23 June 2009


Michael John Neill has been actively involved in genealogical researchsince the early 1980s. He began his research at the age of thirteen, growing up a few miles from the courthouse in the county where many ofhis family had lived since the 1850s. An experienced courthouse, library, and archive researcher, he has researched his children’s ancestry in over fifteen states and six European countries. Michael has lead research trips to the Allen County Public Library and theFamily History Library in Salt Lake City. He has written hundreds of genealogy how-to columns, formerly for Ancestry.com and now writes a regular column, “Casefile Clues,” for Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.

A native of West-Central Illinois, Michael has a master’s degree in mathematics and is on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College where he also conducts an annual week-long series of genealogy computing workshops. Michael has given all-day seminars and workshops on a wide variety of genealogical topics across the country. He maintains a web presence at http://www.rootdig.com/.

Topics (additional topics can be developed):

Research on a Tight Budget

This lecture discusses some no-cost and low-cost ways to expand your genealogical research. Mention is also made of those times when “free” or “low-cost” is not possible.

Researching the Entire Family

Focusing only on the direct line can cause significant information to be overlooked and larger patterns to go un-noticed. This lecture discusses via examples, the importance of researching the siblings and at least first cousins of a direct ancestor.

Ostfriesian Research

This lecture focuses on unique research opportunities and challenges in this area of northern Germany near the Dutch border. Michael is one-half Ostfriesian by ancestry.

Newspaper Research

This lecture discusses how to access papers, effective search strategies for manual versus digital searching, what types of papers to search, and what to look for in newspapers besides obituaries.

Tried and Tested Tidbits

This lecture contains a wide variety of “quick tips” geared towards genealogists at all levels. A little bit of this and a little bit of that.

An Introduction to the Courthouse

This lecture provides an overview to the records typically found in a county courthouse: land, probate, court, and vital records.

Land Records (Public Land States)

This lecture discusses the basics of how land is described in public land states and effective search strategies for records in these localities, including a discussion of basic terminology. Intended for the researcher with little or no experience in land records.

Land Records (Public Land States): Intermediate

This lecture discusses search strategies via example for land records in public land states. Not geared towards beginning researchers and with the idea that attendees are already familiar with basic land terminology and deed terms.

Organization of Information: Seeing the Patterns

This lecture discusses various ways to organize information with the hope that previously unnoticed trends become apparent. Begins with a brief discussion of family group charts and pedigree charts and continues into chronologies and other less-often used charts and organizational methods.

Locating Emigrant Origins

This lecture discusses sources and methods for possibly locating from where an immigrant ancestor originated.

Naturalization: An Unnatural Process

This lecture discusses naturalization from the colonial era until World War II with an emphasis on how history has impacted the amount of records that were created.

Documentation Roadblocks on the Information Superhighway

The internet contains a great deal of information—some of it accurate and some of it not. This lecture discusses how to assess the validity of online information and concerns about citing online sources.

Court Records (beginning or intermediate)

This lecture discusses county court records, search procedures and analysis. It can be presented at a beginning or an intermediate level. The intermediate level lecture focuses on several case studies and assumes attendees are familiar with basic terminology and how court records are organized and accessed.

Probate Records (beginning or intermediate)

The same as Court Records (see above) only for probate records.

The Search for the Parents of Francis Trautvetter (using Illinois resources)

This lecture provides an good overview of Illinois records and sources all done within the context of a case study of an Illinois native born in 1851.

Why are There Errors in Records?

Errors create a variety of problems for the genealogist. This lecture looks at the causes of errors and discrepancies in records and includes commentary on handling these issues in a genealogical database.

Notetaking, Abstracting, and Extracting

This lecture discusses procedures for notetaking, abstracting, and extracting along with a discussion of what type of source is being used.

Where Could It Be Written?

Finding that fact, date or name frequently boils down to asking “where could that fact be written?” In this lecture, we discuss an approach for determining where a record containing the information we need could be located.

Problem Solving Applied to Genealogy

George Polya designed a 4-step process for solving problems, particularly mathematics “story problems.” This approach is applied to genealogy, both theoretically and through several examples.

Researching Through Footnotes: Using Historical Books and Articles for Genealogical Research

Perhaps a historian has researched a topic extensively that is relevant on your ancestral quest. This lecture discusses how to find these academic articles and put them to use for your own family history research.

I Found it: Now What?

Part of finding something is completely analyzing it. This lecture looks at a dozen or so documents found in actual research and sees what additional sources and methods are suggested by each individual document.

Land Platting in Metes and Bounds

This lecture discusses the basics of platting property in metes and bounds, software that is available for this specific purpose and why the average genealogist would even want to bother platting a piece of property.

Beginning German Research

This lecture discusses the beginning stages of German family history research.

Effective Internet Search Techniques

Online searching is more than typing a name in a search box. This lecture looks at several suggestions for getting the most from your online time.

Where did the Farm Go?

Your ancestor owned a farm? How it was transferred from his ownership may provide more genealogical clues than you suspect.

Math for Genealogists

This lecture looks at fractions, graph theory, logic, and other mathematical concepts within a genealogical frame work. No advanced math knowledge is necessary.

Using Records from the Family History Library when You Don't Know the Language

Reading records in Swedish, German, Latin, or any other European language is not quite as difficult as it may appear on the surface. We’ll discuss a general approach to reading non-English records. Learning the script and 50 basic words will accomplish wonders.

Brick Walls From A to Z

This lecture is an alphabetical listing of “brick wall breakers.”

Preparing for your Genealogical Research Trip Using Your Computer

This lecture discusses several ways to use your computer and your genealogical database to prepare for your next family history research trip. Planning is more than typing locations into Mapquest.