Published March 23, 2018

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The Lancaster Family History Conference has been around for 39 years – just a little bit longer than I’ve been involved in genealogy! – and was already a well-regarded get-together when I first attended in 1990.

Over that time, I’ve seen it grow from a Saturday-only event to several days of activities that culminates in the conference.

My own participation has grown, too, from presenting a lecture or two during the Saturday program to speaking and exhibiting on Saturday and leading a Friday workshop.

And then there is this year’s conference, titled, “Extra! Extra! Research All About It! How Newspapers Enhance Family History,” at which I will be the keynote speaker, on April 21 at the Farm and Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road, Lancaster.

Of course, it’s no coincidence that this keynote address corresponds with the publication of my new book, The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide. The many discoveries I’ve made about how the increasing availability of word-searchable digitized old newspapers will be the crux of the keynote.

In addition to that presentation, I will also give a basic presentation about newspapers, “Letterpress to Digital: Using Historical Newspapers,” and one called “Zeitung Sightings, German Language Newspapers Worldwide.”

The conference week activities will also include two other newspapers-themed presentations. On Friday (April 20), Milo G. Miller will talk on “Yes, the Amish Still Use Newspapers – The role of The Budget and Die Botschaft in Amish communities.” Michael Showalter will speak about “Mysterious, Melancholy and Macabre Stories from Lancaster County Newspapers” as part of the Saturday event.

Other seminars and field trips that meet at the headquarters of conference sponsor Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society (2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster) on April 19 (Thursday) and 20 include:

  • Lancaster County Archives, John F. Bennawit Jr. (Thursday)
  • DNA Roundtable Discussion, Darvin L. Martin (Thursday)
  • The Underground Railroad of Lancaster County, Randolph Harris (Thursday)
  • Learn German Script, with your “Roots & Branches” columnist (Friday)
  • Special Project Research Assistance, Steven L. Ness (Friday)
  • and Milo Miller’s Amish newspapers seminar

The seminars and field trips require separate registration fees by March 27.

In addition to a variety of vendors on Saturday, the program includes more DNA topics from expert Darvin L. Martin and Sharon McKee, looks at the records from the Pennsylvania State Archives by two of its expert staff (Aaron McWilliams and Jonathan Stayer) and several presentations from Gerald H. “Jerry” Smith, a Certified Genealogist who specializes in Pennsylvania families before 1900.

Leroy Hopkins Jr. and Randolph Harris will give a two-part Saturday presentation on “The Underground Railroad in Lancaster County.”

Saturday will also feature a few German-themed topics, such as “Introduction to Pennsylvania Dutch” (presented by Butch Reigart), “Some Early Swiss Records of Our Mennonite Ancestors” (Anne Schmidt-Lange) and “Amish and Mennonites: Connections, Distinctions, Clarifications” (Steven M. Nolt) as well as “No Good Deed Goes Unrecorded” from James Landis.

For registration information about the conference, contact the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, 2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602;  (717) 393-9745.

A hotel room block has been reserved at Fairfield Inn and Suites, 150 Granite Run Drive, Lancaster, PA 17601, about a mile from the Farm and Home Center. When booking, ask for the group rate for the Lancaster Family History Conference.