Finding the “Village of Origin”

FindMyPast just posted this:  “Discover your Ancestral Hometown” .  Their timing couldn’t be more perfect since FEEFHS just announced the opening of registration for the upcoming conference and pre-conference workshops.

Klenov15pohladnicaIf you are trying to figure out how to reach across the Atlantic to your East European ancestors but haven’t yet figured out how to do so, the FMP post gives you the basics.  While written with British and Irish ancestors in mind, the process (and the problem) is the same:  you must have sufficient information to identify your ancestor in their home country, and that includes knowing the village they were born in.

Their quick tips:

  1. Start your search in the U.S.
  2. Don’t neglect things like genealogy periodicals and compiled histories.
  3. Only search (overseas) once you have the essential information; and even then, you must rigorously verify you have the right family.

Armed with sufficient information like name, birth date, birth place (village of origin), and names of other family members, your search in East European records can begin.  And that is where the class sessions at the upcoming FEEFHS conference begin – helping you with the records, methodology, and resources you need to conduct that research.

Sher_editedSo, if you don’t yet know the “village of origin”?  Joanne Sher will be instructing a two-day pre-conference workshop to help you do just that.  Each morning will be spent reviewing records and methods used to find this answer, while the afternoons will be spent in the Family History Library researching and consulting with the experts.  There is no guarantee that you will find what you need to in those two days; but we will certainly try to get you to that point.  And, you will have a foundation to build upon as your attend the conference sessions on records in your ancestor’s country.


2016 Conference Registration Open

2016 FlyerRegistration is now open for the 2016 Eastern European Family History Conference to be held August 8-12, 2016.  The program will be at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel, convenient to the nearby Family History Library for research.

This year’s program is country-research-focused, with a full track on German research carrying over all three days, and extended Polish, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian research tracks.  Two of our favorite pre-conference workshops, Finding the Village of Origin and Learning Cyrillic, will be taught on Monday and Tuesday, August 8-9.  The conference will open with a welcome reception on Tuesday, August 9th and end with a closing banquet on Friday, August 12th.  Optional consultations are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please visit the conference website for full details and registration information.


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: