Milwaukee County Genealogical Society

Search: For: Search Clear Search
Entries Per Page: 

Blog Entries: 1 to 22 of 22
May 22, 2018 By: Lisa Christopherson
DNA Bootcamps Available to Members
We are proud to announce that MCGS members now have unlimited access to six DNA Bootcamps -- webinars and handouts from Thomas McEntee and Mary Eberle -- to help you understand how best to use DNA to support and expand your genealogical research.
Topics covered include:
1) Getting Started with DNA and Genealogy
2) Additonal DNA Tools and Concepts
3) Interpreting Your AncestryDNA Results
4) Interpreting Your FTDNA and 23andMe Results
5) Solving Family Mysteries with DNA
6) Finding Birth Families Using DNA
Each Bootcamp includes two 90-minute webinars with handouts for viewing and/or printing. 
To access the webinars, log in on the members page and click on the DNA Webinars link on the left side of the page. Each video has a password listed at the top that you must enter to play the video.

December 21, 2017 By: Lisa Christopherson
Good News, Everyone
Milwaukee Newspapers are back on line -- and they're free!
For a time, the archive of the major Milwaukee newspapers have been unavailable online; this article explains why that happened and why they're back.
November 6, 2017 By: Lisa Christopherson
Have Ancestors from Poland?
From the Polish Genealogical Society of America:
Rising from the Ashes
Warsaw, Poland
Sunday, November 19 2:00 - 4:00 CST
Margaret Guzek discusses the events leading up to the destruction of Warsaw during World War II, then the heroic and meticulous effort of post-war Poland to reconstruct the beauty of its historic Old Town. Warsaw’s restored historic quarter is now an acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
JOIN  IN PERSON Copernicus Center 5216 W Lawrence Avenue Chicago or
JOIN BY WEBINAR Event information and registration link at
October 16, 2017 By: Lisa Christopherson
Wisconsin Historical Society Speaker
WCGS October 25, 2017 Meeting
SPEAKER:     Lori Bessler
PROGRAM:   How to Find Genealogical Collections Anywhere and Everywhere
Genealogical research is a journey that takes you to many, many places.  There is a lot to find online but the resources you find in research institutions and repositories will fill in even more of the family stories.  Lori Bessler, Reference Librarian at the Wisconsin Historical Society, will provide instruction on how to find genealogical collections online and at a variety of institutions.  She will show you how to identify institutions and what to expect from these resources.
Waukesha County Genealogy Society will meet Wednesday October 25 at Southminster Presbyterian Church (Nelson Hall), 200 Richard Street, Waukesha, WI. A short business meeting at 6:45 PM with Lori Bessler's presentation to follow at 7:00 PM.
September 13, 2017 By: Lisa Christopherson
A Fine Opportunity


This came to us through the website and it seems like a great opportunity to learn something new while helping members of the genealogical community:

Howdy Milwaukee County Genealogical Society!
UPDATE: The flooding from Hurricane Harvey has destroyed homes of 6 of our members. After talking with Family History Fanatics (the producers of our eConference) we are going to be donating 50% of the registration fees to these 6 members from our society. Registration is only $15 and we would appreciate all the support we could get.
The Humble Area Genealogical Society is hosting an eConference and would appreciate if you could forward this information to any of your members that might be interested in participating.
THAGS eConference: Back to Research
Saturday, 23 September 2017 from 8:30am - 4pm CDT
Join us for an eConference! We've arranged for four great speakers to teach us about a variety of research topics. Registration costs $15 and you can watch the live webinar presentations or see the replay on your own schedule for up to 30 days after the eConference. During the eConference you'll be able to ask questions through the webinar program's chat features. After these four hours of instructions, the speakers will convene for a final panel discussion to answer questions not finished during the webinars or any additional questions you have. It will be a great day of education and entertainment.
How to Register:
Go to the conference page on our website and click on the register button.
After clicking the "Register Now" button, you'll be taken to PayPal, where you can pay using your PayPal account or with a credit card or eCheck. After payment is complete, you'll be directed to the "Finalize Registration" page. You'll enter your name and email (this doesn't have to be the same email as your PayPal account) to complete the registration process. An email will be sent to you with links and passwords for the eConference.
eConference Schedule:
Time Speaker Topic
8:30 am Karen Rasmussen / Andrew Lee Welcome
9:00 am Amy Johnson Crow Desperately Seeking Susan: Finding Female Ancestors
10:30 am Melissa Finlay Which Charles is Which? Separating Same Name Individuals
12:00 pm Devon Noel Lee Using FamilySearch More Effectively
1:30 pm Michael L Strauss Bankruptcy to Equity: Using Federal Court Records
3:00 pm Panel Discussion Family History Fanatics' "Genealogy Unscripted"
Desperately Seeking Susan: Finding Female Ancestors - Amy Johnson Crow
How do you find female ancestors when they lived in a world where most of the records were written by and about men? Explore sources and strategies to help you fill in the female half of the family tree.
Which Charles is Which? Separating Same Name Individuals - Melissa Finlay
Some individuals with similar names have been combined, crossed and muddled over time. Learn how to differentiate between same-named people using a composite of time, place, family members, occupation and other unique identifiers.
Using FamilySearch More Effectively - Devon Noel Lee has billions of names in the family tree and millions of records for genealogical research. This class discusses how to use this collaborative tree more effectively using indexed and unindexed records and leaving a trail of your research decisions along the way.
Bankruptcy to Equity: Using Federal Court Records - Michael L. Strauss
Was Grandma a bootlegger? Did Grandpa pay his taxes? Records of the Federal courts are among the National Archives' largest holdings-and yet some of the least used records. Open a new chapter of your family history and discover little-known branches in your family tree as the records of the Federal Court system are discussed in detail.
We hope to see you online on the 23rd of September!
-The Humble Area Genealogical Society
 Humble, TX
This eConference is being produced by Family History Fanatics. 25% of the ticket price goes directly to The Humble Area Genealogical Society to support their preservation and education activities. If your society would like more information on hosting an eConference, email
August 28, 2017 By: Lisa Christopherson
German Handwriting Workshop

