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Barbara J. Brown Family History Seminar

BARBARA J. BROWN FAMILY HISTORY SEMINAR

Friday, May 10 - Saturday, May 11, 2024

Featured Speaker | Registration Details | Program Schedule | Speaker Bios

Every year 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. We are delighted to be hosting Ari Wilkins, who will be joining us onsite in Lansing and via Zoom.

The Archives of Michigan is pleased to continue offering this flagship annual gathering as a hybrid event. In addition, the Archives of Michigan will offer the following additions to this year’s seminar:

  • A free pre-seminar session on probate records on Friday, May 10 at 10 a.m. (for online access, please register separately).
  • A continental breakfast for onsite attendees on both Friday and Saturday at no additional charge.
  • Lunch for onsite attendees on both Friday and Saturday at no additional charge.
  • Extended research hours in the Archives of Michigan reading room.
  • Recordings of seminar sessions available to registrants for 30 days following the event.

Featured Speaker - Ari Wilkins

The Archives of Michigan is excited to welcome Ari Wilkins as this year's featured speaker! Ari Wilkins is a genealogist who has been actively researching family history for over twenty-five years.

As a lecturer, Ms. Wilkins has spoken nationally at the National Genealogical Society, the Texas Institute of Genealogical Research, the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, RootsTech, and a multitude of state and local societies. She is also the coordinator of the African American course for the Texas Institute of Genealogical Research.

In 2023, Ari was awarded the Lloyd Bockstruck Distinguished Service Award by the Dallas Genealogical Society for her outstanding contributions to the genealogical community on a national level. Ms. Wilkins is also a fellow of the Texas State Genealogical Society.

Ari speaks on a variety of genealogical subjects and specializes in African American research.

Image of Ari Wilkins

Registration Details

Register for a free pre-seminar session on probate records!

Interested in learning more about probate records at the Archives of Michigan? Join us for this free pre-seminar offering. This presentation will be open to the public as well as seminar attendees.

Register now for the 2024 Barbara J. Brown Family History Seminar!

Registration Fee: $55 

Program Schedule

Friday, May 10, 2024

9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Continental breakfast (onsite only)
Join us early for a complimentary continental breakfast. Stay for the pre-seminar presentation on probate records or get in a few extra hours of research before the seminar starts.

10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Extended open hours at the Archives of Michigan (onsite only)
The Archives of Michigan's reading room will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dive into research before and after the seminar!

10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Pre-seminar Session: Introduction to Probate Records (separate registration, hybrid)
Rachel Clark, Archives of Michigan
Interested in learning more about probate records at the Archives of Michigan? Join us for this pre-seminar offering. This presentation will be open to the public as well as seminar attendees.

12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.
Seminar Registration
Lunch provided by the Archives of Michigan (onsite only)


1:00 p.m. - 1:20 p.m.
Session 1. Welcome and Remarks (hybrid)
Mark Harvey, State Archivist and Judy Nimer Muhn, Michigan Genealogical Council

1:40 p.m. - 2:40 p.m.
Session 2: No Dead Ends: Finding Your Way Through Family Roadblocks (hybrid)
Judy Nimer Muhn, Michigan Genealogical Council
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 roadblocks and continue your ancestral journey.

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Session 3. Up North: Tracking African American Migration Patterns to Northern Industrial Cities (hybrid)
Ari Wilkins, featured speaker
During the Great Migration, many African American families left the South for the promise of a better life in the North. Learn about the motives for migration, patterns, and methods for tracking your ancestor.

4:20 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Session 4. Behind-the-scenes tour of the Archives of Michigan (hybrid)
Are you curious about where records are kept in the archives? Join staff at the Archives of Michigan for a behind-the-scenes look of the archives and its holdings.

6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Research Lock In (separate registration, onsite only)
The Archives of Michigan and Library of Michigan will both be open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Pizza and refreshments, provided by the Archives of Michigan, will be available for registrants from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. A registration link is provided to those who register for the seminar.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Seminar registration and continental breakfast (onsite only)

8:50 a.m. – 9:50 a.m.
Session 5. Becoming American: Research with Naturalization Records (hybrid)
Kris Rzepczynski, Archives of Michigan
This program will explore naturalization records, the many tools available to assist you in your research, and successful strategies to locate citizenship records, utilizing both online and print resources.

