Genealogy symposium teaches how to research African-American family trees

Sharon Batiste Gillins

The African-American Family History Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 25000 Westwood Rd., Westlake.

It is sponsored in part by the Ohio African-American History and Genealogy Group.

The event will feature nationally-acclaimed experts from across the country, with workshops in genealogy basics, using popular websites for research, census and vital records, using DNA to confirm oral history, finding arrival records and more.

The keynote speaker will be Sharon Batiste Gillins, who has ancestral roots in Louisiana and Texas. She is an instructor at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research in Athens, Georgia, and the Alabama State University Genealogy Colloquium.

Gillins’ research and teaching emphasize underutilized record sources that can be used to discover details of Southern life and ancestry during the 19th century, including that of planter slave owners, enslaved people and free people.

The symposium will also feature Hollis Gentry, a genealogy specialist with the Smithsonian Libraries, where she coordinates genealogy research and programming initiatives, and serves as the Freemen’s Bureau content specialist for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Other speakers:

Juliana Szucs has worked at Ancestry for more than 20 years. She is a regular blogger and a social community manager and staff genealogist on the research team.

Deborah Abbott is a professional genealogist and nationally known specializing in African-American research, methodology and manuscript collections. She is an instructor at the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research and an instructor at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in Salt Lake City, Utah. Abbot serves as a trustee on the board of the Ohio Genealogical Society, as well as a director on the board of the Federation of Genealogy Societies and a member of the Cuyahoga County Archives Commission.
• Shamele Jordon is a professional genealogist, producer, lecturer and writer. She is the creator, producer and host of Genealogy Quick Start, a 30-minute television program providing the steps needed to begin researching your ancestry.

Sunny Morton is an award-winning writer, editor and speaker for the genealogy industry. She is a contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine, where she writes how-to, human interest and industry news articles and teaches courses.

Mary Milne Jamba is an avid genealogist with 26 years of research experience with a special interest in DNA. She serves as a trustee of the Ohio Genealogical Society and past present of the Greater Cleveland Genealogical Society.

Sandra Beane Milton teaches Genealogy 101 and is a genealogist and reference librarian.

In addition to those classes and presentations, a free lunch will be provided to all pre-registered attendees. Register before March 10 at or call 216-215-0373.