Meet Baerbel Johnson

Baerbel Johnson

Baerbel Johnson

Baerbel graduated from BYU with degrees in Sociology and “Family and Local History Studies” as it was called back in the day. She is a widow and has three children of her own plus a foster son: two girls, two boys, but all grown up at ages 32 to 24. Baerbel loves to sing and has been a member of the German Chorus Harmonie for over 20 years. She served an LDS mission from 1978-1980 in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and she loves gardening.

Johnson has an incredible amount of experience in the world of genealogy. She worked in the Family History Library for 20 years as an international reference consultant. In her words, “This was a wonderful time for me because I am a people person and there I had lots of opportunities to help people directly with solving research problems and teaching them to work with various records. Because of my language background I supported research in various part of Europe, Africa, and the West Indies.” On a personal note, I have a friend who does German research and whenever she had a problem, she told me that she always “went to see Baerbel in Salt Lake because she was kind, knowledgeable, and didn’t make me feel dumb with my questions.” What a great recommendation!

Baerbel has been working under Joe Everett on the International Eastern Hemisphere Patron Services Team since 2013. She supports the family history centers in  Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

Baerbel loves to problem solve using her “ancestor detective” mindset. In her words, “It is a wonderful feeling when you find that one clue that makes a brick wall crumble….And I enjoy gathering more than just names; really learning about an ancestor in the context of his/her social and cultural environment. It’s amazing how even after 40 years of research new sources become available that add color to the picture. For instance, just recently I browsed through a new book published by Ernie Thode, a listing of digitized German-language newspapers. This prompted me to search the Internet for newly digitized material from my home area. In the process  I found two newspaper notices that showed that my great-grandfather was both mechanically inclined and creative. He received two patents: for inventing some kind of valve and for a process to make leather from cows’ stomachs.” You never know when you are going to find something wonderful!

Another thought from Baerbel in her own words, “All my grandparents were dead before I was born, so I never learned much about them growing up. But in the years since I began my family history journey I have learned some amazing things about them, and somehow feel that I know them. This connection is another special gift I get out of doing genealogy. I love to teach people how to find their ancestors and have similar wonderful experiences. Their successes make me very happy.”

Here is another interesting note; the name Baerbel is a diminutive form of Barbara, like Peggy is for Margaret. Baerbel says that “the name is common in Germany, but kind of weird here. My kids say that I’m barely bearable!” Somehow, I doubt that!

Make a plan to attend Baerbel’s classes at the FEEFHS Conference. She will be teaching Resources from German Research in formerly Eastern Areas, German Civil Registration and German Digital Libraries. It will be well worth you time and effort.










John Alleman, original co-founder of FEEFHS to Instruct at Conference

John Alleman

John Alleman, one of the original co-founders of FEEFHS, has been working as a translator, specializing in Finnish and Hungarian languages, since 1967.  He holds dual master’s degrees in Uralic Languages and in Linguistics; studied Hungarian at the University of Debrecen in Hungary; lived in both Finland and Hungary; speaks/reads Finnish, German, and Hungarian; and reads Russian and several other languages.  

He will be teaching the Hungarian Empire Research track at the upcoming FEEFHS conference to be held in Salt Lake City, August 13-15, 2015.  The track includes classes on research, records, and tools to use in researching ancestors who hail from any part of what was the Hungarian Empire.  This would include countries like modern-day Slovakia.

Join us for this amazing opportunity to learn from one of the masters.


2015 Program – Conference or Workshop?

This is the first year since I’ve been involved and since FEEFHS has somewhat permanently claimed Salt Lake as its home that we have had a full 3-day, up to 4-track conference.  What, you say, is the difference?  For several years FEEFHS held a 3-day “workshop,” deemed such by limited lecture time (mornings) and equal portions of research time (afternoons), along with one on one consultations.  An excellent format, one that allowed us to take advantage of the wealth of resources at the Family History Library, but somewhat restricted in instructional variety.  While the basics – records, methodology, and tools – for each country of focus are a staple of any good FEEFHS program, our more advanced returning participants needed and wanted more.

We therefore made the transition from the workshop format to a full conference program in 2014, adding specialized workshops on the front end.  The 2015 program outline expanded on that concept, adding another half-day of instruction, along with a progressive approach – building from the more foundational classes to more advanced or unique topics.  The German Research track literally runs throughout the conference and provides instruction for all levels – basic, intermediate, and advanced – of German research.  Other areas that offer more advanced topics this year include Russo-German Research, Jewish Research, and Russian Research.

