Family History Seminar

Barbara J. Brown Family History Seminar

Friday, July 10 – Saturday, July 11, 2020

Registration Details | Program Schedule | Speaker Bios

Each summer, the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan Genealogical Council host a seminar to promote family history and offer genealogical learning opportunities. This event is generously supported by the Abrams Foundation in loving memory of Barbara J. Brown.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to offer this flagship annual event remotely via Zoom. We appreciate our speakers' flexibility as we transition to a virtual format this year and look forward to hosting Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, "The Legal Genealogist," next year onsite at the Archives of Michigan.

Registration Details

Register Now!

Michigan History Center members will receive an email with a coupon for free registration. Not yet a member? Learn about Michigan History Center membership.

Early-bird registration through June 15: $25 - includes:

  • Registration for the two-day seminar, with the syllabus as a downloadable file.
  • Complimentary individual membership to the Michigan History Center.
  • Electronic edition of TRACE Winter/Spring 2020.
Registration June 16 - July 7: $30
  • Includes registration for the two-day seminar.
All registrants will receive conference log in information by email a few days before the event.

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Program Schedule

Friday, July 10, 2020

9:30 - 10 a.m.
Welcome and Opening Comments
Welcome from the Michigan State Archivist and Michigan Genealogical Council President.

10 - 10:30 a.m.
Archives of Michigan Tour
Join the Archives of Michigan staff for a behind-the scenes tour of the collections, including original manuscript records and the Abrams Foundation Historical Collection.

11 - 11:30 a.m.
Break into the Past: A Game for Genealogists
Inspired by the escape room phenomenon, this game has players solve a puzzle using a series of clues, including genealogical resources.

Noon - 1 p.m.
Empire State Roots: New York Family History Research
New York was by far the most important state in the early growth and development of Michigan and the Midwest. This session will explore New York's migration patterns and provide an overview of the fantastic genealogical resources available in print and online. Presenter: Kris Rzepczynski, Archives of Michigan

1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Annual Reports: Supplemental Documents for Genealogical Research
Governments, businesses, and other organizations produce annual reports that describe the entities' activities throughout the preceding year. Learn more about these useful documents and see examples of these published reports that can provide information for genealogical researchers investigating the greater context of their ancestor's' lives. Presenter: Adam Oster, Library of Michigan

3 - 4 p.m.
Who You Gonna Call? WIKIs in Family History
In this session, attendees will explore the FamilySearch Wiki, why it should be in your toolbox, search techniques and how to contribute your expertise to make the Wiki a more robust tool to help genealogists. We will also look at more specialized Wikis that offer guidance with more advanced questions. Presenter: Thomas Koselka, Michigan Genealogical Council
Saturday, July 11, 2020
9 - 10 a.m.
Seeking Michigan Becomes Michiganology
Digital collections previously on are now available on This session will review how best to navigate, talk through known issues with the site and listen to your suggestions for how to improve this free resource. Presenter: Jill Arnold, Archives of Michigan

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.
The ABCs of DNA & Genealogy
What can DNA testing tell you? What tests should I take? What does it all mean? DNA testing can be a powerful tool to wield in your genealogy toolkit. This session offers a beginner's overview on tests, testing companies, and how you can use your results. Presenter: Jessica Trotter, Researcher & blogger

Noon - 1 p.m.
Getting Around the Brick Wall
We all reach the end of the trail on some of our branches, but as Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up!" By trying variant spellings, little used sources, and having just a little luck, you may break through that wall. How about really analyzing the sources you already have - there may be hidden clues there, too. Presenter: James Jackson, Professional researcher

1:30 - 2:30 p.m. The Good, the Bad, the Deviant: Researching Correctional Records
This program will help researchers navigate prison records held by the Archives of Michigan to uncover information about your ancestors' past misdeeds, including how to get started, and using prison records to find even more genealogy resources. Presenter: Annakathryn Welch, Archives of Michigan

3 - 4 p.m.
You CAN Take It With You! Mobile Genealogy Tools
Utilizing the mobile tools of, RootsMagic, Legacy, Evernote and more, you don't have to take your huge notebooks of family genealogy with you to the library when doing research. And what about social media? There are many tools that you can take on your computer, tablet or Smartphone! Presenter: Judy Nimer Muhn, Professional researcher

4:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Oral History in the Genealogy World
No genealogy is complete without recorded stories from our family members. From oldest to the youngest, we all have stories to tell about our family memories. Please join us to learn about setting up and oral history plan, asking quality questions, and what to do after the interviews. Presenter: James Cameron, Michigan Oral History Association

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Speaker Bios

Arnold, Jill: One of the archivists frequently helping researchers in the Reading Room, Jill Arnold is a digital engagement archivist with the Archives of Michigan. She works to engage a variety of audiences with , an online platform of the Michigan History Center. Jill earned a Master of Science in information with a specialization of library & information science as well as archives & records management from the University of Michigan.

Cameron, James: Jim Cameron invested 40 years in the classroom incorporating oral interviews to help students make history personal. Cameron's book "Voices of the Valley: An Oral History of Saline Valley Farms," won the 2010 Historical Society of Michigan book award. He is currently working on an oral history of the Bixby Marionettes.

Jackson, James: Interested in genealogy and local history since the mid-1970s, Jim has served as president of the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, Oakland County Genealogical Society, and Calhoun County Genealogical Society. He has been the index editor of the DSGR Magazine since 1994 and is the Past-camp commander for Camp 22 (Marshall, MI) of the Sons of Union Veterans.

Koselka, Thomas: Tom has been researching his family history since the late 1980s. Tom is currently the president of the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research and past-president of the Michigan Genealogical Council, the Dearborn Genealogical Society and serves as a board member, mentor and advisor to several genealogical societies. He is retired from Dearborn Music and lives in Westland with his genealogist wife, Valerie.

Muhn, Judy Nimer: Author, presenter, researcher and traveler, Judy specializes in French-Canadian, Acadian, Native American and Michigan research. Owner of Lineage Journeys, Judy is the Association for Professional Genealogists' Professional Management Conference 2020 coordinator, FGS 2020 Conference advertising chair, corresponding secretary for the Oakland County Genealogical Society, and a delegate and blogger for the Michigan Genealogical Council.

Oster, Adam: Adam Oster is the community engagement librarian for the Library of Michigan. Adam holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Grand Valley State University with a minor in political science and secondary education certification. He also has a Master of Library Science degree from Indiana University. Adam's interests include genealogy and local history research.

Rzepczynski, Kris: A senior archivist at the Archives of Michigan, where he specializes in family history and Michigan research, Kris has worked in the genealogical community for 20 years. He is a former vice president of membership for the Federation of Genealogical Societies and a past president of the Mid-Michigan Genealogical Society.

Trotter, Jessica: Jessica Trotter holds a Master of Science in information, archives and records management specialization from the University of Michigan - but works in public libraries by day. Her genealogy research areas include Midwest, African American, British Isles, Canadian and early American research. She also maintains a genealogy research-related blog Genie Roadtrip.

Welch, Annakathryn: Annakathryn Welch is an archivist at the Archives of Michigan, where she handles reference inquiries, processes reproduction and permissions requests and works on digitization projects. She is a graduate of the MLIS program at Wayne State University, where she is specialized in archival administration.

Updated 06/08/2020