24 July 2015

Summertime Genealogy in Michigan

My big genealogical adventure this summer was traveling to Florida to my son's wedding, which was a great trip, but one that I didn't do any research on.  I haven't had time to do any research trips.  I did have the opportunity to attend a seminar, the Abrams Seminar, held in Lansing Michigan in July.

The Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar, hosted by the Archives of Michigan and Michigan Genealogical Council, featuring Michael Lacopo was great.  One of the greatest things was that I only had to travel 50 miles to go to it.

Day 1 started out with Michigan Genealogical Council board and delegate meetings. The July Board meeting was my first official meeting as a member of the board!  I wanted to serve on the board to give back to the genealogical community that has given so much to me in terms of resources, education, and more.

I had time between the delegate meeting and the start of the Seminar and I took advantage of that time by having lunch and then sitting outside on the second floor of the Michigan Library and Historical Center, next to the big tree. It was a great place to get focused on genealogy.

The Seminar kicked off with a choice of tours:  Digitization Tour or Archives of Michigan Tour.  I chose to go on the Digitization Tour.  This tour was offered for the first time at the seminar and it was very informative.  Attendees got to go on a behind the scenes tour of the digitization process at the Archives.

Two afternoon sessions were offered with six options for seminar attendees.  I like to choose my sessions by what will further the research that I am conducting at the time.  I chose Researching Your Family History at the Archives of Michigan with Kris Rzepczynski for two reasons.  One, I have done limited research in the Archives and figured this would motivate me to do more.  Two, I felt I could share my knowledge at my local society meetings.  Kris did an excellent job of explaining the resources available at the Archives.  Some of my readers may remember a few years ago when the Abrams Foundation Historical Collection was moved from the Library of Michigan to the Archives of Michigan.  Most of the Abrams Collection can be found in the open stacks in the Archives Reading Room.

My second choice was a little harder decision to make.  I could easily have gone to any one of the three.  I chose "Chasing Your Elusive Ancestor" on the Internet by Karen Krugman.  I have a few elusive ancestors and thought I could benefit from Karen's talk.  This was my first time hearing Karen speak and she is a character. Her presentations are filled with great advice and humor.  Have you met Mr. Brown Eyes?  Karen went over Search Engines, Types of Searches, Websites, Tips for Searching and more.  

The first day ended with a Lock In at the Archives of Michigan for those who preregistered for it.  I was one of the lucky ones who got a spot, but about three days before the lock in, I decided that I couldn't get my research together enough to make the best use of the time at the Archives. I only had one day between coming back from the wedding and going to Lansing.  I emailed the Archives and released my spot to someone on the waiting list.

Saturday morning I was up early and on my way to Lansing.  Michael Lacopo was first up and I didn't want to miss his talk.  "Deconstructing Your Family Tree: Reevaluating the "Evidence"" was the topic for the session.  Michael provided lots of questions for thought when doing your research, encouraged becoming familiar with the Genealogical Proof Standard, and expressed how important it is to develop an understanding of social history.  Many examples from his own research were given.
Is it Genealogical? was the take home question for me.

Next up was "What's New at Seeking Michigan" by Jessica Harden from the Archives of Michigan.  I attended this session to hear what Jessica had to say because my local society, Calhoun County Genealogical Society, is hosting Jessica at one of our programs in the Spring.  Jessica walked attendees through the best way to search at SeekingMichigan.org, now Michiganology,which I found helpful having gotten frustrated a couple of times there!  Her advice was to start at the advanced search feature on the home page, and only search one database at a time.  The available databases are found in list form on the right side of the advanced search page. I did learn something new and that was when you are searching Death records, you can click on the column heading to sort the results.  Jessica provided other tips for searching military records, census records, Detroit News Index, and more.  Overall, a great refresher for me.

Lunch was included in the price of the seminar and was catered by Grand Traverse Pie Company, no pie but a delicious sandwich, chips and cookie.

The afternoon session started with Michael Lacopo speaking on "More Than the Census"- Our Families Did Exist Between Those Ten Year Intervals!  I find Michael such a great speaker that I found myself listening more than taking notes.  The syllabus was provided via a Dropbox link before the seminar and I was able to use my tablet to take notes right on the syllabus.  I only highlighted one thing and it was "construct a timeline for every ancestor" "Make it a point to know where the person was a ALL times." Great advice.

My last session of the day was Ceil Wendt Jensen's "Immigration Agents".  I have wondered for some time if my great grandfather was recruited from Germany to come to Manistee county for the timber industry.  Ceil's presentation was packed with information and resources to further my education on this topic.  One screen shot that Ceil showed was the places that the Immigration agent recruited people from in the German partition of Posen.  I don't know where my great grandfather was born, but I know where his sister was baptized and that village was on the list.

I am not going to go into any more detail as I have used Ceil's resources this past week and found a little more out about the Immigration agents and plan a blog post about it.

The Archives of Michigan did a great job with the Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar.  I enjoyed going to a more laid back seminar and getting to know more of my Michigan genealogy friends.

The day ended with a few of the Michigan Genealogical Council board members going to dinner with Michael Lacopo, Kris Rzepcyznsk, and his guest.  We went to a great restaurant in Lansing, Capitol Prime Steak and Seafood.  It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful event.

Thank you Kris R. and your staff at Archives of Michigan, my fellow MGC board members and Micahel Lacopo for offering this great resource in my home state.  The Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar is offered in July each year.  Check it out at Seeking Michigan.org and plan to visit Pure Michigan and the seminar.


  1. What a wonderful summary! With all my Michigan ancestors, I am envious of your opportunity, PLUS I would love to hear each of those speakers! Thank you for sharing, Brenda.

  2. Thank you, Miriam. I have said before I am thankful for my Michigan Roots. I hope you are enjoying your summer.