Sunday, May 21, 2017

Meet our 2017 Sponsor: Janice M. Sellers, Ancestral Discoveries

Note from Gena and Jean: Today we are proud to introduce 2017 sponsor Janice M. Sellers of Ancestral Discoveries. Make sure to check out her Southern California Genealogy Jamboree presentation Reconstructing a Family When You Start with Almost Nothing on Sunday, June 11th.

Family history fascinated me at an early age as I listened to my mother and grandmother talk about family members, birthdays, and anniversaries. The connections between people and family stories stayed with me. After finishing a junior-high-school assignment to research my family tree back four generations, I was hooked. I still have the original purple mimeographed tree (for those of us of a certain age, remember that smell?) and all of my original notes from interviewing relatives, even after many years and many, many moves.

My mother supported my interest in learning about not only her Jewish side of the family but also my father’s family and ancestors, who were primarily English Quakers and German Baptists. She encouraged me to contact family members whenever I traveled. Though my mother passed away more than 20 years ago, I think she would be proud of the information I have found on the family and the number of relatives with whom I have connected, including tracking down just which cousins used to live in South America and learning that I have cousins who were born in Cuba. One of the inspirations for the name of my company, Ancestral Discoveries, is that I’m still discovering new things about my family, more than 40 years after I started my research.

As I continued to trace my own family, I became interested in doing genealogy research as a professional after participating in a Jewish research week in Salt Lake City a few times. I learned that a common recommendation for a first step was to volunteer to do research for other people, such as friends and extended family, to find out if you actually enjoy exploring other people’s family history. So I did, and I ended up researching the families of all of my coworkers, who joked that I knew more about their families than they did. I also started doing black American research for extended family—my aunt’ sister—who asked if I could find information on the family of her second husband, whose ancestors were enslaved in Georgia for several generations.

It was becoming obvious that I enjoyed this work, so one day I decided to “hang out my shingle” and placed an advertisement in the newsletter of a local group to which I belong. That ad brought my first client, for whom I did extensive research for five years.

My work focuses on a range of ethnic and topical research specialties. I am deeply experienced in Jewish and black American research, partly because of my own family and also due to affiliation with the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, where I serve as Vice President and editor of the ZichronNote journal, and the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California, where I
am a member of the board of directors and editor of The Baobab Tree journal. My research has also led to focuses in forensic genealogy and newspapers.

In addition to my research expertise, I have extensive
language skills. My interest in other languages also developed when I was young. I grew up hearing a lot of Yiddish words, though not actually conversation, from my mother’s family. My mother could also speak rudimentary German and Spanish, having learned the former from her grandmother and the latter from living in Miami, and she regularly sprinkled German and Spanish words into conversation. On entering junior high school, I began taking Spanish classes, adding German and French courses in high school. For college, I was a French major, later adding Spanish and Russian as minors and also taking Italian. I can still speak Spanish and French, though not as fluently as I used to, and can say a few words in Russian, Italian, and German. I can, however, read all five languages, which is immensely useful for genealogy research.

Along with research, I have given many talks over the years, starting with instructional presentations in the 1980s and genealogy presentations beginning in 2009. I speak at the local, regional, state, and national levels, including teaching classes at RootsTech, the International Black Genealogy Summit, and five U.S. conferences of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Topics include historical newspapers, Jewish and black research, and using specific types of records for genealogical research. I’ll be speaking at the 2017 Genealogy Jamboree conference, on the topic of how even a tiny amount of starting information can help you build a family tree and learn a lot about your family in the process.

I currently live in Oakland, California. For more information on me, my research, and my presentations, visit my website at or e-mail me at You can also find me on social media: 




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Genealogy Journey's Podcast #30: National Bicycle Month

Couple on a bicycle - Daytona Beach. Florida Memory via Flickr the Commons

Have you ever given thought to the history of bicycles? Did your ancestor have a bike? Join us as we talk bike memories (and don't forget to write about your own).

