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.