For those of us of German descent, one of the frustrations we can run across is finding the records we need, only to discover they are written in Old German Script. Here is an opportunity to acquire some of the skills you need to make sense of those treasures:



Deciphering Old German Script Workshop

Saturday, September 30, 201710:00am – 4:30pm
Marquette University, Milwaukee
Raynor Memorial Libraries Conference Center, Beaumier Room
1355 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53233

*Lunch included*



         Are you a historian trying to decipher old German handwritten documents? A genealogist researching your German-speaking ancestors?  In this workshop, Mark Louden will introduce you to the basics of reading German handwritten materials, with a special focus on those from the 19th century. Antje Petty will give suggestions on how to work with German-language genealogical records. The workshop combines presentations with practical exercises. You are welcome to bring your own documents to work on. Though a reading knowledge of German is helpful, it is not required.


Mark Louden is the Director of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies and a Professor in the  department of German, Nordic, Slavic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Antje Petty is the Associate Director of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies.

The workshop is cosponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Marquette University.


REGISTER by September 21 —- Space is limited! Sign up early!


Workshop Fee (includes lunch)                                           
Regular: $39
Member of the Friends of MKI: $34
UW-Madison or Marquette student: $25


Fill out the attached registration form and mail with payment to
Friends of the Max Kade Institute
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, WI 53706
(you will receive an email confirmation)


