Genealogical Committee

Gen Committee Logo


In 1967, the Genealogical Committee was organized by a group of thirty individuals interested in pursuing genealogy.

The Genealogical Committee is a working committee of the Western Reserve Historical Society whose purpose is to further the study of genealogy through meetings, lectures, seminars, workshops and volunteering in the library. In addition the committee provides financial support in the acquisition of appropriate materials and equipment for the genealogical collections of the society’s library.

We work hard in the hobby that we love but we also know how to socialize through events that include our spouses, such as pot luck dinners, a cookout at Holden Arboretum and a boat ride up the Cuyahoga River.

The benefit of membership in the Genealogical Committee is the opportunity to gain additional knowledge about research techniques and what is new in the field of genealogy. Making new friends who share your interest in genealogy is a bonus.

Membership in the Genealogical Committee requires membership in the Western Reserve Historical Society and the payment of yearly dues of $20.00.

How to Apply
To apply for membership in the Genealogical Committee contact:
Joellen O’Neill at 216-481-1220 or

Sign Up Now for the WRHS Genealogical Committee Bulletin:

The Bulletin contains historical data of genealogical interest, announcements of genealogical seminars and meetings, a listing of genealogical collections recently acquired by the library and numerous other articles pertaining to genealogy. Issued quarterly.  Downloadable Subscription Form.


September 10, 2016: Opening the Door to Family History: 12 noon to 3 p.m. This class is designed for the beginning researcher.  We’ll cover how to get started, using home sources, how to organize your material, the basics of documenting and great websites you can use. Our Special Invitation again this year: BOGO—Bring One Get One—invites you and a guest to attend this class for $15. Bring a family member or friend.  You must register yourself and your guest by name.  Presenter will be Genealogical Committee Member Heber MacWilliams. A behind-the-scenes tour of the library is available after class.  To register:

October 8, 2016:  Annual Open House: 12 noon to 3 p.m.  The Genealogical Committee cordially invites interested researchers to be our guests to enjoy a refreshment table, a short topic talk on a subject of interest and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Library.  Please register with Joellen O’Neill at or call 216-481-1220.

November 5, 2016: Finding More: 1. Using Special Federal and State Censuses   2. The Importance of City Directories: 12 noon to 3 p.m.   Linda Freeman, President of the Genealogical Committee, will present session one. Family historians may start with the US Census Population Schedule to learn about our ancestors, But don’t stop there.  Additional census schedules are available, such as state, agricultural, manufacturing & school. Most are easily found on the major genealogy websites, but not all. We will explore where to find them, and how to utilize them in your research.

Vice President Ed Bolte will present The Importance of City Directories; what you can and cannot find, doing a search, and databases to use. A behind-the-scenes library tour is available after class. Fee $15. To register:

December 3, 2016: Genealogical Committee Meeting and Pot Luck. No Classes.

January 7, 2017: Case Studies: Powerful, Puzzle-Solving Tools   Speaker, Researcher, and Genealogical Committee Member Chris Staats will be presenting. Seeing how other researchers solve difficult problems can help us solve our own. Case studies help us learn about new types of records. They reveal what records are useful and available when researching in a similar place or time. But most importantly, they detail how a researcher analyzed evidence, overcame conflicts, and arrived at a conclusion. Join Chris Staats for an interactive look at a challenging research problem and its resolution. Early registration is encouraged, as participants will be sent the research question and instructions the week before the session. A behind-the-scenes library tour is available after class. Fee $15. To register:

February  4, 2017:  The Irish in Cleveland—Their History & Communities: 12 noon to 3 p.m.  Presenter will be Margaret Lynch, Executive Director of the Irish American Archives Society.     The growth of Cleveland matched the growth of the Irish population in this area. Their communities, social and service organizations, churches and influence grew from the 19th century onwards. Learn which records may assist you most in researching your Irish ancestors.  Cemetery researcher Bernie McCafferty has created a surname database for St. John Cemetery, which he will explain and provide look-ups as well.    Volunteers are available after class to assist in research.  A behind-the-scenes library tour, with special emphasis on WRHS resources for researching Achill and Burrishoole Parish records, is available after class.  Fee $15. To register:

March 11, 2017: DNA: What is it and What Do My Results Mean?  12 noon to 3 p.m.  The results are in! The excitement of receiving your DNA results can quickly turn to confusion. Understanding how to use this information can further your genealogical research. This class is designed to explain the basics of DNA, how companies providing testing determine results. For those who have had their DNA tested:  pointers on how to understand their results. Presenter is Mary Jamba, Genealogical Committee Member and lecturer.  A behind-the-scenes library tour is available after class. Fee $15.  To register:  NOTE: this class meets the 2nd Saturday of the month.

April 8, 2017: SPRING SEMINAR: Researching Your Virginia Ancestors

Researching Your Virginia Ancestors
Presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS

Saturday, April 8, 2017
9:00am – 4:00pm
Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio

9:00 –9:30 Registration
9:30-10:45 Born in Virginia, How Do I Find Him?
Migrating ancestors often leave little trace of their origin other than family tradition or a census notation that they were from Virginia. Researchers who make the leap to Virginia record sources without sufficient preparation face little success and a great deal of frustration in their search. This lecture is based upon twenty years’ experience as a professional researcher tracing lost Virginia ancestors and details the approach most likely to produce a successful conclusion to the researcher’s quest.

11:00-12:15 Researching Virginia’s Records, Part 1 Covers the major record groups and sources for Virginia research including those available on the Web, in print and on microfilm. “Quirks” of the records and substitutes for lost records are also discussed.

