Researching in Eastern Europe Today?

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

This year’s plenary session will feature Dave Obee. The title of the session is “Researching in Eastern Europe Today.” Dave is a Past-President of FEEFHS and has valuable information to help us with our research. In getting to know Dave Obee, here are a few fun facts:

  • Dave has worked as a journalist since 1972.
  • In 2012, the University of Victoria awarded Dave an honorary doctorate of laws for his tireless work as a historian, genealogist, and journalist.
  • Dave has visited 17 countries in Europe, doing genealogical research in most of them.
  • Dave is Editor-in-Chief of the Times Colonist in Victoria, British Columbia.
  • Dave writes the back page column for both Internet Genealogy or Your Genealogy Today magazines (formerly Family Chronicle).
  • Dave is passionate about school libraries and other literacy projects and was one of the founders of the annual Times Colonist book drive.
  • In 2014, Dave was presented with the Governor General’s Caring Canadian award for his work as a community volunteer.
  • 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

This year, in addition to the plenary session keynote, Dave will be teaching three classes: 1) Germans of Russia Case Study, 2) The 1930’s: Stalin’s Arrest Files, and 3) The 1940’s: Forced from Their Homes.

Dave’s classes are not to be missed. Please come join us August 8-12, 2016 at the Plaza Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Interested in Researching Areas Represented by Present-Day Slovakia? Let Lisa Alzo Show You How!

alzo-photoLisa Alzo, a well-known specialist in Slovak research will be teaching two classes at the upcoming FEEFHS conference which will be held in Salt Lake City, August 8-12, 2016.

Unable to attend in person, Lisa is setting up these two classes remotely for us to broadcast into the Plaza Hotel classroom:

  • Researching in Slovakia–Online Sources (remote)
  • Researching in Slovakia–Archives and Villages (remote)

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.


Kahlile Mehr is Back at the Conference This Year!

KahlileThose of you who have attended the FEEFHS Conference for the last couple of years may have noticed that last year Kahlile Mehr was missing. Now is the time to catch up with him! Kahlile spent the last 18 months in Ukraine on an LDS mission for the Church History Library. While he was there, he established the Kyiv Records Preservation Center (RPC), which is a facility to store church records, both official and private, for permanent preservation. This facility is a mini Church History Library, without patron services. During the 18 months in Ukraine, Kahlile assisted in accomplishing an impressive list of assignments. Looking through the list of projects accomplished, we decided that it would be interesting to list them all, since at some time many of us may benefit from these projects if we have family in those areas. Here is the list:

  • Gathered 42 paper and 30 digital collections
  • Processed and cataloged this material so that it could be included in the Church History Library catalog
  • Trained a local person to maintain the center
  • Trained local church historical advisers in Ukraine, Armenia, and Bulgaria to create and process oral histories and to assist local units to submit annual histories
  • Assisted with presentations at two seminars for the advisors
  • Conducted about forty audio and video interviews with key historical persons
  • Scanned material so that the images would be available at the Church History Library.
  • Oriented mission presidents and the Kyiv Stake president on church history activities
  • Videoed many historical sites including commentary by those who know about the history of the sites, including the place of dedication and the first baptism in Ukraine
  • Gave presentations on the history of the LDS Church in Ukraine to missionaries, members, and leaders

One of the main purposes serving in Ukraine on a Church History mission was to preserve records that have historic value. While there, Kahlile had a most inspiring event happen. In October 2014, Kahlile and his wife, Marolyn were taking a picture in front of the monument to the sister and three brothers in downtown Kiev. Kahlile & Marolyn Mehr
Let’s pick up the story in Kahlile’s own words. “A stranger approached and offered to take a photo of us together. We consented. She was going to depart saying she did not speak English when I engaged her with my Russian. She was pleasantly surprised and confessed that she was a member of the church. Her name is Anna Bigun. She had seen our name tags and thought that we just spoke English because of our age. She added that she was the historian of the Mariupol branch, which is still in Ukraine and that she is returning home tomorrow. More important, she said that they had three photo albums and two books of historical narrative. She added that she had lots to do and Desktopmust get it all done before tomorrow when she leaves and wondered what she was doing downtown. She concluded that now she knew; it was to meet us and share her information. How is it that in a city of millions that we would meet at the precise moment and place when we both were about to depart in different directions in pursuit of our own purposes? But God manifested his purpose and we met. In 2015, we received the records of Mariupol to keep safe in the Kyiv Records Preservation Center. We have also scanned them and printed copies for the use of the Saints in Mariupol.” Isn’t that amazing?

