Friday, March 27, 2015

An interviw with Lisa Alzo NERGC Speaker: Talented Writer & Serious Genealogist

Lisa Alzo, author, lecturer, teacher, genealogist, and blogger helps people trace their ancestors, especially those with Eastern European lines. She has over 25 years of research experience, extensive knowledge and background. She researched her own ancestors and shares some amazing results assisting others. Lisa will be a guest speaker this year at the NERGC 

New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Rhode Island April 15-18 2015 on Facebook 

I interviewed Lisa March 19 2015 and was fascinated with her ancestor hunt and extremely impressed with all her knowledge and expertise. She can really offer a person an abundance of skills, tools, and methods for finding their roots. A bonus, if you feel inclined to write a story or just share your quest, Lisa can tell your story with her gifted writing.
Lisa is be a big asset for the NERGC and has valuable insight into anyone who wishes to step into the past and find who they are and where they came from.

What are some of the projects you have recently completed and what project are you working on now? 

During this month, as I do every March to help celebrate Women's History Month I introduce tips and resources to help people track their female ancestors. The series is called Fearless Females Blogging. I have done a post each day here to honor the women in my own family tree.This I hope will not only inspire, but also educate and advise other women hoping to trace their female lines. Even if a person feels discouraged to pursue their research due to lack of resources or information there are many methods to solve the mystery. I cover a variety of those possibilities and also share an outline on my webinar Silent Voices: Tips and Tricks for Tracing Female Ancestors.
In the book, Tracing Your Female Ancestors compiled by Gena Ortega the following is  included: Online resources, Working Women, Women in the Military, African American Female Ancestors, Grandma Was an Alien, Female Ancestors Pre-1850, Women in the Civil War, Women and Divorce, Women and the Vote, Secret Lives of Women, Manuscript Collections Overview, Women's Clubs and Organizations and more! Also see Research: Grandmothers, Mothers & Daughters-Tracing Women
Also, I am writing courses for the Canadian based school National Institute of Genealogical Studies.Currently there are classes on the site that offer researching Slavic ancestors and soon there will be advanced instruction offered on the subject.
Recently I presented four talks on Researching female lines, finding heroes and villains in your family tree, oral and social history, and Eastern European genealogy for the Indiana Historical Society
I have co-presented a number of genealogy boot camps with Thomas MacEntee.
I am also an ongoing editor for Family Tree Magazine


What are some techniques and tools you have used to trace your ancestors and how can someone learn from your methods, especially if they have hit a wall or block? I know I have solved a few family puzzles from searching the internet and found a site by Pam Beveridge Heirlooms Reunited 

Most of research methods and background information can be found on my blog The Accidental Genealogist
The biggest challenge, or brick wall people encounter when tracing their ancestors is finding the source locations where records may be available on the family. For example, in locating my own European ancestors the villages where they were changed through out the centuries. This often happens as the borders and boundary lines are reconstructed, often times even the countries change. If your family lived in a small village in Poland it maybe be now located in the Ukraine, etc.
Demographics are vital to finding the records. In the past I have used maps, gazettes, national archives (state or regional) and contacted the church/cemetery records where ancestors lived. Many of the towns in Europe have taken records from the microfilm and digitized them . Some are accessible on line, but you may have to take a trip as I have a few times. If that is not an option you can hire a genealogist over there that is familiar with the area where your family originated. I did so myself before I ventured over seas when I started out many years ago and it definitely helped.
There are many resources on line that have posted family pictures, journals, letters, and basic information that could lead to finding an ancestor. One that has helped me is Discovering American Women's History Online
A database provides access to digital collections of primary sources (photos, letters, diaries, artifacts, etc.) that document the history of women in the United States. Offers detailed descriptions and links to more than 600 digital collections.

What is most rewarding in researching ancestors from your own experience and when you have assisted others? 

I think that learning about my ancestors process in what they gave up and also endured to come to America. It really makes me appreciate the sacrifices they made and how hard they preserved to make a new life, identity, and home. Despite language barriers and cultural differences they adopted, but never completely shed their own traditions of origin.
It prompted me to publish Finding your Slovak Ancestors. The countless numbers of descendants of the early Slovak immigrants from the 19th and 20th century are searching for their Slovak roots. This book lists both traditional and online resources necessary for researching Slovak ancestors, and shows how to document and preserve your findings for future generations.
What has given me a sense of total connection was visiting my family over there and meeting my blood relations, like my cousin Renata. It was a very spiritual touching experience. And I was able to walk the same landscape and homestead as my paternal grandparents. I found my family over in still living on the same land as my gr gr grandfather.
I love to teach people how to find their family roots most likely because it was such an unbelievable experience for myself.The "serendipity" and "by fate" encounters is beyond words. Sometimes you find one anser searching for another. You also link to threads you never could imagine.
The written narratives we compile can turn into some pretty interesting story lines. I wrote Three Slovak Women which is a nonfiction account of three generations of Slovak women in the steel-producing town of Duquesne, Pennsylvania and the love and sense of family binding them together. The book opens with Verona Straka, who immigrated to the United States from the tiny village of Milpos , Slovakia in 1922. But there are three sections that unfold on these generations.
Also, some tracing family lines may have a hobby or deep interest that can brought into connecting them with their roots. For example, if you love cooking you may compile a recipe book of your ancestors eating traditions or preferred meals. I  published "Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions," which contains the pleasant food I grew up with in Baba's kitchen. Another book for my love of sports "Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania." Here is a recipe posted on blog
Family Recipe Friday: Auntie B's Christmas Cookies
If you prefer to have someone write your family story you can hire a ghost writer. I have worked with people in creating the family tree and the colorful stories and life events attached to each member. By showing someone how to make an outline---recording significant dates, events, and connections associated with each family member the narrative begins to unfold.

What organization, society, or institution did you find to be most helpful in tracing your ancestors?

The University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Library held answers to the secrets from my past and the descendants of the other Pittsburgh people. Especially when I published my books on the area.First, the university had a strong Slavic language program. The staff helped me tremendously.
The Carnegie Library had a great archival center. Any contracts, literature, letters could be transcribed.
I am a native of Duquesne, PA and now I can share on the topics of Slavic Studies and genealogy with those who are starting out. The families of Slavic origin who immigrated to this area have rich stories to learn and to tell.
All efforts to preserving the past and paying tribute to those who helped to make Pittsburgh a great American city are centered around the records and archives at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. I am grateful that have generously and graciously opened up their collections to the public. Many of the photographs in my book, "Pittsburgh’s Immigrants," came from these resources.


Below from Blog post Pittsburgh Document Finds Its Way Home



Taken from blog post The Accidental Tourist:Sojourn in Slovakia: Day 5 (Part 1) Lisa with cousin Renata and her husband Robert meeting for the first time. They live in London and they had been corresponding by e-mail for many months--sharing family information and photographs. When Lisa found out that they would be visiting her parents in Slovakia during the time she would be there she knew that serendipity was somehow intervening to bring us together.

All of Lia's books can be found on Lisa Alzo

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