or register ONLINE at


For further information visit  or contact Antje Petty:  or 608-262-7546


June 26, 2017 By: Lisa Christopherson
Good News/Bad News : FHL Microfilm
We knew it was going to happen eventually, but now it's official ---
On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services. (The last day to order microfilm will be on August 31, 2017.)
What? No more microfilms? Isn't this bad news? How am I supposed to find those church records for my great grandfather's marriage in Germany?
Actually, it's good news. FamilySearch has already digitized over 1.5 million rolls of microfilm and they are now availabe on the FamilySearch website under "Records." They predict they will have the entire collection completed by 2020. This means that you can access these materials directly from the FamilySearch website, without having to order the films, wait for their delivery and trying to find the time to use them at your local Family History Center. Since hours vary and we all have busy schedules, this will make research easier in many ways. Digitization should also make indexing easier, so you can look forward to less browsing. 
The bad news, of course, is that the project won't be complete until 2020. So, even though there are literally billions of images via the website, if the film you want is one of those waiting to be digitized, you may hit a serious snag in your research. And I did note that their announcement did not indicate if all images on the website would be available to public users. Right now, much of the book collection is digitized, but accessible only from computers at the Family History Library or Family History Centers. Though I personally haven't done tons of reasearch recently on FamilySearch, I haven't run into such restrictions in the past. But if there is some restriction on access, it does remove the time it takes to order and receive films, even if you still have to make the trip to an FHC. 
Overall, this is a wonderful development. Microfilm is rapidly becoming obsolete and, even well cared for and properly stored, deteriorates over time. Eventually, the records on the films would become unusable. Digitizing preserves these images and  allows you to save the image to your collection (with proper citation, of course) without the hassle of trying to print out a legible copy.
October 23, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
A Chance to be Famous?
Our website recently received this notice:
Looking for:
REAL users -- Seeking people who are real users of with an interesting life story they'd like to share. Specifically, those individuals that have used the AncestryDNA test to enhance the search for their family tree and discovered incredible details about their origins, perhaps connect with relatives, and perhaps now look at themselves in a different light.
1. Name / Age / City, State / Occupation
2. Contact Info (phone, email, skype name)
3. Recent photo / Tell us about your family
4. Tell us about your discoveries using Ancestry.
If this sounds like you or someone you know please send the above information to:
October 13, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
Research Help -- Personal Ads
I found this in my inbox this morning; I encourage any members with pertinent information to take part in what seems to be a very interesting research project.
Dear sir or madam,
I am writing to ask whether any of the members of your genealogical society might be able to help me with some research.
I am a historian writing a book for a major U.S. publisher about the history of personal ads in America. To this end, I am trying to track down couples who met each other via a personal ad in a newspaper any time between about 1750 and 1950. 
Perhaps you know someone whose grandparents or ancestors met their husband or wife via a personal ad? Or perhaps there was a story in your town that one of the neighbors once found love in this way? 
If so, I’d be very interested to hear from you.  I can be contacted by email at All information will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

Many thanks.


