Life in the Past Lane VIII

The Friends of the National Archives - Pittsfield
proudly present their Eighth Full-Day Genealogy Conference

“Life in the Past Lane VIII”
Saturday, September 17, 2011

Williams Inn on the Green, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Registration form now available!

Please click here to download our registration form.

Click to read more on the topics and speakers...


8:00 AM   Registration and browse the vendor booths; deposit tickets
9:00 AM   for our free raffle (Coffee, tea, scones, muffins and danish)

9:00 AM   Jan Rogge, Friends’ President
9:15 AM   Welcome and conference information

9:15 AM   Michelle LeClair, Volunteer NARA Pittsfield
10:15 AM  “French Canadian Names”

Learning the methods of first names, surnames and dit names can be very useful in doing your French Canadian research.

*** concurrent with ***

9:15 AM   Meldon Wolfgang III
10:15 AM  “Searching for Those German Ancestors Online...Without Knowing Much German”

Considering everything that’s online, how can researchers tracing German families sort it all out if they don’t speak German?  This presentation focuses on introducing the audience to a whole host of interesting websites – many of them in Europe and most free – that researchers with German ancestors – beginners and old pros alike – will find useful.


10:30 AM   Peter Sisario, Volunteer NARA Pittsfield
11:30 AM   “Italian for Genealogists"

We’ll look at common, and some uncommon but useful words that anyone looking for their Italian ancestors should be familiar with to help know if a document might help them, even if it’s written in Italian!

*** concurrent with ***

10:30 AM   Paul Bunnell, Loyalist author and lecturer, Tribal genealogist
11:30 AM  “Discovering Your Native American Roots in Northern New England”

This lecture focuses on Native American Indian genealogical research in northern New England.  Common problems with records on Native American families will be discussed. Tips will be given to assist in following and documenting elusive lines.

11:45 AM   Luncheon – see registration form for lunch choices
1:00 PM    with luncheon speaker:

Jean Nudd Elliott, Archivist, NARA Northeast Region
“If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now!”

This humorous lecture will discuss pitfalls of genealogical research.

1:15 PM   Meldon Wolfgang III
2:15 PM    “Directory Research: Getting the Most Information from City Directories & Their Close Cousins”

Most researchers use city directories to look up names, occupations and addresses, but there is much more that directories can offer.  Learn how to use the “less traveled” parts of a city directory to develop new insights about your ancestors and uncover clues to “hidden” record sources.  Examples of other kinds of related directories will also be given.

2:30 PM   Michelle LeClair, Volunteer NARA Pittsfield
3:30 PM   “Tricks and Tips for Internet Research”

Having trouble finding what you need on-line using sites like Ancestry?  Learn how to save files to your computer without printing everything, use wildcard searches, and even get custom Ebay emails to your computer daily

*** concurrent with ***

2:30 AM   Mary Flood, Genealogist, Rothe House, Kilkenny, Ireland
3:30 AM  “Irish Names: People and Places”

Most writings and lectures on Irish surnames commence with a quote from the late Edward macLysaght who was the foremost authority on Irish surnames – “Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames: they came into being fairly generally in the eleventh century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000.”  As the population increased the practice of using only the single names followed by the nickname type proved inadequate as this provided insufficient definition.  Mary will cover 18th and 19th century usage as experienced through her work on parish registers in Kilkenny.


3:45 PM   Roundtable
4:30 PM   Bring your questions and ask the experts.


Please click here to download our registration form.


About our speakers...

Meldon J. Wolfgang III is an author, lecturer, and the founder of Jonathan Sheppard Books.  Mel has been a genealogist and family historian for nearly half a century.  Since 2005, he has been the genealogy columnist for the New York State Archives’ quarterly magazine Archives.  A former local government administrator, Mel served as a public library trustee for nearly two decades, as board president of a local library system, and as trustee-advisor for one of the country’s first intergovernmental archives.

Mary Flood runs the Family History Center at the Rothe House in Kilkenny, Ireland, where she serves as the resident genealogist.  She’s been visiting the Berkshires for many years and works on collecting information on Irish settlers in New England and New York.  She has been deeply involved in the project, putting over 17 million Irish vital records online.

Paul Bunnell is the Koasek Abenaki Sub Chief, Tribal Genealogist, and Editor of the Dawnland Voice Newsletter.  He was educated in genealogy through BYU.  He also produces the very popular French & North American Indian Marriages 1600-1800 and Metis Series, Vol. 1-10, and The New Loyalist Index series vol. 1-6, as well as many other genealogical publications.

Jean Nudd Elliott has worked for the National Archives and Records Administration since 1994 managing the genealogy reading room in Pittsfield, MA.  She holds a Masters Degree in local history from Arizona State University and a Bachelors degree in American history from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire.  She also writes articles for the Friends of NARA Pittsfield’s quarterly publication, Archival Anecdotes, is a frequent speakers at local, regional, and national conferences, and in April 2010, received the National Genealogical Society’s Award of Merit for her contributions to the field of genealogy.

Michelle LeClair is a graphic designer by profession and genealogist by passion. She has been researching for clients, friends and family for over 15 years. Her own family database is numbering over 20,000 individuals. She is a volunteer at the Silvio Conte National Archives (NARA) in Pittsfield. She specializes in Pennsylvania Dutch (German) and French Canadian ancestries and is a wiz at Internet genealogy.

Peter Sisario works as a professional genealogist specializing in Italian research in addition to his volunteer work at the National Archives in Pittsfield. He also teaches classes at Pittsfield as well as Hudson Valley Community College on the methodology of researching Italian ancestors. He is also an avid semi-professional photographer.


Our French Canadian, Italian and Irish speakers (Michelle, Peter and Mary) will offer one-on-one advice during the conference.  Find them at designated times in the lobby area from 9:30-11:30 and 1:30-3:00.  Sign-up for specific times when you pick up your registration packet.  First come, first served only.  Lisa Dougherty, a professional Irish researcher and Pittsfield volunteer, will also offer consultations (she specializes in how to get back to Ireland).  See the sign-up at the registration table for her specific times.


The Williams Inn is located on the village green in Williamstown, MA, at the northern junction of Routes 7 and 2.  Parking is available in the rear of the Inn.  We have reserved a block of rooms at the Williams Inn for Friday evening September 17.  When making a reservation, be sure to let them know you’ll be attending the Life in the Past Lane conference.  To contact the Williams Inn, call 413-458-9371.  For complete directions, visit


Please click here to download our registration form.



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