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Barbara J. Brown Family History Seminar

Friday, July 8 - Saturday, July 9, 2022

Featured Speaker | Registration Details | Program Schedule | Speaker Bios

Each summer, the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan Genealogical Council host a seminar to promote family history awareness and teach genealogy research skills. The event is generously supported by the Abrams Foundation in loving memory of Barbara J. Brown.

For this year’s event, we are pleased to offer this flagship annual gathering as a hybrid event. Participants can attend sessions either online or onsite. We are delighted to be hosting Dr. David McDonald, CG, for this year’s event, whose sessions will all be via Zoom.

Featured Speaker

Dr. David McDonald has more than 45 years’ research experience and has been a professional genealogist since his school days in suburban Chicago. He has lectured at various national and state genealogy conferences, and has coordinated courses on religions and their records, research in the Northwest Territory and subsequent states, and Advanced Methods. His track on religious records has been taught at both SLIG and GRIP. He has been a featured speaker at NGS, FGS and state and regional conferences across the United States and in the United Kingdom.

A native Midwesterner, Dave has done extensive research in all the states of the old Northwest Territory and adjacent areas of Ontario. He’s conducted extensive research in various churches’ denominational archives and on location. He was the consulting genealogist for the city of Chicago when a historic church-related cemetery had to be removed as part of a years-long public works project and transportation facilities expansion. Later, Dave spent time as a genealogist for Ancestry ProGenealogists, working projects ranging from colonial and early-federal era research projects in Virginia and North Carolina, to mid-19th-century Norwegian immigrant families to Wisconsin, to Swiss-connected families in central Pennsylvania, to early 20th-century Jewish families in the Ohio River valley, among others.

As a learner, Dave has taken courses at SLIG, IGHR and Gen-Fed. He has lectured as part of IGHR’s staff since 2015. He is particularly attracted to research during the federal era, prior to 1850. He has conducted extensive research in England, Germany and Switzerland. Dave’s work has been included in numerous genealogical publications, including the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, and several state societies’ journals. He is a past editor of the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Newsletter.

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Registration Details

Register Now for the 2022 Barbara J. Brown Family History Seminar!

Registration Fee: $45

Registration Deadline: July 6

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Program Schedule

Friday, July 8, 2022
1 - 2 p.m.
Anatomy of Coroners Records
Annakathryn Welch, Archives of Michigan
One way we track our ancestors is through their deaths. However, some deaths can prove to be more interesting than others. This discussion will explore coroner’s records here at the Archives of Michigan and dissect the information found in them.

2:15 - 3 p.m.
Welcome, Introductions and Archives of Michigan Tour
Mark Harvey, State Archivist, and Rozlyn Kelly, Michigan Genealogical Council

3:15 - 4:15 p.m.
Ancestors in Context: Putting History in Your Family History
Daniel Earl, Professional researcher
Our ancestors had rich, full lives between census years. This lecture will show you four types of records you can use to flesh out your ancestors' lives. I'll use examples from my own family to illustrate how I used these records to add depth to my own family history and how you can do the same!

4:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Polly's Family: From New England to the Plains & Beyond
Dr. David McDonald, CG
We'll track the life of Polly Putnam Betts, a descendant of prominent New England Puritans, niece of a Revolutionary War-era loyalist from Massachusetts. Polly was born in Vermont in 1793 and died in Iowa in 1886. The wife of a veteran of the War of 1812, who moved along with her family to Ohio while "great with child," and finally Iowa ("an aged widow"), the records available to research the family span federal, state and private resources. We'll look at the Erie Canal's impact on peopling the upper Midwest. Polly's children pressed on across the Plains with grandchildren on the west coast in time for her centenary. The 19th-Century cry of "Manifest Destiny," is viewed through the lens of the life of one woman.
Saturday, July 9, 2022
8:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Discoveries in the 1950 U.S. Census
Kris Rzepczynski, Archives of Michigan
With the release of the 1950 U.S. Census on April 1, new ancestral discoveries await! This brief program will explore the information collected for the Census, search strategies and an update on the indexing progress to-date.

