Dave Obee       Local History / Family History

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Seminar topics and links

Three dozen choices in five categories:
General, Technology, Canada, Europe and England.

Some of them work well together, and others don't.
Check with Dave before making your final choices.

Check Dave's schedule to see where he is speaking.

Contact Dave by

General

Finding Family with DNA
Yes, it is true: Testing your DNA and looking for genetic matches can make a huge difference in your family history research. This session includes several reasons why you should test yourself and others, as well as some cautionary thoughts. It does not include the deep science behind genetic genealogy; there will be no mention of STRs, SNPs, or centimorgans. Learn the basics of finding distant cousins, confirming ancestral links, and making the most of the vital new tool at our disposal.

My Matches and Me: Ramblings with DNA
Genetic genealogy is a natural progression from what family historians have been doing for years. Here are some genetic genealogy success stories, all backed up by documented research. These examples might help to inspire your own research, might motivate you to test your saliva, or might help you to understand what you have found. This session includes a basic summary of research using DNA, and offers pointers on how to get more value from your tests.

Using DNA in Family History Research
Designed for general audiences or beginning genealogy sessions. Basically, how to use your spit to prove your family tree. Includes genetic genealogy success stories, backed up by documented research. These examples might help to inspire your own research, might motivate you to test your saliva. Includes a basic summary of research using DNA.

City Directories: An amazing, underused source
City and county directories can help researchers track families, fill in gaps between census enumerations, estimate marriage and death years, and understand the economy of their communities of interest. They represent one of the best resources available to us, and thousands of Canadian directories are available online for free. This session covers how to find digitized directories, when to look for offlien ones, and how to make the best use of directories no matter what the source might be.

Looking Forward, Looking Back: Half a century of genealogy, and the best is yet to come
Technology has had a huge impact on our lives and our research techniques. The first half of this presentation examines the recent history of genealogical research, starting before the rise of the Internet and the many resources we have at our disposal today. The transformation is stunning, and gives a hint of what might be in store for us. The second half looks at the potential impact of that technology, including some of the good points and a few of the bad.

Crowdsourcing Your Family Research
Are you stuck? Get help from others -- sometimes, in surprising ways. The word "crowdsourcing" might be new, but the concept has been around for decades. It's all about drawing from the work of other people, including those who were gathering information or jotting down observations a century or more ago. The Internet makes this easier than ever before, but you will need to look beyond basic genealogical sources.

Every Picture Tells A Story
Old photographs hold clues that could tell you more about your family history. Today, millions of photos are taken every second, but at one time photographs were a much bigger deal. More importance was placed on them, and more care was taken before the shutter was snapped. These samples might help you to unlock some of the answers in your own collection.

A Fresh Light on Old Newspapers
Researching in old newspapers no longer means sitting at a microfilm reader for hours on end, winding through a seemingly endless string of news stories and advertisements. Today, the results we seek could be a matter of minutes away, thanks to the many digitization projects that have placed millions of newspaper pages on the Internet. But what are the pitfalls? This presentation takes you through the digitization process, from hard copy to your computer screen. It is designed to help you achieve the best results from your work.

Tracing Forward to Find Distant Cousins
Your distant cousins could be the key that unlocks your DNA research. Stymied in your search for these living relatives? Trying to find other descendants of your ancestors? You need to start in the past and trace forward. Researching subsequent generations can be difficult, because people leave clues regarding where they are from, but not necessarily where they are going to. That doesn't mean it's impossible; there are plenty of sources that will help you. Many Internet sites can help -- but it pays to know which ones are essential, and which tricks to use.

Between Friends / Entre Amis: Cousins Across the Border
Many of us have cousins in another country, and many Canadians and Americans have family members across that long, undefended border. This talk gives some examples of cross-border ties, along with advice on how to search in the other country. It could be that clues in one country can help solve genealogical mysteries in the other. And yes, DNA testing is helping us to find relatives we did not know we had.

