2016 Dates Announced

The  dates for the 23rd annual Eastern European Family History Conference will be August 8-12, 2016.  Once again, the program will be held at the Plaza Hotel in Salt Lake City, where participants are able to access records and research their ancestral families at the nearby Family History Library.

The tentative program outline includes:

  • Monday-Tuesday, August 8-9:  Pre-conference workshops
  • Wednesday-Friday, August 10-12:  Conference sessions; Friday evening banquet
  • Saturday, August 13:  open for research on your own; consultations by appointment

The FEEFHS committee is presently considering tracks and topics for the conference.  Full information should be posted in April. In the meantime, the Plaza is already accepting lodging reservations. We hope to see you there.


Closing Keynote: A Sense of Place and Time: Putting Ancestors in Context

Donald Duck Used with permission

The closing keynote speech was given by Dave Obee. One of the very first images he showed was the one above. This is Donald Duck’s Family Tree. It is beautiful. Look, all of the spaces are filled in with a name and a picture. Names and pictures are great, but it doesn’t paint us much of a picture of their lives. What kind of life did your ancestor live? What was happening in their community, their place of worship, or their farm? There were many forces in play that shaped their lives. This is the kind of information that we want to use to create a rewarding and informative history.

Dave went on to show us various ways to learn about our ancestors. His mother’s family is from Volhynia and he wanted to know more. He wanted to put his mother’s family into context. He showed us that we can and should use many sources to learn about our families. He suggests that we start with geography. Get current and old maps for the areas that you are researching. Look for photos, old and new of the area. Google is a great place to start. Just type in the name of the community and see what comes up. Ah, the beauty of the Internet!

Newspapers are another wonderful place to get information that will add color to your ancestor’s story. Have you ever read old newspapers? They tell so much and give many clues to your ancestor’s life, even though your ancestor may not even be mentioned. There are big and small stories that are newspaper worthy in every community.

The genealogical information you can get from family members most of the time and there is no time like the present! As time passes, it can be harder to find this information. Information is lost with each generation. At RootsTech 2014, Judy Russell ( said in her presentation that studies are showing that family stories are lost in three generations. We want those stories, so start today!

Dave showed us many resources that we can use to develop our families in the context of their lives. You may not find them mentioned specifically, but knowing the external and internal forces in the community, village, country, and the world in general might give you an idea of why your ancestors did what they did and made the choices that they made.

Use the Internet and the library. Not everything is online. Dave says that “a wise researcher will use archives and libraries, at home and in other cities, and even go to ancestral areas for an on-the-ground experience.”

Last but not least, Dave reminded us that we need to check all resources that we can find. This includes immigration documents, local histories, newspapers, school records, etc.

For more information, check out


And the Winners Are…


The winners are left to right: Christine Moore, Amy Chidester, James Gustanski, Elizabeth Wjasow, Susan Kincanon, and Harriet Cane.

There will be a conference wrap-up posted later, but we wanted to congratulate the winners of this year’s door prizes. The contest this year was a social media challenge. Participants wrote up, tweeted, emailed, and blogged about their experiences at the conference.

The grand prize was awarded to the person who posted the overall best comment. Our winner posted some amazing comments and photos of those instructing and consulting with her.  Her final post, while not truly conference-related, gave us a bit of a chuckle.

We thank you and appreciate all of the posts. Many will be added this week so that you can get an idea of what was happening at the conference. It is always a great day when you find a connection that has eluded you in your research, find a network connection, or just attend a really great class!



Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 8.32.34 AMElizabeth Wjasow-Grand Prize, selected by committee:  Registration for next year’s conference plus four-night stay at the Plaza Hotel

Christine Moore – In Search of Your German Roots German research book

Amy Chidester – Digital set of all FEEFHS Journals

James Gustanski – One year all inclusive subscription to

Harriet Cane – One year all inclusive subscription to

Susan Kincanon – At a Glance German research manual

Many thanks to all that participated with the social media. It was fun!

And a special thanks to all of our door prize contributors:




Oral History Collection Highlighted

Jan-InterviewCenter stage today at the FEEFHS annual conference were some of the survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, their chilling testimonies on video recorded for this and future generations by the United States Holocaust Museum.

Ina Navazelskis, MSc, MA, project administrator with the Oral History Branch of the museum, spoke of the diversity of the Oral History Collection, which includes over 13,000 interviews of Holocaust survivors, resistance fighters, rescuers, Ina-Presentationwitnesses, collaborators, perpetrators, liberators, postwar prosecutors, relief workers, and survivors’ descendants.  The collection, which began in 1989 and continues to grow, includes interviews with Jews, Roma, Polish Gentiles, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and political prisoners.  It was the video clips of some of these very interviews that we were treated to today.

When asked to share what she thought about these video interviews, participant and conference volunteer Rayanne Melick wrote: “We heard stories of the crimes committed against the Jewish people and others deemed “not worthy” by the Nazi regime. We felt emotion in our hearts. We listened in disbelief. We came away from the presentation with a resolve to do our part to make sure these atrocities never happen again.”

The preservation of these testimonies provides primary sources for students, teachers, researchers, and filmmakers alike.

FEEFHS offers a special thanks to the US Memorial Museum for sponsoring this lecture and to Ms. Navazelskis, for using her 30 years of journalism experience to bring this project to life for those in attendance.

Images used by permission:  @HolocaustMuseum, R. Melick


A Little Mix and Mingle


The welcome reception was a wonderful way to enjoy some great hors d’oeuvres and do a little networking. Just imagine yourself in a room where you aren’t the only genealogy nerd! People didn’t roll their eyes or make fun of you when you launched into your particular genealogy story. It was so fun to be surrounded by people who have surnames as funny, weird, and unpronounceable as yours! We learned a little about each other and what insights into our research that we were hoping to learn at this conference. It was a very nice mix and mingle opportunity.