Sunday, October 10, 2010

John Colletta "Rocked It" at Genealogy Conference

John Philip Colletta
John Colletta demonstrated that he is one of the "rock stars" in the world of genealogy speakers in his presentations at the fall conference sponsored by the Lincoln-Lancaster County (Nebraska) Genealogical Society.

The author of They Came in Ships: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record and Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy & Its Aftermath (among others) informed, entertained and educated the group of more than 100 genealogists at the Southeast Community College Continuing Education Center in Lincoln yesterday.

Colletta's topics were Assembling and Writing a Family History Narrative, Writing a Readable Story, Researching at the Library of Congress, and Using and Understanding Archives.

Colletta is a dynamic speaker, full of passion and enthusiasm for family history. His teaching style is full of rich stories and examples - as well as a lot of humor. He captivated the audience for a full day.

Of most benefit to me was his approach to writing a family history - the stories about the lives of our ancestors. I'm sure that many of us have struggled with trying to figure out how to determine when our research is complete enough to begin writing the story. Colletta emphasized the need for being very clear with your objective, your audience and narrowing your focus. For example, perhaps you will only write about a few generations of the family - you don't have to write about every possible descendant of a certain ancestor.

The other piece of advice he gave is to "start writing now." He made it clear that you don't have to wait until all of your research is done - start writing the stories and eventually your book will evolve. He also showed several different examples of how to present and organize your final product.

During the first break, I bought his book, They Came in Ships: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record but as he used his research about his Ring family to illustrate his points, I then purchased his book about that family's story, Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy & Its Aftermath. This is not a book of charts and lineages, but is a well crafted story that involves some mysteries and an unsolved case involving the death of an ancestor. I can't wait to get into this book!

If you ever need an outstanding genealogy speaker for your event, John Colletta should be on your short list.

Visit John Colletta's web site


  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE hearing him speak. I always learn so much and am never bored. He is speaking again at the DuPage County Genealogical Society conference in IL in February. He spoke last year as well. I cannot wait to hear him again.

  2. What a wonderful recommendation for lecturer, Mr. Colletta. He has been in the Boston area many times, but I haven't had the opportunity to hear him. Next time I will go to his talk, and I will thank you Susan for letting us know how good he is.

  3. You had a real treat. I heard him a few years ago and would love to hear him again.

    I'm currently reading "Only A Few Bones" and am really enjoying it. Hope you do too.