Decoding the Dash: Build the Stories of Their Lives
Grave markers often show the birth and death dates, with a dash in between the two dates. Those dates are usually the least interesting aspects of a person's life, because it is what is in between that counts. Lives are not measured by start and end dates; if so, they would have no meaning. This session uses examples to show what might happen when we start digging on the Internet, on the standard family history sites and beyond, and then dive into records in archives and libraries. It is easier than ever to tell the stories of your ancestors' lives.

A Sense of Place and Time: Putting Ancestors in Context
Charts alone don't tell the stories of your ancestors; to produce meaningful research, you need to understand the local geography and history in the areas where they lived. Your ancestors were affected by local events, after all -- they were not living in isolation. This talk explains why certain information is valuable, and how to locate it. It includes examples based on Dave's own research.

Beyond the Online Basics: A Genealogical Guide to Digital Collections
There are billions of scanned pages on the Internet -- a collection that few physical libraries could match. The problem is that many pages relevant to your research can be difficult to track down, since they are not on the usual genealogy websites. This session provides ideas on how to find the documents that will help you learn more about your families, or the local histories of the areas where they lived.

The Search for Frank Liddell: Case Closed
Frank Liddell was born in Coleraine, County Derry, Ireland in the 1880s. Or was he? Frank came to Canada in 1910. Or did he? Why doesn't he appear in any of the records? Why is there no trace of the first 25 years of his life? Checking all available source documents reveals the answers -- and raises many, many more questions. This is a great detective case.

Genealogy 101
For beginners. Why do we do what we do? What are the basic sources to use? A primer of the basics of family history research. Hint: Start close to home, then work from there.

The Geography of Genealogy
It is impossible to do comprehensive genealogical research without an understanding of where your ancestors lived. There are several good reasons to use geographic tools in your research. They help you to determine where you are from. They will also help you to find records dealing with your family. Maps and atlases help genealogists sort out where their ancestors lived in relation to regional and national boundaries, churches, rail lines, and other factors that help determine which records hold most hope. Geographic tools will also give you a sense of what life was like for your ancestors. This talk provides a basic overview of what to look for, and how to use the information that you find. (Please note that there are versions of this talk tailored for Canadian research, for English research, and for European research.)

Write Your Family History
One of the best ways to create a lasting memory of your ancestors is to tell the stories of their lives. While a genealogical chart can seem daunting (or even worse, boring) to a non-genealogist, a narrative is accessible. A well-written story will make other family members much more aware about, and more interested in, the research that you are doing. This talk -- by a genealogist who has been a journalist since 1972 -- includes some ideas that will help you get over your writer's block. It might even inspire people to start writing more stories for the society's journal.

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Technology

Genealogy by Google
Google is an invaluable tool for genealogists. It pays to know some tricks, including effective filtering and search strategies. Don't forget Google Books, Google Maps, Google Images and the historic newspaper collection. You will quickly discover that a simple search simply scratches the surface of what is available to genealogists.

Travel Smart With Technology
Visiting an ancestral community is one of the greatest thrills a family historian can have. The experience provides a wealth of information, both from local archives and by simply walking the streets. But to make the most of the experience, it helps to prepare. This session will help you get ready for a trip to explore your family's roots, and use technology to its best advantage while you are travelling. It also includes tips for using tools that might not have obvious genealogical connections. If you don't want to travel with an electronic arsenal, you can still use technology to gain a better sense of an area before you set out. This presentation is designed to help travelers maximize their research into family connections outside Canada.

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Canada

Canadiana's genealogical treasures
The Canadiana website has a vast amount of material for family historians, but not many use it or even know about it. Canadiana's rich genealogy and local history collection includes local and family histories, telling of pioneering, settlement, and local government in early Canada. The focus on individuals and communities make the collection an ideal genealogical resource, helping people explore the experiences of previous generations and leaving clues about their wider social and cultural background. Related documents include voters lists, eulogies, directories and gazettes, biographies, civil service lists, published diaries, church magazines and pamphlets, militia lists, publications from professional and trade societies, school publications, and more. This talk is your guide to mining the 40 million pages of primary-source documents.

