NCGS Adventures

Our Visit to the Niagara Peninsula Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society

On Sunday, January 19th, Board Member Joann Stoll and I (Jeanette Sheliga) crossed the Canadian Border to visit our Niagara Peninsula Branch friends of the Ontario Genealogical Society.  You can find their websites here: 

Ontario Genealogical Society: 

Niagara Peninsula Branch: 

We first met our OGS hosts at the St. Catharines Public Library – Central Library Branch at 54 Church St., St. Catherines, ON L2R 7K2.  The library’s website can be found here:

The St. Catharines Central Library Branch has a large Special Collections room on the second floor of the library which houses their Local History, Genealogy, and Norval Johnson Heritage Centre collections.  Right outside of the Special Collections room is Ontario Genealogical Society Collection:

After we explored all of the wonderful resources they had at the library (directories, family histories, OGS publications, surname indexes, cemetery transcripts, and so much more!), we headed to offices of the Niagara Branch located right near the locks for the Welland Canal (50 Chapel St. S, Thorold, ON L2V 2C6).  They share a space with the Thorold and Beaverdams Historical Museum and the Lock 7 Viewing Centre.

Ontario Genealogical Society President, Steve Fulton, showed us around the museum and let me have some fun with an old phone switchboard:

We drove around the Welland canal locks (so much bigger than our set here in Lockport!) and then had a really nice dinner with a group of Niagara Branch members.  At the dinner we learned about their upcoming OGS Conference & Family History Show taking place in the Hamilton Convention Centre on June 5-7, 2020.  You can visit the conference website here:  I registered to attend!

After dinner, they gave us a gift for our NCGS library.  It is a collection of stories outlining the lives of men and women who found themselves in the midst of battle in the War of 1812. 

Here are some of the names of the people featured:

We had such a great visit and truly appreciate their hospitality and kindness.  We are very fortunate to have so many nice neighboring societies near us and loved crossing the bridge to visit and learn from our Canadian friends.  

I am very much looking forward to attending the OGS Conference this June!

Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society, Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club, a member of APG (Assn of Professional Genealogists) and the National Genealogical Society.

NCGS Adventures

New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B)

I spent some time hanging out in the NYG&B booth at the FGS 2019 conference.  NYG&B is celebrating their 150th anniversary this year having been formed in 1869 and has almost 5000 members. NYG&B publishes many materials including the revised edition (2017) of the New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer which is a 868 page, two-volume set.

In 2018, NYG&B became the new home of Kinship Books as the co-founders and owners donated the assets of their business to NYG&B.  Kinship Books has been publishing New York books for over 50 years from Rhinebeck, NY.  Their books include transcribing religious records, account books, store ledgers, census records, and more… focusing heavily on the areas surrounding the Hudson River.  You can view the book collection and order online at:

NYG&B also has online record collections open to their members that are currently being housed at  Right now, NYG&B members are given access to in order to view the records and, as a bonus, all North American record collections as well as the ability to build a family tree at no additional charge.  

News to me (though it was announced in their Spring 2019 New York Researcher publication), is that NYG&B has been working hard on creating their own records platform to be housed on their own website ( and moving away from keeping their holdings at FindMyPast.  They hope that the new records platform will be ready to launch by the end of 2019.

Some of the benefits that the new platform will feature are a reorganization of their collections making them easy to search and browse, the ability to automatically process new digital collections, and for members to be able to download full periodicals such as The Record (not one page at a time).

NYG&B members will still have access to FindMyPast until their year membership is up and then after that, it will most likely be going away.  Therefore, don’t wait too long to take advantage of the FindMyPast collections while you have the opportunity if you are a NYG&B member!

Sue Miller, the Director of Programs for NYG&B that I was talking to today, hopes that many of us from Niagara County and Western New York attend their New York Genealogy Seminar on October 12th, 2019 in Syracuse, NY.

You can learn more and register for the seminar here at:

Road trip!!

Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga of Lockport NY is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society, Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club and a member of APG (Assn of Professional Genealogists)

NCGS Adventures

Virtual Genealogical Association (VGA)

We are very fortunate in our WNY area to have local genealogical societies to become members of and attend programs.  Thinking about this, Katherine Willson, the founder of the Virtual Genealogical Association (VGA), had the idea to form a virtual society and her dream came true when VGA launched on April 30th, 2018.