This 3-day conference also allows us to offer presentations on some very unique records, like those of the International Tracing Service or the Russian 1897 census, and methodologies, like Genetic Genealogy (DNA) or document transcription.  So, more presentations, more in-depth instruction, and more variety – now that’s a conference.  I might note that in addition to our very unique German track especially formed for this year, the 2015 conference offers instruction on the Hungarian Empire and Slovakia, two areas of focus that are not included on an annual basis.

But what of the consultation time?  While we are no longer able to offer one on one consultations by appointment, you will still find that all of our instructors are excited and willing to answer questions throughout the conference, the experts at the FHL just as accessible as before (perhaps even more so due to their new system), and the time to network with others researching in the same areas still viable.  Not to mention that the ITS record collection specialist will be offering consultations by appointment all three days.


Lisa Alzo to join FEEFHS remotely

alzo-photoGreat news for researchers with ancestors from the areas that are represented by present-day Slovakia! Lisa Alzo, specialist in Slovak research, will be teaching two classes at the upcoming FEEFHS conference, to be held in Salt Lake City, August 13-15, 2015.

Unable to attend in person, Lisa has graciously set up the sessions remotely for us to broadcast into the Plaza Hotel classroom:

  • Beginning Slovak Genealogy, August 14, 9:45 am
  • Immigrant Cluster Communities:  Past, Present, and Future, August 14, 11:00 am

Lisa A. Alzo, MFA, is a freelance writer, instructor, and internationally recognized lecturer, specializing in Slovak/Eastern European genealogical research, writing family histories, and using the internet to trace female and immigrant ancestors. She grew up in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College, and received her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.  She is the author of nine books, including the award-winning Three Slovak Women. 

Lisa has been actively involved in FEEFHS in years past, both as a presenter and former board member.  We are excited to have her return.


Hey Dave… Where is Volhynia?

VICTORIA, B.C.: JANUARY 7, 2010 New head shot of Dave Obee inVictoria, B.C. January  7, 2010. (DEBRA BRASH, TIMES COLONIST). For City story by Stand Alone

Dave Obee is one very busy man. He is both a journalist and a genealogical researcher with a dozen books and almost 600 presentations at conferences and seminars in Canada and the United States to his credit. He travels the world both researching his family and helping others with their family research.

Dave is Editor-in-Chief of the Times Colonist in Victoria, British Columbia. He has worked as a journalist since 1972 in both British Columbia and Alberta. Dave is passionate about school libraries and other literacy projects and was one of the founders of the annual Times Colonist book drive. This book drive has raised more than $1.5 million since 1998.

If you read either Internet Genealogy or Your Genealogy Today magazines (formerly Family Chronicle), Dave’s name is probably familiar to you. He writes the back page column in every issue of both of these magazines. In addition, Dave is the man behind a couple of other Internet sites: CanGenealogy and Volhynia.

Canadian icon, Shirley Douglas, OC, actress, daughter of Tommy Douglas (the father of Canada's Medicare) and mother of Kiefer Sutherland (star of the hit show, 24), is presented with her family tree in Toronto, Thursday, May 25, 2006, by Dave Obee, genealogist and member of the Canadian Advisory Board.  (PR DIRECT PHOTO/

Canadian icon, Shirley Douglas, OC, actress, daughter of Tommy Douglas (the father of Canada’s Medicare) and mother of Kiefer Sutherland (star of the hit show, 24), is presented with her family tree in Toronto, Thursday, May 25, 2006, by Dave Obee, genealogist and member of the Canadian Advisory Board. (PR DIRECT PHOTO/

Dave has had many honors over the years. In May 2006, Dave had the opportunity to present Shirley Douglas (Canadian film and stage actress and activist) with a published copy of her family history at the official launch of

Dave Obee doctorateIn 2012, the University of Victoria awarded Dave an honorary doctorate of laws for his tireless work as a historian, genealogist, and journalist.

In 2014, Dave was presented with the Governor General’s Caring Canadian award for his work as a community volunteer. As you can see, Dave is no slouch!

On a personal note, Dave has visited 17 countries in Europe, doing genealogical research in most of them. He has a great interest in the world war battle areas in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Dave was born in British Columbia, and his roots there are traced to his great-great-grandfather who arrived from Manitoba in 1890. Dave had paternal ancestors arrive in North America two centuries ago, settling in New York State and Ontario. Dave’s mother was born in the Soviet Union, now Ukraine. Her ancestors were from Germany, now part of Poland. This explains Dave’s interest in Volhynia.

Dave served as the president of the Federation of East European Family History Societies (now Foundation for Eastern European Family History Studies) from 2004-2007. For more information about Dave Obee, go to

We invite you to Dave Obee’s presentations this year at the FEEFHS Conference. After all, Where is Volhynia?