Classic Cycle 
America on the Move - Bicycle History from the Late 19th Century
Bicycle Transportation History Past, Present and Future  (article by Lawyer)
Wikipedia - Pairs during the Restoration 
Wikipedia - History of the bicycle 
Bicycle (take with a grain of salt)
Enchanted Learning - Bicycle
America on the Move - The Development of the Bike
Bicycle How-to - The History of Bicycles 
Jim Langley - Myths and Milestones in Bicycle Evolution  (very interesting)
Evelo - History of the Bicycle (timeline)
Bicycle Evolution in China: From the 1900s to the Present  (timeline)
Wikipedia - Bicycle Infantry (bikes in the wars)
Military Bicycles of World War II - US Army Bicycles
Wikipedia - Schwinn Bicycle Company 

Wikipedia -  Harley-Davidson (motorcycle beginnings)
Wisconsin Historical Society  - How Two Boys From Milwaukee Created the World's Largest Motorcycle Company 
Wikipedia - Henderson Motorcycle 
Wikipedia - Excelsior Motor Manufacturing 
Britannica - Cycling (biking as a sport)
Olympic - Cycling History
Wikipedia - Ironman Triathlon

Bike sharing
Bay Area Bike Share - How it Works 
Wikipedia - Bicycle sharing system 
SmarterTravel - Free Bikes, Copenhagen – Transportation 

General topics
Wikipedia - Rationing in the United States

-Jean Wilcox Hibben

Friday, May 5, 2017

Genealogy Journeys® Sponsors at 2017 NGS Conference in Raleigh

The National Genealogical Society Annual Conference is taking place this coming week in Raleigh, NC. We are so pleased that some of our own sponsors will be represented there.

We would like to recognize these folks who have been supporting us.

How exciting that Cari Taplin with Genealogy Pants will be a speaker:

But also look for our sponsors in the exhibit hall:

The In-Depth Genealogist at booth 434: at booth 528
Genlighten at booth 225
Moorshead Publishing at booth 217

Preserving Your Heritage at booth 507

RootsMagic at booth 408

So if you happen to be at the conference and stop by any or all of these locations, please tell these good people that we are thinking of them and wishing we could be there with them. I know they would like your business and/or an opportunity to be part of your roots pursuits.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Meet our 2017 Sponsor: Ron Arons

Note from Gena and Jean: We are proud to post the following from Ron Arons, a returning cruise sponsor. Ron has some great publications and presentations on genealogy. Be sure to check them out on his website


Jean Wilcox Hibben has asked me to comment on WHY people should do family history. The question, WHY?, is critical to my answer and I'll get to that in a moment. While in college my father showed me the family tree he had been working on. I did not have the heart or courage to tell him at the time that I found his hobby to be boring. I got into genealogy for all the wrong reasons. I started researching my family because I had a need to do so. You see, 26-28 years ago, both of my parents succumbed to cancer. In that same 18 month period, I lost two jobs and a significant relationship. In short, I was depressed.

While I saw a therapist and went to bereavement groups to deal with my grief, what really pulled me out of my funk was to research my past. I needed to determine: a) who I was, and b) where I came from. I started like most family historians do, by collecting documents of my ancestors and building a family tree. This is quite normal and expected.

What I did not expect to find was a direct ancestor behind bars at Sing Sing Prison in New York, one of the most, if not THE most notorious prison in American history. How could this possibly be? Until that discovery, I had always considered myself a "goodie two-shoes," always doing the right things and very far away from the law.

My great-grandfather made newspaper headlines in 1897 (for bigamy), in 1916 (for stealing from the musical instruments company Gretsch), and in 1925 (for attempted extortion working as a NY State income tax auditor). He confused me for the longest time because, on various documents, he went by three different first names and by three different middle names. Furthermore, he listed New York, Pennsylvania (specifically Scranton), London, and Hanley, England as his birthplace.

I was so captivated by the life of my great-grandfather that I explored him in as much detail as I possibly could and have continued to do so even until this moment. Just this year, after 20 years of researching his life, I determined that he applied for Social Security not once, but twice. As more records become available, his life story continues to unfold.

The true benefit of taking the time to investigate an ancestors life is such detail, is that I got to know him really well (even though he died nine years before I was born. More importantly, understanding his behavior provided me with the answer to the question, WHY? (Why did certain events take place during my childhood?) Extended psychotherapy, if you will, and very powerful stuff!

I took a three-year training course in "family systems theory", a branch of family therapy that explores family dynamics through multiple generations. What I had come to understand on my own (that family members have an impact on subsequent generations) has been thought about and taught to social workers and mental health professionals for decades. In short, genealogy can be much more than collecting names, dates, and places to build a family tree. It can help you to understand yourself.