Destination Canada
More than seven million people arrived in Canada from Europe, the United States and Asia between 1815 and 1930. This session deals with the wide variety of sources that deal with immigration to Canada, including ship passenger lists (available from 1865 through 1935), border crossing records, and naturalization and citizenship documents. Many of these sources have been indexed and placed online, making it possible to access them quickly and easily. It pays to know, however, the scope and limitations of those Internet resources, and how to obtain information from other sources. Dave is the author of the book Destination Canada.

From Eastern Europe to Canada
Immigration to Canada, with a focus on the people who came from Eastern Europe between the 1890s and 1920s. Records are available in Canada and overseas. These records might help researchers determine the locations their ancestors lived before they immigrated. Dave is the author of the book Destination Canada.

Western Canada by Rail
A look at the social history of the arrival of the railway, which helped bring massive development to the four western provinces. The railways brought settlers, and helped them get their goods to markets. At one time, a patchwork of rail lines criss-crossed the prairies, making grain elevator within easy reach of farms. The railway companies had a keen interest in bringing settlers, and ran colonization schemes designed to entice people to the West.

Mining the Canadian Census
Canadian census records are a tremendous source of genealogical information. Although the first nominal enumerations were done in the French colonies in 1666 and 1667, the most useful census returns date from 1851 through 1926. They provide snapshots of the population every five or ten years, and make it easier to sort out family units and relationships. To be most effective, a genealogist will need to understand the scope and limitations of the census, and to know which supporting documents will enhance the information found in the returns. Some of the limitations of the census are sure to surprise most researchers. Although the first nominal enumerations were done in the French colonies in 1666 and 1667, the most useful census returns date from 1851 through 1921.

Canadian Genealogy on the Internet
Canada has hundreds of websites of prime value to genealogists, but it is important to know which ones will give the most value for the time you invest. Which sites to use? That will depend on which of the 10 provinces and three territories your family called home. Several sources should be checked by everyone, but some of the best finds will be in the regional or local websites. This session will quickly guide you to the top sites, where it will be possible for you to make good progress on your Canadian lines. Links are on CanGenealogy, the most accessible Canadian link site.

Canadians in the First World War
The First World War touched virtually every Canadian. Between 1914 and 1918, 240,000 men were killed or wounded -- from a country with a population of just eight million. Today, researchers can learn about Canada's soldiers, including facts about their family and where they served. It makes sense to also look for context - what happened to those who survived the war, and to the family members who waited at home for news. Much of the information is available on the Internet (assuming you know where to look).

Family History in Western Canada
Western Canada is the youngest part of the country; serious settlement did not begin until thousands of people arrived from San Francisco for the Fraser River gold rush in 1858. They were followed by millions of people from just about everywhere. Today, it is possible to find plenty of information about the people of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Some national and regional sources will help, but it pays to know the differences among the four provinces. The first thing to do is to sort out the geography, because two of the provinces are barely a century old. Includes a list of web sites to use.

Family History on the Canadian Prairies
You don't necessarily have to go there to trace your ancestors in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba - a lot of information is available on the Web, through the mail, and at your local library. This session offers insight into some of the lesser-known sources of information, as well as an explanation of the Dominion Land Survey, the basis for the farm divisions on the Prairies. Includes a list of web sites to use.

Family History in British Columbia
A review of the most important sources, with an emphasis on the Internet. The session includes a look at history, because it is impossible to do effective research without understanding the development of the province.

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Europe

The Wandering Ways of our East European ancestors
Our Eastern European ancestors knew how to pack up and move. Many of them did it over and over again, before finally settling in a home that, more often than not, was close to the homes of friends and relatives from the old country. This session looks into some migration trends, such as chain migration, and examines the records that are available to us. It includes examples of several families who moved again and again, and the similar paths they took. Understanding similar paths in your family might give you a better sense of why they ended up where they did.

