Using the Internet to find your family tree? ISGS Fall Conference speaker to share technology tips

Thomas MacEntee wants to usher genealogy researchers into the world of the Internet.

The Chicago resident who worked for more than 25 years in the information technology field before beginning his own business, High-Definition Genealogy, in 2008 will be sharing his expertise in Google, Facebook, self-publishing, and searching for living relatives during four workshop sessions at "Family History in Profile," the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s (ISGS) fall conference Oct. 19 and 20 to be held at the Best Western Clock Tower Resort & Conference Center in Rockford, IL.

"Many of us are intimidated by technology," MacEntee says. “We watch our children and grandchildren and are amazed at how easily they use smart phones and the Internet."

He wants to raise the knowledge of genealogy researchers, the average person who is interested in finding out more about their great grandparents and great great grandparents, so that they can get more out of their time spent looking for their roots. Even those who think they already know how to use Internet search engines can learn some new tricks, MacEntee believes.

"Many people think they know how to use Google, but the fact is they are using only about 10% of what Google has to offer," MacEntee says.

When it comes to Facebook, MacEntee explains he will be offering advice on how to protect one's privacy while still sharing genealogy information with others. His third session on self-publishing will review various options available for people who want to publish their own books or other items such as calendars and mementos. The fourth session will offer genealogists new Internet tools and sites to help them connect with other living relatives of a common ancestor.

MacEntee says he became hooked on genealogy in 1977, like many others, after watching the miniseries, Roots. He began asking his great grandmother questions about his own heritage until, in 1989, his mother handed him a book, "David Putman and His Descendants, 1645-1916."

"My great grandfather, John Ralph Austin, who was born in 1896, was listed in that book, and the book traced my Dence and Putman lines," MacEntee says. "Only 100 copies were privately printed and I cherish the copy I have."

"What I like most about genealogy are the stories – and my attempts to substantiate them with well-researched facts and information,” MacEntee adds. "I also like the problem-and-puzzle-solving aspect. That’s why I often call genealogy 'CSI without the icky bodies.'"

In addition to MacEntee’s workshops, the ISGS conference, which is being co-sponsored by the Winnebago & Boone Counties Genealogical Society, will offer 12 other sessions by eight other speakers on such topics as "Our National Archives," "Illinois Settlement and Migration Patterns," "Belonging to Writing Groups," Swedish genealogy research, and how to save family heirloom photographs. The conference also will offer Youth Workshops for young people grades 1 to 4 and 5 to 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20; a dinner at 6 p.m. on Friday, featuring Dr. John Phillip Colletta, a Washington, D.C.- area genealogist and lecturer, who will speak on, “Is There Any BODY There? – Tracking Ancestral Remains;” and opportunities to visit vendor booths on both Friday and Saturday.

For more information, or to register for the conference, visit the ISGS website at

About Illinois State Genealogical Society

The Illinois State Genealogical Society (ISGS) was formed in 1968 through the cooperative effort and forward thinking of Illinois genealogical society representatives, who envisioned a state-wide genealogical organization. ISGS is a not-for-profit, non-sectarian, educational organization. ISGS was established for the following purposes:

  • To stimulate an interest in the people who contributed to the establishment and development of the State of Illinois.
  • To seek, preserve, and make available data pertaining to individuals, families, and groups who lived in Illinois and to events which took place therein.
  • To inform people of the value of, and need for, preserving family and local history for posterity.
  • To encourage the formation of local genealogical societies and to coordinate and disseminate information.

Follow us on Facebook (, Twitter ( and on our blog at