9:45 - 10:45 a.m.
Lutherpalians & Presbygationalists: Where Did Grandma's Church Go?
Dr. David McDonald, CG
Identifying a family's church of origin can be a challenge when religious impulses within family contexts have changed over the decades. We'll take a lighthearted look at the behaviors and cultural clues which may help rule religious communities "in" or "out" as likely possibilities for our ancestors. We'll also explore strategies for identifying where pertinent records may reside, following the closure or extinction of old congregations and communities of faith in our background.

11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
No Dead Ends: Finding Your Way Through Family Roadblocks
Judy Nimer Muhn, Professional researcher
No genealogist works their way through their family history without coming across the challenges of what looks like a dead end: no records, no obvious next step, unidentified parents and more. Learn about the tools, techniques, and ways of thinking of professional genealogists to find ways to get around those road blocks and continue your ancestral journey.

12:15 - 1:15 p.m.
Occupational Records: Finding Work-Related Paper Trails
Jessica Trotter, Researcher & blogger
What types of gems can you find in occupational records? Farmers, Teachers, Coopers and more all created records that may enhance our research.

1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Research in the Old Northwest Territory
Dr. David McDonald, CG
Jefferson's proposals for the area ceded by Great Britain after the Revolutionary War provided a blueprint for the development of the system of measurement for the lands of the public domain, and for the civil government of what became all or part of six states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. This fast-paced lecture covers a lot of land (literally) and a lot of records worth considering when undertaking a genealogy project.

2:45 - 3:45 p.m.
Bringing History to Life: Engaging with Your Community through Local History and Family Stories
Chelsea Johnson Heisler, Marshall District Library
Join Chelsea as she explores opportunities to engage with your community while sharing valuable local and family stories. Accessible for both genealogy professionals and enthusiasts, Chelsea will share her experiences organizing cemetery walks, history happy hours, local author tours, oral history projects and online local photo collections. Come get inspired and discover the many ways you can spark community interest and collaboration around local history.

4 - 5 p.m.
Library of Congress Digital Collections for Michigan Researchers
Matt Pacer, Library of Michigan
The Library of Congress contains a treasure trove of family history information for Michigan researchers, including a vast array of online resources. Learn how to navigate these digital collections as well as other key research strategies to effectively use our nation’s library while uncovering your family’s story.

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Speaker Bios

Earl, Daniel
Visiting the grave of his great-grandfather as a 10-year old helped spark Daniel’s lifetime of interest in family history. He has spent the last 25 years researching his own family history and helping others make history a part of their story. Daniel serves as the Continuing Education Chair for the Michigan Genealogical Council, a Vice-President of the Mid-Michigan Genealogical Society and the President of the Hungarian Genealogical Society of Michigan.

Heisler, Chelsea Johnson
The local history and genealogy librarian for the Marshall District Library (Marshall, MI), Chelsea has a MLIS from Wayne State University and is currently pursuing archival certification from the same institution. Chelsea also serves on the boards of the Marshall Historical Society, Calhoun County Genealogical Society and Michigan Genealogical Council. She is currently researching her Bloomfield, Cafferty, and Klein family lines.

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 a board member and chair of the Awards Committee of the National Genealogical Society, the President for the Oakland County Genealogical Society, Vice President and Social Media co-chair for the Michigan Genealogical Council, and a founder of the English-Speaking Genealogists of Europe, NATO Chapter.

Pacer, Matt
A reference librarian at the Library of Michigan, you will find Matt on the reference desk when he is not working in the Martha W. Griffiths Michigan Rare Book Room, or assisting the coordination of the Library’s digitization program, processing donations, or helping to curate the Michigan Collection. Matt has worked at the Library of Michigan since summer 2013.

Rzepczynski, Kris
A Senior Archivist and Head of Reference at the Archives of Michigan, where he specializes in family history and Michigan research, Kris has worked in the genealogical community for more than 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 is an archivist by education—but works in public libraries by day. She has presented regionally for the past eight years, including annually for the Archives of Michigan, the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library and the 2020 NGS Virtual On Demand lectures. Jessica’s research areas include Midwest, African American, British Isles and Canadian, and she maintains the genealogy research related blog Genie Road Trip.

Welch, Annakathryn
Annakathryn 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 specialized in archival administration.

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Updated 05/10/2022