Francesca Beauman. 
October 1, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
It's Been Busy......
I haven't posted anything for over a month, but there is a reason for my neglect: I've been very busy with genealogical happenings.
The week before Labor Day, I travelled (by train!) to Springfield, Illinois to attend the 2016 FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) Conference as the Delegate from MCGS. It was a very informative (and busy) four days. MCGS joined the FGS late last year to take advantage of the advice and resources they offer societies. As a Delegate, I attended a series of presentations about society management that provided numerous ideas on how to make a society more relevant and useful for its members. As part of that intiative, we will soon be sending a survey to all members. It will be brief, but I hope it will give us an insight into how MCGS fits into your genealogical world and what we can do to be more useful to all of our members. I hope you will all take the time to answer the survey questions when they arrive.
The other genealogical event that has prevented me from posting was the MCGS trip to Salt Lake City. If you've never gone on such a trip, I highly recommend it! The Family History Library is THE location to visit on your genealogical adventures. Not only is their collection unbelievable, but they have people who are very dedicated to helping you, regardless of the difficulty of your question. If you just need help logging into their site or want to understand an 18th century German churchbook entry, they either have, or will find, someone to help you with your problem. To make the trip even better, Salt Lake City is beautiful and there are many places to go and things to see (though I have to admit, I didn't do many touristy things, I was too busy in the library). I'm always amazed at what a great deal the MCGS trips are and have always had an enjoyable time. Keep your eyes open and check the website for the announcement of our next trip. [If you're interested in helping out with arranging our next trip send me a message and I'll get you in touch with the right people.]
We've also been working on the upcoming Beginning Genealogy Classes, which start on October 29th at 9:30 in the Community Room at the Central Library. We've made some changes to the course content for this year, so even if you've attended in the past, I encourage you to sign up for this year's session.
August 24, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
What Happened to the Newspapers?
Newspapers are a great genealogical resource. Aside from the obvious types of information that appear (births, deaths, marriages), one can often find other interesting tidbits about the life of ancestors in the pages of the daily paper. Accessing images of old newspapers can be challenging and also expensive -- many newspaper databases require a subscription. One exception to that has been the Google Newspaper Archive, which has offered over 2,000 newpapers for free. It is not without difficulty -- the papers are listed alphabetically and there is no search feature within the issues -- but it had been a great option for researchers with Milwaukee ties because both the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel were available. That has now changed.
On Tuesday, August 16, the Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel listings vanished from the Google News Archive home page. No explanation was given. But according to an article in Urban Milwaukee Daily, the publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Gannett, asked Google to turn over the database to NewsBank, a company that specializes in periodical databases. After Google did so, NewBank approached the Milwaukee Public Library, offering them access to the images for -- get this --  $1.5 million, and that was for just the Milwaukee Journal; the Milwaukee Sentinel was not included in the offer.
Almost needless to say, the Library could not afford to pay that much for access. 
The publishers of the Journal Sentinel say their archives will be available soon, but have not offered further details. In the meantime, most back issues of the Journal and Sentinel are available at the Central Library downtown, but it is unfortunate we have lost the convenience of the online issues. One can only hope that access to the images will be affordable.
July 7, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
"Picnic" in July
Just a reminder that our July membership meeting on the 22nd will start at noon, not the usual 1p.m. Also, this our annual 'picnic,' so bring your lunch (and your laptop), because there is no formal program, but members are encouraged to share their genealogical triumphs and conundrums with the other attendees. 
June 26, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
MCGS on Facebook
Some time ago, I started a Facebook page for the Milwaukee County Genealogical Society but we really haven't been making much use of it. I would like to change that, so I'm asking anyone who reads these posts to go to Facebook and search us out. It's a closed group, but I will approve your request (most often in a few hours). The group is closed to prevent non-relevant posts and advertisements. If you do join the group, I ask that you post a little something about yourself and your interest in genealogy. If you're so inclined, you can include a family story or interesting genealogical fact. I  would really like to see this become a resource for our members beyond the website forums. I think one of the great things about genealogy is that most people are so helpful and willing to share when you run into a problem or have a question. I don't think it's possible to have too many opportunities to keep in touch with one another.
Hope to hear from you soon........
June 22, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
Family Search Shutdown
In case you haven't heard by now, the Family Search website will be unavailable from 1 a.m. (Central) June 27 for as long as twenty-four hours. They are doing some upgrades and will be testing the new system changes before going public with them. 
June 20, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
Thanks to Bonnie in Burlington
Among the numerous (sometimes overwhelmingly so) genealogy sites, newsletters and blogs I try to keep track of, it the Facebook page of the Genealogy Society of Burlington Wisconsin. I have no idea how large their group is, but their Facebook page is pretty active and I often find items of interest posted there.
Just recently, Bonnie Bolster posted a link to a site I had not heard of, Genealogy Gophers ( This is a site that is worth checking out; they have over 80.000 books (many from Family Search) that you can full-text search and its totally free. They even give some good search tips so you get the most out of your efforts. 
I haven't had a lot of time to try it out just yet, but I know I will be in the near future.
June 5, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
The Genealogy of You
I saw this at "The Genealogy Insider" by Diane Haddad and the Family Tree Magazine staff. I realized as I read it that not only is most of this information not recorded about me, but I probably can't answer significant portions of it about my siblings or parents either. Sometimes, as we dig into the past, we forget to document the present.
   In Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy, Sunny Jane Morton has worksheets and writing prompts to help you get started preserving your own memories—even if you don't think you're a writer. Here's a list of topics to consider writing about for the future generations of your family tree. Not all apply to every person, but they're adaptable to fit your unique life:
   1. Your full name and when and where you were born
   2. Your siblings' names, and when and where they were born
   3. Your parents' names, when and where they were born, what they were like, the kind of work they did, special memories about them
   4. The same for your grandparents and great-grandparents, if you knew them
   5. How your parents met