From an info card at their booth in the vendor hall at FGS: “VGA recognizes that many family history enthusiasts are merging technology and globalization in their genealogical pursuits.  We provide a forum for genealogists worldwide to connect, network, and mentor with others through monthly meetings online, webinars, social networking, annual conferences, and meet-ups at events worldwide.”

Katherine Willson told me that she is very happy with the growth of the society.  Since it’s formation last year, the VGA has 1700 members from 21 countries.  They offer three online presentations a month and have formed different chapters and special interest groups (SIGs) on Facebook.  The annual cost for becoming a member is $20.  The VGA website is:

The VGA is going to host their first conference this year.  It is a virtual conference (of course) and the dates are Friday, November 1 – Sunday, November 3.  The conference is going to have 20 sessions (six each day with an additional two pre-recorded) across the three days.  Well-known genealogy speakers such as Blaine T. Bettinger, Lisa Alzo, Jen Baldwin, and Judy G. Russell are some of the presenters.  

The conference attendees do not have to watch the sessions live as they will have access to the recordings and handouts for 6 months following the conference.  The conference cost is $59 for members and $79 for non-members (which is the conference price with a membership added on).  Click here for more information about the VGA 2019 Conference:

Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga of Lockport NY is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society, Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club and a member of APG (Assn of Professional Genealogists)

NCGS Adventures

Breaking News from the FGS Conference

On August 21st, 2019, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced during the opening session of their conference that the boards of FGS and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) have voted this past week and decided to merge organizations.

The primary benefits of merging the societies will be:
1. Improved focus on society needs
2. One large national conference
3. Reduction of duplicate costs

The expected completion of the merger is October 1, 2020.

NGS President Benjamin B. Spratling and FGS President Faye Stallings held a press conference later in the morning where attendees could ask questions.

The merged society is going to be called NGS.  Both organizations will have a separate conference in 2020 but will be combining their conference starting in 2021.

The 2020 separate conferences are:
NGS – May 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah
FGS – August 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri

The first combined conference will be in 2021:
NGS – May 2021 in Richmond, Virginia

They plan on increasing the current NGS 4-day conference format to a a 5-day conference to add in the FGS format of having a Society Management Day.  

The FGS magazine, Forum, will be incorporated into the NGS Magazine and then discontinued.  The FGS Preserve the Pensions Project will continue under its existing arrangements.    

More information can be found at the organization’s websites:



Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga of Lockport NY is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society and Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club.

NCGS Adventures

News from the FGS Conference FamilySearch & DNA: What’s the Story?

I attended a lunch-time session in the vendor hall yesterday in the FamilySearch Booth at the FGS Conference.  The topic was FamilySearch & DNA: What’s the Story? 

What I learned is that FamilySearch is starting to get into the DNA game, however, they are NOT going to become a testing company as there are plenty of them out there.  

Their first step to incorporating DNA into FamilySearch was to create an unbiased page to help educate about DNA.  You can find that page here:

They divided the webpage into three main areas: 

1. Which DNA test options are available?

2. What should I do after taking a DNA test?

3. FAQ/Terminology.

There is a team working at FamilySearch on ways to incorporate DNA into the FamilySearch Family Tree.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga of Lockport NY is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society and Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club.

NCGS Adventures

My First Genealogy Institute

From June 24-28, I attended my first genealogy institute! The one I chose was the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) at La Roche College in Pittsburgh. I mostly selected it for two reasons: one was because it is the closest to where I live and secondly because Tom Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS was teaching the course Mastering the Art of Genealogical Documentation.

I had heard that maybe Tom Jones was going to retire from speaking soon and I didn’t want to lose my chance to learn from him. Especially since he was speaking on a topic that I have been struggling with which is creating source citations. I know some people might find it strange that somebody would choose to spend money and a week of their time learning about citations, but I was excited about it.

I felt like I was able to keep up with the information the first day, and then I started to feel information overload. Luckily the handout was amazing and I can refer to that as I continue to process the information and start to put it into practice. When asked, I teased that we spent a whole morning talking about the semi-colon! Which we did, although we also talked about many other punctuation markings. I don’t think I ever knew there was such a thing as an en dash or em dash!