12:15-1:30 Lunch (boxed lunches will be available for purchase the day of the seminar)

1:30-2:45 Researching Virginia’s Records, Part 2
Covers the major record groups and sources for Virginia research including those available on the Web, in print and on microfilm. “Quirks” of the records and substitutes for lost records are also discussed.

3:00-4:15 Virginia Sources for West Virginia Researchers
There are numerous sources of information for West Virginia researchers in early mother counties and state record groups. Based upon thirty years of West Virginia research much of it in Virginia record groups, this lecture provides an in-depth look at what West Virginia researchers can find in Virginia.

Barbara Vines Little:

Ed., University of Virginia; former president and director, National Genealogical Society; former president and governor, Virginia Genealogical Society; coordinator, Virginia track, Samford University’s Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, coordinator, Virginia track, SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy); editor of the Virginia Genealogical Society’s quarterly Magazine of Virginia Genealogy and former editor bimonthly Virginia Genealogical Society newsletter.

Click here to purchase your tickets online now! 

More Information / Form Here: Researching Your Virginia Ancestors

May 6, 2017: The Italians in Cleveland: Their History & Communities: 12 noon to 3 p.m.  Pamela Dorazio Dean, WRHS Curator for Italian American History, will present the history of the Italians in Cleveland—their communities, occupations, social and religious groups that have enhanced the Cleveland landscape. Connie Sancetta, secretary of CIAO (Cleveland Italian Ancestry Organization) and volunteer assistant to Pamela, will offer research advice for tracing ancestors within the Northeast Ohio area.  Volunteers will be available after presentation to assist in research. A behind-the-scenes library tour is available after class. Fee $15. To register:

June 3, 2017: How to Prepare and Apply to a Lineage Society Workshop: 12 noon to 3 p.m.  What is a Lineage Society and why would I want to join?  How do I fill out an application? What documents are needed and how do I obtain them? Certified Genealogist Jean Hoffman will explain and walk attendees through the process of making applications. A behind-the-scenes library tour is available after class. Fee $15. To register:

All classes will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the Hassler Room of the WRHS Research Library in the WRHS History  Center at 10825 East Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio 44106
For more information, call 216-721-5722.

youth roots image


Youth Roots Family History Writing Contest

The Western Reserve Historical Society’s Genealogical Committee is encouraging Junior & Senior High School students in the North-East Ohio area to explore their family history.

Winners could receive $100, $50, or $25 cash prizes. All prizes and gifts are funded by the Genealogical Committee. All entries become the property of the Genealogical Committee. Entries will be judged by those members.

Youth Roots Family History Writing Contest FAQs

Who can enter?

  • Any student in the Northeast Ohio area. There are two divisions: Junior & Senior. Junior Division is grades 7-9, ages 13-15; Senior Division is grades 10-12, ages 16-18.

What are the Prizes?

  • Cash prizes are given in each division: First Prize, $100; Second Prize, $50; Third Prize, $25.
  • PLUS: Teachers of the First Prize winners receive a complimentary one-year membership to Western Reserve Historical Society (this includes Hale Farm & WRHS at University Circle).

When is the deadline?

  • All entries are due by September 30, 2016. Entries postmarked or emailed by that date qualify.
  • Students will receive confirmation by email that their entry has been received.
  • Winning entrants will be contacted in December of 2016.

What can I write about?

  • Write a short biography about a deceased relative/ancestor.
  • Follow a family member through several censuses and write about what you discovered.
  • Write about someone’s career, hometown, military service, or some aspect of their life.
  • Follow a family member, with emphasis on place and time, and write your results.

How do I begin?

  • Choose a family member or ancestor to write about.
  • Gather information about him/her by using research such as personal interview (if applicable) using books, family documents and memorabilia, online websites.
  • Decide which format to present your story: written or power point presentation.

Can I have help with my project? 

  • You may visit the WRHS Research Library during open hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers and WRHS Staff members will be available to answer your questions and suggest sources. WRHS Research Library provides access to and other helpful websites, besides archiving a wealth of books, manuscripts and newspapers. Log on to
  • You can also email any questions to with subject line “Youth Roots.”
  • You can access from other public libraries where you live.

What are the requirements for the contest?

  • All submissions should be original, unpublished work.
  • One submission per student.
  • Please use: for citations.
  • One source must be from a library collection, either in printed form or electronic database.

Written form: Entry should have a title, be 800-1200 words in length, double-spaced, with citations at the end. No graphics or photos allowed. Submissions must include: Name of student author, home or school address, email address, school name and address, grade level, and teacher’s name & contact information.  Written submissions can be mailed to:

Western Reserve Historical Society
C/O Genealogical Committee, Youth Roots Contest
10825 East Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106

Email submission: email must contain the same information: student’s name, home or school address, grade level, teacher’s name & contact information. This information should be in the body of the email, and the entry must be an attachment, not in the body of the email. Email to: subject line: ENTRY

Power point presentation: must be mailed to the Society on a flash-drive or printed pages in a format of 3 slides per page and not embedded in an email. The same information about the student needs to be on the opening slide of the presentation: name, address, email, phone, grade, school and teacher’s name & contact information. Students may use maps, graphs, photos or documents in their presentation, but no more than 3-5 graphic slides. The flash drive or printed presentation is to be mailed to the same address at Western Reserve Historical Society as given above.

Click here for Youth Roots information for Teachers, Educators and Parents: YR For Teachers Educators and Parents Youth Roots February 2016