10:10 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.
Session 6. Reconstructing Communities Using Sanborn Maps, Census Records, and City Directories (hybrid)
Ari Wilkins, featured speaker
Recreating neighborhoods can provide rich and insightful details about an ancestor’s life and surroundings. This lecture will demonstrate ways to build a map using Sanborn Fire insurance maps, census records, and city directories in Google Maps.

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Session 7. Did Your Ancestors Join? Societies, Aid, and Other Community Groups (hybrid)
Jessica Trotter, researcher & blogger
Explore the clubs and groups that might have drawn our ancestors—particularly in the Progressive Era (1890s-1920s)—and discover resources for genealogical research.

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Lunch provided by the Archives of Michigan (onsite only)

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Session 8. Black and White Southern Families in Southern Plantation Records (hybrid)
Ari Wilkins, featured speaker
The Antebellum Southern Plantation Records can offer multifaceted views into many white and African American Southern families. This resource documents families' personal and business correspondence, conditions of plantation life (including the elusive names of slaves and descriptions of slave relationships), and much more. Learn about the genealogical value of the Southern Antebellum Plantation Records - how they are organized, how to search the collection, and apply it towards your genealogical research. The case studies will highlight the personal documents of a white Southern family and the indirect documentation of an African American family.

2:50 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Session 9. Time To Hit the Books – Yearbooks, Alumni Lists, and More (hybrid)
Adam Oster, Library of Michigan
Yearbooks, alumni lists, and other school related records can be rich in details about the people in your family tree. Discover the activities and clubs that ancestors participated in during their school years. Learn to uncover details about both your family members and the communities they lived in. Explore the ways of finding these valuable resources both in print and online.

4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Extended open hours at the Archives of Michigan (onsite only)
The reading room will remain open until 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Speaker Bios

Clark, Rachel
Rachel Clark is an archivist with the Archives of Michigan. Prior to joining the archives, she taught middle school for over 11 years and was the education specialist for the Michigan History Center for 12 years. Rachel works on the Reference Team at the archives and has experience working in state and local records.

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, President and Social Media co-chair for the Michigan Genealogical Council, and a founder of the English-Speaking Genealogists of Europe, NATO Chapter.

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's, 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.

Wilkins, Ari
Ari Wilkins is a genealogist, lecturer and instructor who has been actively researching family history for over twenty-five years. Ms. Wilkins is a graduate of Louisiana State University. She speaks on a variety of genealogical subjects and specializes in African American research.

Ms. Wilkins has worked at a library with one of the largest and most renowned genealogical collections in the country for over a decade. She handles one-of-a-kind material, special collections, and had the opportunity to archive and digitize 18th and 19th century family Bible collections.

As a researcher, Ari has a concentration on African American and Southern research. She has had the opportunity to work on some significant projects. As a budding genealogist, Ms. Wilkins worked with the esteemed author Dr. James Rose on his final publication, Generations: The WPA Ex-Slave Narrative Database. One of the projects she is most proud of was creating a working database and timeline of more than four hundred people enslaved in Louisiana that were documented from one slaveholding family.

As a lecturer, Ms. Wilkins has spoken nationally at the National Genealogical Society, the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, RootsTech, and a multitude of state and local societies. She has also led the African American course for the Texas Institute of Genealogical Research for the past three years.

Ms. Wilkins has made a variety of media appearances. She has been a guest on Good Morning Texas and Maryland Public TV’s, Direct Connection. She was also on Baltimore Public Radio’s, Future City and has been featured on many podcasts.

Ari is active in the genealogical community. Previously, she served as a board member of the Dallas Genealogical Society and the Texas State Genealogical Society. She has been active with the National Genealogical Society and served on numerous committees. In 2023, Ari was awarded the Lloyd Bockstruck Distinguished Service Award by the Dallas Genealogical Society for her outstanding contributions to the genealogical community on a national level. Ms. Wilkins is also a fellow of the Texas State Genealogical Society.

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Updated 03/15/2024