Plenary Session: The Most Wonderful Time (to research your Eastern European ancestors)
Looking back, looking forward. For years, tracing the history and ancestry of the Germans from Russia has been fraught with peril, but today, it's easier than ever. More records are being made available, we have access to archives we could only dream of a few years ago, it is easier than ever to share our research, and DNA testing has opened new avenues and introduced us to more family members.

Researching the Germans from Russia
Germans from Russia can be difficult to trace, but it's not impossible. Factors include the time frame of their days in Russian territory, where they went after that, the area they were in, and their religion. This session covers some of the basics of Germans from Russia research, which might take the modern research to records in Poland, Ukraine and elsewhere. Research should also include a study of descendants in North America, Germany and other points. A huge amount of material is available these days, and don't forget the value of a trip to your ancestral homeland.

In search of home: A Germans from Russia family study
Tracing your German family back to Russia, and possibly through Russia to places of origin in Germany or Poland, can be rewarding. Research should also include a study of descendants in North America, Germany and elsewhere. The story of one family will help you to understand the lives they lived, and the conditions they faced -- in other words, the context behind the family history.

Research in Eastern Europe Today
DNA testing and the rapidly increasing range of Internet databases are changing the way we research family history in Eastern Europe. We still have to deal with boundary changes and unfamiliar languages, but what we can find makes it all worthwhile. Eastern European research can be highly rewarding -- and now, more effective than ever before.

Eastern European Family History Online!
Without leaving your home, you can research your family's origins in Eastern Europe. Plenty of resources are found online, but they are not necessarily on the usual family history sites. This talk will provide ideas for pushing your research in new directions, and suggest tools that would make your work easier. It should be possible to sort out problems and questions regarding geography, history and boundary changes.

Beyond the Online Basics: A Guide to Using Digital Collections
(Europe version.) There are billions of scanned pages on the Internet, and many of them are relevant to Eastern European research. The problem is that pages relevant to your research can be difficult to track down, and difficult to use. This session provides ideas on how to find the documents that will help you learn more about your families, or the local histories of the areas where they lived. It also gives ideas for making digitization projects work for you.

The Geography of Genealogy in Europe
It takes a few special tricks to find places in Germany and points east. The researcher can save time by consulting the best sources. This lecture includes several samples from the problems Dave has been asked to solve over the years.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Lidzbark-Warminski: On the Road in Eastern Europe
A light-hearted look at travelling to do research in Eastern Europe. It's worth it, just to trudge down the dusty streets where your ancestors walked. Also, to fight with the local police, to fall on your face in a forest, to argue with the archivists, and more. Researching in countries such as Poland and Ukraine is not as easy as researching here, so you should keep your expectations in check -- and just enjoy the experience.

Stalin's Arrest Files
Records held by the KGB in the former Soviet Union can provide a wealth of information on families of people who were arrested. The prisoners often gave information about neighbours as well. This session includes many examples taken from KGB files, as well as tips on how to gain access to the material.

The EWZ files: Forced from Their Homes
The Einwandererzentralstelle series of films, from the Captured German Documents collection at the U.S. national archives, has been a tremendous source for Germans from Russia. Dave has purchased 70 of the films, covering every family in his mother's ancestral village in Volhynia. These films reveal rich detail about life in the German colonies.

Volhynia? Where is Volhynia?
You won't find it on any modern maps, or on many old ones, for that matter. But Volhynia is home to more than a million people, and was a prime destination for Germans in the middle of the 19th century. This session explores the history and geography of the region in the northwest corner of modern-day Ukraine. (And don't forget to look at Volhynia.com as well.)

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England

The Geography of Genealogy in England
Knowing about geography will help you to find records dealing with your family. Maps and atlases help genealogists sort out where their ancestors lived in relation to regional and national boundaries, churches, rail lines, and other factors that help determine which records hold most hope. This talk provides a basic overview of English sources, and how to use the information that you find.



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