Mount Vernon Genealogical Society - Founded 1991
Founded 1991

1500 Shenandoah Road
Alexandria, Virginia 22308
  Charles Belfield First American Ancestor

Speakers' Bios

Keynote Speaker:  Christina Lyons - is a personal historian and journalist who combines her skills in research, interviewing, and writing to help clients trace their ancestry and tell their family stories. Christina has more than 34 years of experience as a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area, including as a longtime editor and writer for Congressional Quarterly (now CQ-Roll Call). She has had extensive professional training in personal reflection techniques, autobiography writing, narrative storytelling, and genealogy. Her latest client project, The Nichols Family: An American Story, is a more than 330-page, illustrated book describing 400 years of a family’s history.
Christina is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Genealogical Society, and the Washington Biographers Group. She is a former board member of the Maryland Writers Association and a founding member of the Life Story Professionals of the Greater Washington Area as well as of the Montgomery County Genealogical Society in Maryland. She also is a certified instructor in Guided Autobiography Writing, a method of life storytelling developed in the 1970s by Dr. James Birren, the founding dean of the School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California.
Christina’s company is called ByLyons LLC.
Christina's Keynote: Beyond Names and Dates –Telling the Family Story
Christina will describe her process of writing a family history, focusing on her recent book project, The Nichols Family: An American Story. She will touch on historical research techniques, narrative non-fiction writing, manuscript development and elements for book design (photos, maps, letters, etc.).
  • Key questions of journalism apply to family storytelling: Who, what, when, where, why.
  • Think of your ancestors as characters in a story.
  • Keep your audience in mind.
  • Show the story through words, photos, maps and more.

Paul Phelps is a retired freelance writer who specialized in science and technology.  He is also an experienced genealogist with 20 years of experience in researching and writing about his own family, his friends’ families, and the families of strangers on the internet.  He is the facilitator of the MVGS Writing Family History special interest group. 
Paul's Session 1A: Writing Family History
A good story involves getting started by finding a unifying theme and determining purpose, scope and more.  Paul will provide ideas for writing your story to make it interesting for a reader. 
Suzanne S. LaPierre is a Virginiana Specialist Librarian with the Virginia Room of Fairfax County Public Library. In addition to library information services, she has experience in many aspects of archives and museums and writes for a variety of publications. She is on the editorial staff of Public Libraries Magazine, where she writes The Wired Library, a column about technology issues relevant to libraries. Her research on media literacy initiatives of public libraries has been published internationally. In 2020, Suzanne initiated a COVID-19 digital archive to collect the experiences of Fairfax County residents during the pandemic, a project which was covered by two television stations. During 2021, she and her colleague Chris Barbuschak have been researching the history of the desegregation of public libraries in Northern Virginia. Suzanne holds a MLIS from University of South Carolina, a MA in Museum Studies from George Washington University, and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. She was born in Washington, DC, grew up in Maryland, and has lived in Northern Virginia for the past 27 years.
Suzanne's Session 1B: Fairfax County Virginia Room Digital COVID-19 Archive & Oral Histories 
Hear about both the Fairfax County Public Library Virginia Room's COVID-19 and Oral Histories projects. In April, 2020, Virginia Room staff initiated a project to collect digital artifacts, such as stories and images, to preserve the experiences of Fairfax County residents in real time during the pandemic. The goal was to gather a broad range of perspectives- from first responders and essential workers to children, people sickened with COVID-19 and those quarantining at home- to record a fuller version of this period in history. This type of project is part of a larger trend toward “participatory archiving.” See some of the contributions and hear about the collecting process and lessons learned. Also receive an overview of the Virginia Room’s oral histories collection. Tips on how best to submit your own genealogical research, oral histories, and other items to local history archives will also be included. 
Janell Blue developed a serious interest in the field of genealogy after retiring from the banking industry eight years ago.  She has attended numerous genealogical institutes and conferences over the years and continues to work toward certification.  During the past four years, she has served as president of the Mount Vernon Genealogical Society and co-hosted Tracing Your Family Roots, produced through Fairfax Public Access TV Station.  Janell’s primary research area involves her German ancestors who immigrated to Texas during the nineteenth century.  
Janell's Session 2A: Tools for Getting Your Story Straight
Overwhelmed with loose documents and unverified trees?  Janell will show how the Family Tree Maker app can organize data, provide timelines, citation summaries and more.  Also, learn how Scrivener and Evernote apps can provide a visual and documentary repository for your research documents and store narratives in a flexible manner.
Barbara Orbach Natanson is Head of Reference services for the Prints & Photographs Division and an active participant in the Library of Congress Flickr photostream. Her special interests include visual literacy and pictures that tell stories. After earning graduate degrees in library science and folklore studies at UCLA, Barbara joined the Library in 1984, working first as a cataloger, then a reference librarian and a reference automation specialist. Curious to explore interconnections among the Library’s rich resources and to gain a researcher's perspective on using the collections, she completed a doctoral degree in American Studies at the University of Maryland in 1999
Barbara's Session 2B: Using Photography to Tell Your Family Story
It is said that pictures paint a thousand words.  Find the words for the story behind an old photo.  Who were the people in the picture, did their attire hint at the occasion and era?  Could the photographer’s signature help place the town?  Did the setting indicate their occupation or interests? Learn tips and tools for photographic storytelling.
Charles S. Mason Jr, is a professional Genealogist, specializing in the Southern New Jersey and 19th and Century Death Records.  He is a graduate of NGS's American Genealogy: Home Study Course, (1994), is an instructor for the NGS course Beyond the Basics, a graduate of the  National  Institute for Genealogical Research (NIGR) at the National Archives (1996 & 2001), the Institute of Genealogy and History at Samford University (2010), and has attended numerous NGS conferences, state and local conferences in the Washington, DC area and in New Jersey.   
Chuck's Session 3A: Mapping the Neighborhood to Understand our Ancestors' Lives
Where did our ancestors live, work, attend church? Did they live near a country or state line?  Was it predominately farming or mining or rural or urban?  Coordinating the information found in our ancestors' records with maps can reveal a great deal for telling a more in-depth family story.
Linda MacLachlan’s recent book, Finding Early Connecticut Vital Records: The Barbour Index and Beyond, is becoming a staple for Connecticut genealogists. Linda has also published two genealogies and many articles in refereed journals and as editor of the Mt. Vernon Genealogical Society Newsletter. She was President of MVGS and is also a member of FXGS, NEHGS, and the Connecticut Society of Genealogists. She presently staffs the McLean Family History Center and leads monthly workshops in the MVGS Research Center on operating important genealogical websites and sponsors the New England Study Group of MVGS and FXGS.
Arthur Johnson - By day, he is database administrator for a website. When not working at a day job, he is writing.
Arthur is the author of two books. On The Eve of War, © February 2019, is a travel journal kept by his grand aunts while traveling Europe, July to August 1939. His second book, Just a Few Lines, © May 2021, is based on letters from his grand uncles home while serving in World War 2.
A lover of both history and genealogy, he has combined the two in his writing. He lives in the City of Alexandria, Virginia.
Linda and Arthur's Session 3B: Publishing Your Family Story
Sharing your written story can take many forms from informal booklets or a journal article to acceptance by a publisher.  Hear from published authors about their experiences.  They will provide tips on preparing a document for publication and also answer your questions.