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Wisconsin STate Genealogical Society

2023 Gene-A-Rama

Trials and Tribulations of Coming to America


Katherine Willson

Friday & Saturday, March 24 & 25, 2023

Hosted by the

Genealogical Research Society of Eau Claire

Katherine R. Willson, a 7th generation Michigander, is an engaging & dynamic genealogy lecturer at local, regional and national conferences; an educator teaching beginning, intermediate, and advanced genealogy classes in Michigan since 2001; the author of The Genealogist's Guide to Grand Rapids, Michigan (published in 2018 by The In-Depth Genealogist), and a professional researcher for private clients. Her genealogy interests began at age 10 while earning the Junior Girl Scout My Heritage badge.

You can find her website at

Katherine Willson's Lectures


The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and Its Effect On Our American Ancestors – More Americans were killed by the global 1918 Influenza (Spanish Flu) Pandemic than in the Great War. This virus had tragic implications on our ancestors’ communities and in their own families. Review the timeline of the pandemic’s spread, the direct and indirect effect of this health crisis on individuals, and the sources to consult for a greater understanding of its impact. 


Resources for Genealogical Research in Foreign Countries – Once you’ve discovered your immigrant ancestor’s home country, how will you go about finding documents generated while s/he was still there, and how will you research his/her parents?  We’ll discuss available resources for beginning your research in foreign countries, including how to locate foreign language genealogy terms and online maps providing contextual information on shifting country borders.

Our European Ancestors’ Voyage to America – Learn about your immigrant ancestors’ voyage from Europe to the United States, and how those journeys changed from the 18th century through the 20th century. How did our ancestors prepare for the journey? What immigration restrictions & quota laws did they face? How were ports of departure and arrival chosen? What was the ticket cost? How long would the journey take, and what were the expected ship accommodations?

They Didn’t All Come Through Ellis Island: Finding & Analyzing Passenger Arrival Lists – If as many ancestors came through Ellis Island as families are led to believe, the island would have sunk!  Learn about the multiple points of departure from Europe, ports of entry into the U.S., how to find passenger arrival lists online, and how to analyze these lists as a means of filling in your ancestors’ life stories.

America’s Westward Expansion: Records of Travelers & Service Providers – We will discuss the records generated during our ancestors’ westward trek across America, the online and offline locations of those record sets, and helpful search strategies that will allow us to create a fuller picture of our ancestors’ experiences. This presentation includes discussions on cowboys, traveling preachers, midwives, Harvey Girls, and other service-providing occupations during the western migration.

Also Featuring

 Renee Garrick            Russ Horton            John Berg                Sarah J. Beer

Hotel Accommodations

Group Rates has Ended on 2/23/2023

2023 Gene-A-Rama Agenda

Friday, March 24th

8:00 AM   Registration and Vendors Open
9:00 AM     President’s Welcome, WSGS Annual Business Meeting
10:00 AM   Break
10:30 AM
Katherine R Willson: Research in Foreign Countries
11:30 AM    Lunch
1:00 PM Renee Garrick: Sorting out a Blended Family Tree
2:00 PM Break and Vendors open
2:30 PM   Katherine R. Willson: Our European Ancestors’ Voyage to America
3:30 PM     Break and Vendors open
4:00 PM    John Berg: The Intersection of Genealogy and History: One Needs the Other, Right? When commonly accepted narratives are challenged by a new perspective.
5:15 PM Cash Bar
6:00 PM   Dinner and After Speaker
Katherine R Willson: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and Its Effect on Our American Ancestors


Saturday, March 25th

 8:00 AM
 Registration and Vendors Open
9:00 AM   Russ Horton: Germans in the Civil War
10:00 AM     Break
10:15 AM   Katherine R Willson: They Didn’t All Come Through Ellis Island Finding & Analyzing Passenger Arrival Lists
11:15 AM    Lunch
1:00 PM Sarah J. Beer: Following the Paper Trail: The Search for Hans Hanson
2:00 PM
2:30 PM Katherine R. Willson: America’s Westward Expansion: Records of Travelers & Service Providers
3:30 PM   Closing Remarks / Safe Travels



Online Registration is now closed!  We will accept walk-in registrations at the event.

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