Who Do You Think YOU Are? Wisconsin Historical Society Releases Genealogy Webinars, Workshops, and Class Schedule

September 14, 2015
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Do you know how far your family tree extends? Do you know where you REALLY come from and who makes up the fabric of your family? For so many, the true extent of their ancestry is often a mystery. Maybe they know the names of their great, or even great-great grandparents, but beyond that, the tree seems to shrivel.

If you’ve ever wanted to know more about your family, or maybe you’re just curious about genealogy in general, the Wisconsin Historical Society is pleased to announce its fall series of genealogy workshops, webinars, and classes.

We sat down with Lori Bessler, WHS reference librarian and the leader behind this latest series of workshops, to discuss the important role WHS plays in helping people understand their genealogy, and how they can help you.

What’s been the interest in genealogy in recent years?

The overall interest in genealogy seems to be rising.  Most of this is the wonderful publicity through sites like Ancestry.com and shows like “Who Do You Think You Are.”  People get on these sites and hear these stories which then piques their interest in finding out their own stories and lines.

How are people researching these days?

We have seen a rise in researchers contacting us through email but not visiting us.  This shows me that people are trying to find all of their answers online, mostly because Ancestry.com tells them that they can.  We, of course, find that many times it is explaining that Ancestry does not have it all and that there are many record repositories that provide even more information about their families.

What surprises people the most when they attend these types of workshops?

Researchers are amazed at how many types of records are left by our ancestors and how they are mostly not found online but are in brick and mortar institutions like the Wisconsin Historical Society.

What do you hope people gain from these workshops?

I hope researchers come to the workshops to find out more places to search but also for the comradery that comes from being in a room full of others who are interested in this journey we call genealogy.

Why is WHS so important when it comes to researching genealogy?

The staff at the WHS has a great depth of knowledge in history and genealogy.  The collections are North American in scope and nationally renowned.  The combination of collections and knowledgeable staff is invaluable to any researcher.


September 26: DNA and Genealogy — Have you wondered about the newest angle to genealogical research-DNA testing? Are you trying to decide whether to take the test, which company to choose and what results to expect? This all-day workshop will provide information for the genealogist who has not yet taken a test or has taken a test and wants help interpreting results.

Our main speaker is Mary Eberle, JD, from DNA Hunters, LLC.

October 24: Genealogy in the British Isles — Do you have ancestors that lead you to England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales? There are more and more online resources for researching your ancestry in the British Isles. This all-day workshop will provide lectures about all 4 countries. You will learn what records exist, where to locate them and how to interpret the information found on those records.

Our main speaker is Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CG.

November 7: German American Genealogy — If you have ancestors from German-speaking Europe, you will enjoy this all-day workshop. Combining history and genealogical strategies, this program will help you research your German-speaking ancestors. It will also give tips on how to find and interpret records on both sides of the Atlantic.

Our main speaker is Antje Petty, Assistant Director and Senior Outreach Specialist for the Max Kade Institute for German American Studies

December 19: African American Genealogy — We are privileged to have the acclaimed author, Thulani Davis, who will speak about her book “My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty First Century Freedwomen Discovers Her Roots.” Ms. Davis will provide information on how to use history and genealogy to tell personal stories with more depth and understanding of the lives of our ancestors.

Our main speaker is Thulani Davis, an interdisciplinary scholar and writer.

Check out the WHS genealogy workshops and webinars offered each spring and fall. Topics vary each semester.  Register early — space is limited.

  • All workshops are held on Saturdays at the Memorial Library on the UW Madison campus.  They provide an opportunity to focus on your research with other researchers, sharing ideas and moving forward with your family history research.  Lunch is provided.
  • Our workshops always feature hands-on learning opportunities led by specialists in North American history and genealogy.
  • Experts in genealogy teach you how to best use the Society’s nationally recognized collections of published and unpublished materials for researching family histories as well as the newest online products for historical and genealogical research.
  • Programs are geared to all levels of experience and offer something for everyone, from beginners to advanced.

** Note: These workshops are sponsored by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Society members and members of the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society receive discounts on registration fees. Learn how you can Become a Member.

Webinars: (Available starting mid-September, 2015)

  • Beginning Your Genealogical Journey (1 hour)
  • Ancestry.com: What to Expect and What Not to Expect (1 hour)
  • FamilySearch.org: What to Expect and What Not to Expect (1 hour)
  • Organizing Your Genealogical Research (1 hour)
  • More coming soon!

Have Questions?

Contact Lori Bessler by phone at 608-264-6519 or by email Lori.Bessler@wisconsinhistory.org.