   6. Your childhood: the games and books you liked; your hobbies, sports and activities; where you went to school; favorite and least favorite subjects in school; what you wanted to be when you grew up; your chores around the house; trouble you got into
   7. Your high school years: school subjects you excelled at and struggled with, sports and activities, jobs, friends and dates, learning to drive, how you got along with your parents
   8. Your college years, job training, and/or transition into working life
   9. Experience serving in the military
   10. Adult relationships and/or how you met your spouse
   11. Where you settled as a young adult, your friends and activities, religious life, travel, work
   12. Being a parent: when and where your children were born, their names and how you chose them, what you loved and didn't love about having children
   13. Life lessons you've learned and advice you'd like to share
   14. Family stories passed down to you, that you in turn want to pass down to others
   15. Medical struggles that might also impact others in your family, if you feel comfortable sharing them
   16. Of course, your genealogy discoveries 
May 26, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
Google Hints
This was posted in a Facebook group I follow, 31 Days to Better Genealogy:
Being more specific while using Google’s search engine can lead to greater flow in relevant genealogical information. In order to maximize Google for your genealogy searches, take note of the following:
Use quotations around specific names or phrases, such as “John Green”
The quotations ensure that the words are not just found at some point on the website, but that they must be together and in that order.
Add an asterisk in the search terms, such as “John * Green”
The asterisk acts as a placeholder and Google includes results that contain something in between, such as a middle name or initial.
Use a dash, such as “John * Lincoln” —Abraham
A dash subtracts or excludes a keyword from search results.
Add a date range, such as “John * Lincoln” —Abraham 1790..1830
That searches for results within the years selected.
These suggestions not only work for Google, but many other search engines (and databases). Always check out the “Search tips” or “advanced search,” especially if you are new to a site.
May 18, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
A Home for Orphans
Recently, I was contacted through the website by the daughter of a member who had passed away. The daughter wanted to know what she could do with her mother’s genealogy records – a substantial collection since her mother had spent decades doing research and putting together her findings. While the daughter (and her siblings) had a mild interest in their family history, none of them had been bit by the genealogy bug and they were at a loss as to where their mother’s work could be kept, as none of them had the desire to care for it.
I have a feeling this family is not alone. Many of us who spend our time researching our family history are on a solo adventure; our immediate (and even distant) family members don’t share our enthusiasm and dedication to figuring out where great grandma came from originally and what the name of her first husband was.  But when we are gone (as we all will be one day) our family will be left to figure out what to do with all the materials we’ve collected in our endeavors. I fear in many cases, a lifetime of work is reduced to a trip to the dump.
Fortunately, the daughter who contacted us understood how important genealogy was to her mother and, though she didn’t want to keep the collection herself, wanted to find a suitable home for the materials so those who do share her mother’s interest could benefit from her labors.
Although I’m glad she contacted us, this really isn’t something the MCGS is equipped to handle. We don’t have the resources (or the space) to preserve collections of genealogical material. And while the Milwaukee Public Library does acquire published family histories that are relevant to the area, it is not a historical archive that can deal with more informal collections of material. The Milwaukee County Historical Society does take in some collections such as this, but it is on a case by case basis and they are looking for material that deals with the history of Milwaukee County. Again, it’s a matter of resources and space. And from what I understand, the collection in question didn’t have a strong connection to the area.
Fortunately, there is a home for these orphaned collections. Susan Chapman, the leader of the Czech/Slovak Area Research Group, pointed out that the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana is willing to consider collections regardless of their size or format. As it is one of the premier genealogy centers in the United States, this is a wonderful home for a collection that has taken decades of careful research.
I forwarded this information to the woman who had contacted us, and she let me know a few days later that she had spoken with someone at the Genealogy Center and was making arrangements to get the materials to Fort Wayne. She told me that she felt proud that her mother’s legacy would be available to other researchers in the future.
May 4, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
Our Next Program
For our May meeting, Steve Person will be presenting “Victorian Funeral and Mourning Practices”   He will be discussing funeral practices and how they evolved during the Victorian Era.  His presentation will be covering period clothing, superstitions, the introduction of the hearse, funeral flowers, séances, and the transition from the use of ice to embalming fluid for preservation. It promises to be an entertaining and enlightening program.
Steve will begin his presentation following our regular (brief) business meeting at 1:00 p.m. in the Community Room just off the lobby at the Central Library downtown on Friday, May 20th.
April 26, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
An enlightening article
One of my favorite genealogy websites is "The Ancestor Hunt," especially for its links and information on newspaper research. Recently I came across this article ( ) and thought it was worth sharing.
April 20, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
Sharing records no longer a Felony in WI
This spring the Wisconsin legislature has enacted two laws of interest to genealogists in Wisconsin. Previously, the electronic sharing of copies of vital records for events in Wisconsin prior to 1907 was considered a Class 1 Felony -- you read that correctly, a felony. That meant that if you emailed a copy of Great Grandma's birth certificate or posted it to your tree, you could be prosecuted as a felon. Thanks to AB297, that is no longer the case, as it allows for the electronic sharing of uncertified copies of vital records of events taking place before 1907. A related bill (AB633) makes it possible to access vital records available from the state at your local registrar, rather than having to go to Madison or the county of origin. Note that this only applies to those records already available at the state level. In some cases, you may still want to check at the local county level to see if they have records that are not part of the state system.
March 28, 2016 By: Lisa Christopherson
Hands on Demonstration
For our April program, I will be demonstrating the ins and outs of the new website. Originally, we had planned on  just sending out an email to members explaining how to log in for the first time, but we've since decided we should take everyone on a little walk through of the features and content.
One of the reasons we changed the website was to make it more responsive and interactive for our members. Aside from numerous links to various board members and volunteers, the website also features a forum area for discussions and questions. I hope that this becomes an active area for our members. If you would like to see a forum on a particular topic, let me know -- one of the nice things about our new site is that adding, editing and removing content is easy to do.
So join us at the Central Library on Friday April 23 at 1:00 in the Community Room on the 1st Floor. Bring along your laptop and follow along!