First Annual PanSlavic Conference

Here’s a flyer and press release announcing a seminar I will be participating in with my fellow research colleagues, Jonathan Shea and Matthew Bielawa.

For Immediate Release

Got Slavic Roots? Learn How Find Them at Local Seminar

Bridgeport, CT—The first annual “Pan Slavic Genealogy Seminar” will take place on Saturday, April 14, 2007 from 1-5 p.m. at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

If your family’s roots lie in Eastern Europe and you’ve been curious about how to reconstruct your family’s history, then come spend an afternoon learning about strategies and methods for finding your elusive Eastern European ancestors from three nationally recognized experts in the field!

The three, Jonathan D. Shea, of New Britain CT, a professor of foreign languages at Housatonic, Lisa Alzo, a writer, instructor, and lecturer from Ithaca NY, and Matthew Bielawa of Stratford CT, associate registrar at Central Connecticut State University have all lectured on the Eastern European family history research nationwide at conferences and seminars.

Shea will address research in Poland and Belarus while Alzo will concentrate on aspects of research related to families of Slovak and Carpatho Russian (Rusyn) origin. Bielawa will explore sources in Ukraine and the former Austro Hungarian Empire.

“Anyone who has attempted to trace their ancestors back to Eastern Europe understands the special challenges and frustrations associated with this seemingly daunting task,” says Alzo. “Border changes, language differences, political considerations, exotic-sounding surnames, misconceptions and myths about how, what, and where to search often complicate the research process and discourage even the most dedicated and savvy genealogist.”

However this shouldn’t deter the potential roots searcher. All three of the presenters have traced their families back to the 1700s and so can anyone if given the proper guidance and training

Shea stated: “The Bridgeport area and the Valley were points of settlement for many immigrants from Eastern Europe at the turn of the century and Bridgeport in fact had one of the largest concentrations of Slovaks and Rusyns in the region, in addition to sizeable Polish and Ukrainian communities. Many descendants of the early immigrants still reside in area communities so we’re counting on a big turnout.”

Bielawa adds “ Most presentations of this type concentrate on one ethnic or religious group. This is the first time we have incorporated the various religions and ethnicities into one cohesive whole. Many of the research strategies have a degree of similarity regardless of whether your ancestors were Belarussian Jews, Polish Roman Catholics or Slovak Lutherans. There are some differences in record sources but there are many more similarities than one would imagine”

The seminar will serve to clear up some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding research in Eastern Europe. A preliminary session will be devoted to learning about the family and its place of origin in Europe utilizing records generated in the US such as local church and vital records, census records, ship passenger lists from Ellis Island and other ports and citizenship records. Also featured will be internet sources that researchers can use on line without even leaving their home. The complex border changes and historical geography will be addressed by the speakers in their presentations, as well as archival sources in all the nations under study. Samples of the wide variety of records that Shea and Bielawa have collected while doing on-site research in European archives will be presented and analyzed. Maps and other reference sources will be made available at the presentation for participants to utilize.

The presentations will begin at 1:00 pm on Saturday April 14 Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Boulevard in Bridgeport. Free parking in the college’s garage and light refreshments will be available to all. Directions to HCC can be found at or . If you are interested in attending, please send an e mail to or call 203-332-5279. Admission is free and all are welcome.