often focus on facts and uncover so much information that our research produces nothing but boring lists. But do you really know what happened between the dashes of your ancestors’ lives? How can you share that information in a compelling way? Learn how to use creative nonfiction writing techniques to produce a “can’t put down” family history.

Popular! Cause of Death: Dissecting Coroner’s Records for Genealogical Research

Coroner’s records are often untapped resources that contain essential information for genealogists. In this session, learn how to determine if your ancestor appeared in a Coroner’s report, where to find Coroner’s records, what details they include to further your genealogy research, and much more!

Popular! Scrivener for Easier Family History Writing Projects

Scrivener by Literature and Latte is a combination word processor and project management tool that’s affordable and simple to use. Priced under $50, this powerful application seamlessly takes you from idea to outline to finished product. Learn how to set up your writing projects, how to use Scrivener’s virtual “corkboard” to visually plot out the story you want to tell, how to store notes, citations, images, and research materials, compile your finished draft for printing or exporting for final formatting, manage multiple projects, and much more! The presenter will demonstrate a current writing project as an example.[Available as a stand-alone presentation, or a 2-hour hands-on workshop].

Overcoming Brickwalls in Eastern European Research

Research in Eastern European can be a challenging process. Sorting out surnames, trying to identify ancestral hometowns, and deciphering old country records to connect families are just a few of the obstacles often encountered along the way. Through sample case studies, this session will demonstrate lesser utilized research tactics, and discuss repositories and key resources used to locate information about your elusive Eastern European ancestors.

Trello for Genealogists

Have you ever wished for a whiteboard in the cloud where you could generate ideas, organize your research tasks, or storyboard your family history writing? Then say “Hello” to Trello—a free project management tool to help you streamline your genealogy projects, tackle your “to-do” lists, and improve your workflow. Learn how to use Trello’s customizable notecards, to view any project in a single glance, share it for easy collaboration, and set it up to sync on multiple devices to take your work with you wherever you go!
[Can be offered as a stand-alone lecture, or 2-hour workshop].

Popular! No Easy Button: Using Immersion Genealogy to Understand Your Ancestors

Family history is so much more than just names, dates, and places, or boxes, lines, and charts. For 21st century genealogists, it is easy to limit our research to the documents or other facts we find online, or to what others tell us to be true. Learn how to take your research a step further to understand your ancestors’ lives through “immersion genealogy”—the process of discovering where they lived, worked, and worshipped, and experiencing those customs and traditions they passed down through the generations. Key resources, methodology, and tips for reaching out to relatives and repositories, and how to make the most out of a trip to your ancestor’s hometown (whether in North America or across the pond) will be discussed.

Finding Your Femme Fatales

Male ancestors weren’t the only ones who had secrets, or got caught behaving badly. Whether we like it or not, the black sheep of our family may have been the women, and they leave fabulous records! Through sample case studies, this session will cover how to use key records and social history to explore law breakers, vigilantes, and other scandalous female ancestors.

Online Genealogy for the Absolute Beginner

When you’re new to family history, the prospect of diving into the research process can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to navigating the countless number of online databases and other websites related to roots research. This session will walk beginners through the exciting journey of genealogy. Learn how to begin and build a family tree, what information is and isn’t online, what tools are available for recording and organizing information and sources, how to put it all together, and much more!

Family History Writing Made Easier: Cloud-Based Tools Every Genealogist Can Use

Telling your family’s story is now so much easier thanks to a number of cloud-based notetaking and writing tools and apps you can access from home, your netbook or iPad, and even your smartphone. Learn about the latest tech tools and writing apps for bringing your family’s story to life!

Timesaving Apps for Busy Genealogists

“So many ancestors; so little time.” If you find yourself repeating this mantra, come learn about the best timesaving apps and tools to help you get a handle on those backed-up research or photo-scanning projects, society meetings and conferences, and never ending “to-do” lists! Session will include a broad review of online tools, as well as apps for Android and iPhone/iPad platforms.

 DIY Publishing for the Family Historian: Tips, Tricks and Tools

Whether you’re a family historian looking to share information with your family, an aspiring author, or a society looking for cost-effective way to produce materials, this session is just what you need to get started with self-publishing. Learn tips and tricks for preparing your book from idea to print, and the basics about which software and online writing tools can help with the process. Various self-publishing/print-on-demand platforms including: CreateSpace, Lulu, Smashwords, Kindle, and more, will also be briefly discussed.

Make Those Skeletons Dance: Exploring Your Family’s Dark Side

How well do you really know your ancestors? Most of us want to believe our ancestors were hard-working, noble, or “salt-of-the-earth” types. We want to like them, and even brag about them. However, the reality is that if we go back far enough, we all can dig up a few proverbial “skeletons in the closet.” The horse thief, the philanderer, the murderer! Oh my! Genealogy is one of the most unpredictable activities you’ll undertake, and when you start digging into your family’s past, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” If you suspect a few black sheep lurking in your family tree, this session will show you, with examples, how to hunt them down, bust through the speculation, and tell the real story.

Popular! Diseases, Disasters, Distress: Bad for Your Ancestors, Good for Genealogy!

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the branches on our family trees were filled with bright shiny leaves that reflected only good kin and happy times? The truth is, most of our pasts are dotted with blemishes, and bad things did happen, often to good people. History is blanketed with disheartening tales of devastation and loss. Certainly, it may be difficult for us today to comprehend the everyday adversity that befell our ancestors, or the lasting hardships they endured as a result. This session will discuss how diseases, disasters, and distress may have impacted your family’s history.

Popular! Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Eastern European Research 

Curious about your East European roots but don’t know where to begin? This session will show you how to “jumpstart your genealogy!” Learn the basics of how to investigate your family’s history using both traditional and online sources. Discover which records to tap into to identify your ancestral village, and how history impacts genealogical research. Tips for contacting possible relatives and writing to foreign archives, as well as strategies for overcoming the most common pitfalls and problems will also be discussed.

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.

Popular! Writing Your Family History Step-by-Step

You can’t edit a blank page! The most difficult part of any writing project is getting started! This session will teach you how to organize your material and divide your writing tasks into small manageable pieces, how to incorporate social history and other elements into your story, and how to overcome writer’s block!. [This talk can be offered as a stand-alone presentation or a 2-hour workshop where participants will have time to work on a selection of writing exercises].

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.

Popular! 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.

Popular! 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.  The presentation will offer innovative approaches to common research tasks to assist both the novice and more experienced researcher.

Popular! 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.

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.

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.