We asked Kahlile for some words of wisdom for research in eastern Europe. Here are his comments: “Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic have provided free access to their genealogical collections online. The whole civil registration of Hungary has been indexed and can be searched by name on FamilySearch. There are tens of thousands of microfilm rolls and millions of digital images online at FamilySearch. Language and scripts are a challenge but the possibilities of finding your ancestors are there for those who really want to pursue it.”

He further gives us a great example and some hope. Again, Kahlile’s own words. “Even if you do not have skill you can have success. We were able to identify a researcher to assist a person in Utah find her ancestor’s names in the tax censuses. She obtained hundreds of names for minimal expense.”

“Some documents were restored from the fire in Kamianets-Podilsky (Kamianets-Podilskyi is a city on the Smotrych River in western Ukraine) in 2003. An American initiated an effort to preserve some of the burned documents. In 2014, a researcher found names of ancestors for a Utahan that had been restored by the miracle of modern technology.” There is hope for all of us in our search efforts.

How in the world did Kahlile’s life come to this point of expertise in eastern European research? Kahlile served an LDS mission in Brazil from 1967-1969. He wrote in his journal on June 29, 1969: “I conversed with the son of the branch president. I told him I was desirous to learn Russian. His father is a Russian, born in Siberia, captive of the German army in Lithuania, immigrant to Brazil after the war.” After returning from his mission, Kahlile wrote on March 29, 1970: “If I learn Russian that would prepare me for a particular calling, a mission to Russia. The idea has recurred to me for about the last two years.” In April 1973 Kahlile graduated with a degree in Russian. He pursued his interests concurrently in History and Genealogy. On November 11, 1976, he wrote: “I contemplated the future and felt strongly that I should prepare myself to be an expert of Russian bibliography and records.” Kahlile wrote a paper on genealogical sources in the Russian Archives at a time when little was known about that subject. More of his own journal entries; “On March 10, 1977, I wrote: “Today was very significant. One of my dreams materialized. This afternoon I talked with Dennis Neuenschwander of the Genealogical Society of Utah and we discussed my involvement in a research project to determine the genealogical value of materials in Russian archives. The pattern of my life’s work now begins to focus. I have often pondered why I took Russian. Perhaps this is why.” Then on June 24, 1979 I recorded: “I will be called to forward the collection of genealogical records in the Soviet Union.”

It took twelve years for this opportunity to materialize. In 1992 Kahlile first visited Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. The collections for Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, and the Pacific were developed from 1992-2002 and 2007-2012. There have been twelve separate acquisition trips to archives in Eastern Europe. Kahlile has been to every country in Eastern Europe at least once, and some of them on multiple occasions. He speaks Russain and Portuguese, and reads various Germanic, Romance, and Slavic languages.

Professionally, Kahlile has written for a variety of genealogical publications such as the FEEFHS Journal, Avotaynu, and the Genealogical Helper. He has also delivered papers at many different conferences, including the Federation of Genealogical Socities, Foundation for East European Family History Studies (FEEFHS), the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

Please take the opportunity to attend Kahlile’s classes this year at the 2016 FEEFHS Conference (August 8-12, 2016). See you there!





Early-Bird Registration Deadline

This is a reminder that the early-bird registration is this coming Friday, July 8th. The lodging reservation deadline has also been extended to July 8th.  For more information, please check out our home page. See you soon!2016 Flyer



More of Paul Woodbury’s Exciting Adventures

Here is Paul Woodbury’s story of his 5gg’s ancestral home.


View from ancestral home

Enjoy the story and don’t forget to attend Paul’s classes at the 2016 FEEFHS Conference!

Ancestor Story by Paul Woodbury