We were given pre-reading before the institute along with homework each night. The pre-reading was an article that Tom Jones wrote for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) and it was of particular interest as it referenced a family that lived for a time in Niagara County. I mentioned to Tom during a break that I live in Niagara County and we got to talking over the course of the week. He mentioned there was somebody in my area that he was hoping to make a connection to as she was a DNA match to him and could help break a brick wall. It turns out that I knew the person he was talking about (she is a music teacher in Orleans County) and I reached out to her and helped them connect! What a small world! I felt really happy that I was able to help Tom in that small way as he has helped the genealogy community so much over the years.

I got the chance to talk to and thank the GRIP Co-Directors. It is hard to not “geek out” when meeting these well-known genealogists. I did approach Elissa Scalise Powell and personally thank her for her webinar that she gave to the Western New York Genealogical Society (WNYGS) titled Your Personal Education Plan: Sifting through the Options as it opened up my eyes to what level genealogist I was and what I needed to do to become a better researcher.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, Jeanette Sheliga, and Deborah Lichtner Deal

It was really neat to walk around during the breaks and hear bits of conversation. Everyone there was so nice and were “speaking my language.” You could feel comfortable sitting with strangers at a table during mealtime and have plenty to talk about. Three of the evenings, they had speakers give a lecture that you could optionally attend if you wanted to. Maia’s Books was also there and you could browse all of the books during the breaks. I *may* have bought a few books… like 5 of them, but I promise to read them!

Members of WNYGS with LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM CG, CGL. WNYGS sponsored her Thursday evening lecture.

I really enjoyed my week at GRIP. It was a great opportunity to network, make friends, and learn from others. A few of us WNYGS members had carpooled together. I stayed in a hotel across the street from the campus which was very nice and I had paid for the campus meal plan which was delicious. I also took some time during the breaks to look at a few of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Portfolios that they had on display. I very much look forward to the next time that I can attend a course at GRIP!

Receiving my Certificate of Completion from Dr. Tom Jones

Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga of Lockport NY is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society and Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club.

NCGS Adventures

Attending the Program: Tracing Your Family History at the New York State Archives

On April 24th, I attended a special event from the New York Archives Magazine Speaker Series.  It was titled Tracing Your Family History at the New York State Archives.  This was a program put together through the combined efforts of the Buffalo History Museum, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B), and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust with the guest speaker D. Joshua Taylor, President of NYG&B.

The New York State Archives’ (NYSA) website is located here:  The first advice we received at the lecture was to think broadly.  The NYSA Collections are unindexed, not transcribed, only briefly described, and organized according to their creator.  Therefore, do not try searching for your ancestor’s name, you need to cast a wide net with your searches.

We were advised before approaching the NYSA to:

1. Locate materials in the NYSA Catalog

2. Locate a NYSA Finding Aid

3. Search for digitized versions and indexes.

To search the NYSA Catalog, click on this link:  The default underneath the search box is “ALL”, which is fine, but you can change the dropdown to ARCHIVES, HDI (Historical Documents Inventory), MSC (miscellaneous), and NYSL (New York State Library).  The Historical Documents Inventory (HDI) is not located at the NYSA but inventoried and may be held at a library or other repository.  

To help you get familiar with the collections that the NYSA has, their Finding Aids are located here:  According to their website, the Finding Aids include descriptions of records, and contents lists for selected records of New York State agencies and governors that are held by the New York State Archives.

The NYSA website does contain some Digital Collections:  Also found on their website is a link to records on Ancestry.com  According to their website, several New York repositories have formed a partnership with Ancestry to digitize family history records and make them available on line for free.  If you are an Ancestry member, you already have access to these collections.  If you are not an Ancestry member, you can access these collection for free from home by signing up for a free Ancestry account and providing your NYS Zip Code.

Another great resource on the NYSA website is their Research Topics page:  This page directs you to more in-depth descriptions of their most requested record collections.  Often you can also find links to the Pathfinders that the NYSA has created.  Here is an example of a Pathfinder for their Military Service Records:

On the main page of the NYSA, be sure to scroll down a little and click on the quick links where it says Genealogy:  There are many resources there to help you with your research.

It was announced that NYG&B will be releasing a new research guide coming out later this year authored by D. Joshua Taylor and Jane Wilcox titled The New York State Archives: An Authorized Guide for Family and Local Historians.  The NYG&B also organizes research trips to the NYSA.  You can read more about their next trip in November 2019 here:

It’s a little blurry, but I was able to get my picture with Joshua Taylor!!

Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga of Lockport NY is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society and Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club.