08 January 2020

NGS 2021 Richmond Call for Proposals Now Open

The National Genealogical Society Announces 
Call for Proposals 
for 2021 Family History Conference

We have exciting news! NGS will be returning to Richmond, Virginia for the NGS Family History Conference in 2021. The theme of the 2021 Family History Conference is Virginia: The Deep Roots of a Nation. Richmond is a popular venue among NGS members and we expect it will be from 19‒22 May in 2021 as well. NGS will open the call for proposals on 8 January 2020 and proposals will be accepted until 1 April 2020.

Seventeenth century, native born Virginian William Byrd II once said, “In the beginning, all America was Virginia.” And, as any native Virginian will tell you, he was correct. The first permanent English settlement in what was to become the United States was established at Jamestown in 1607. Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech was given in 1775 at St. John’s Church in Richmond. Virginia is the birthplace of eight US presidents—a list which includes four of the first five presidents. The Virginia General Assembly is the longest continuously operating legislative body in North America ―first meeting in Jamestown’s church in 1619. Since 1607 immigrants from many countries have made Virginia their home. Some remained for generations while others moved on to new frontiers to expand, populate, and build a nation.

Conference tracks under consideration include the following: DNA; government records; heritage; immigration, naturalization, and passenger records; land; maps; migrations, trails, and events that affected patterns of settlement; military; organizing methods; repositories, and Virginia and her neighbors.

NGS also requests proposals that include the law as it relates to genealogy, methodology, analysis, and problem-solving. NGS encourages proposals that demonstrate methods to help genealogists accurately identify ancestors through reasonably exhaustive research; proper source citations, analysis and correlation; resolution of conflicts; and sound reasoning and coherent writing.

The NGS 2021 Family History Conference will be the first conference after the merger of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) into the National Genealogical Society. Therefore the NGS 2021 call for proposals includes the need for a full day of society management topics on Tuesday, 18 May 2021. Topics under consideration include best practices, leadership, membership, programs, publications, disaster plans, and record preservation. Suggested formats include lectures, panels, and workshops.

Speakers who wish to submit lecture proposals may submit up to eight proposals electronically. The speaker compensation is described in detail on the website. Please visit the website for details about required speaker information and each submitted proposal.

NGS has a free webinar, Becoming a Better Conference Speaker: Proposals and Preparations that can be found on the National Genealogical Society YouTube channel. Speakers are encouraged to view the webinar before beginning the proposal process.

NGS members will receive first consideration as speakers. Notifications for acceptance will be issued in August 2020. Syllabus material, due 2 February 2021, is required for each lecture or workshop presentation and will be included in the syllabus distributed to all conference registrants. Speakers are expected to use electronic presentation programs and provide their own digital projector, laptop, and connector to the projector cable. NGS will provide projector support, which consists of a VGA or HDMI cable, cart, and power strip. Internet connections will not be provided in lecture rooms.

Sponsored Lecture Proposals
If your genealogical organization would like to sponsor a lecture, submit proposals to NGS. If your organization would like to sponsor a luncheon, please contact [email protected]. Do not use the sponsored lecture form.

Please reach out to Erin Shifflett, our Conference Manager, if you have any questions.

We look forward to your proposals.

Founded in 1903, the National Genealogical Society is dedicated to genealogical education, exemplary standards of research, and the preservation of genealogical records. The Falls Church, Virginia, based nonprofit is the premier national society for everyone, from the beginner to the most advanced family historian, seeking excellence in publications, educational offerings, and guidance in research. It also offers many opportunities to interact with other genealogists.

02 January 2020

The October-December 2019 Issue of NGS Magazine is Now Online

The October-December 2019 issue of NGS Magazine, Volume 45, Number 4, is available online in the Members Only section of the website and will be mailed to members in the coming weeks.

EDITOR'S NOTE by Deb Cyprych

Whether a family's community was researched during a WPA project, or an ancestor was one of the eight million people who worked for the Work Projects Administration during the Great Depression, the WPA’s records and products are worth exploring.

The WPA was established as the Works Progress Administration in 1935, when 20 percent of Americans were unemployed, to create jobs for laborers and professionals alike. The 1940 census helps identify whether a person was working for the WPA in the last week of March 1940. Cara Moore Lebonick describes the organization of WPA projects, eligibility rules for employment, and typical contents of personnel records, and provides tips to ensure an effective search in the records held by the National Archives at St. Louis. 

Paula Stuart-Warren chronicles the breadth of the materials produced by employees of the WPA’s Historical Records Survey that can be used for genealogy: inventories of county, municipal, state, and federal records; guides to vital statistics and manuscript collections; church directories and inventories; record transcriptions; indexes; bibliographies; and many more. Review of these products can help immensely in developing and implementing a thorough research plan.

The employees of the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) produced materials valuable for genealogists such as the American Guide series covering every state and many cities, life histories for ten thousand Americans, record transcriptions and indexes, and unique narratives. These products contain contextual details and descriptions of places and customs that may no longer exist. C. Ann Staley’s article about the FWP includes summaries of three associated projects in art, music, and theater.

Another achievement of the Federal Writers’ Project is its interviews of four thousand former slaves. The narratives based on these interviews are powerful records of the impact of slavery. Besides the narratives on the Library of Congress website, many others have been published. Kathy Petlewski outlines the methodology used by FWP employees, describes dynamics affecting the interviews and narratives, and explains how to access most of the narratives by state. Ten photographs of the narrators illustrate the article.

The quantity and variety of published and manuscript WPA resources in numerous places may seem overwhelming. Shelley Bishop provides strategies for locating the resources and discusses online finding aids, digital library collections, databases and online resources, and library and archival collections.

Also in this issue, Lynn Turner profiles the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, which holds the largest collection of genealogical records in the world, and Paul Woodbury uses story-telling to explain how the inheritance patterns of mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA can help in solving research problems.



  • The Family History Library: Premier Destination for Genealogists by Lynn Turner, AG
  • The Historical Records Survey: A Researcher’s Dream by Paula-Stuart Warren, CG
  • The WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project: A Treasure Trove by C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL
  • Finding WPA Resources in Digital and Archival Collections by Shelley Bishop
  • WPA Personnel Records at the National Archives by Cara Moore Lebonick


  • PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE by Ben Spratling
  • EDITOR’S NOTE by Deb Cyprych
    • Special Events for NGS 2020 Conference Week by Erin Pritchett
  • REFERENCE DESK The Slave Narratives of the Federal Writers’ Project by Kathy Petlewski, MSLS
  • DNA DISCOVERY The Journey of DNA’s Inheritance Paths: mtDNA and Y-DNA by Paul Woodbury

NGS Magazine is published quarterly to update members of the National Genealogical Society on NGS activities and to provide genealogists with special information and guidance on conducting effective genealogical research. The magazine is sent to libraries by subscription. Online access to NGS Magazine is available only as long as membership is active.