Caring for Your Family Tree: Tools and Strategies for the Lay Genealogist

Saturday, October 7, 2023, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.  
Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street 

Pay what you can: $50 suggested, $10 minimum



In this seminar, guest speakers will explore the resources and root concepts of researching family histories. Whether you have a shoebox full of photos, a digital family tree, or established family papers, this program is ideal for a general audience, particularly the budding or self-taught family historian who wants to transition from name gathering to research.

Throughout the day, industry experts will address the responsibilities of researching your family tree, record types and resources, methods and strategies, DNA as an important research tool for tough-to-trace family lines, and “how to be a good ancestor”—best practices for preserving and sharing your findings with the next generation.   

This program will be moderated by Jari C. Honora, a reference associate at the Williams Research Center of The Historic New Orleans Collection, Certified Genealogist®, New Orleans native, and proud Louisiana Creole with roots dating back more than two centuries along Bayou Lafourche and the German-Acadian coast. 

Space is limited, and advance registration is required.  The “pay what you can” pricing model for this program allows us to make it more accessible to the community. When you pay the suggested amount, your contribution helps to offset the program cost for others who might not otherwise be able to attend.


Header image: Portrait of Wanda Rouzan, ca. 1978. Photo by Owen Murphy. The Historic New Orleans Collection, Gift of Owen F. Murphy Jr. (Acc. # 2010.0263.2)


Featured Speakers

Jari C. HonoraJari C. Honora is a New Orleans native and 11th-generation Louisianian. He is a graduate of St. Augustine High School and Tulane University. He is employed as a reference associate in the Williams Research Center of The Historic New Orleans Collection. He previously worked for Le Musée de f.p.c. and taught in local charter schools. Jari has presented at numerous historical and genealogical conferences including the International Black Genealogy Summit, American Educational Research Association, Southern Historical Society, Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society (AAHGS), and Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. A Certified Genealogist, Jari also does historical and genealogical research professionally, including for the TV programs “Finding Your Roots” and “We’ll Meet Again.” He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, Society of the War of 1812, and the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage.  


Bernice Alexander BennettBernice Alexander Bennett is an award-winning author, genealogist, nationally recognized guest speaker, storyteller, and producer-host of the popular Research at the National Archives and Beyond Blogtalkradio programs. She is also the first recipient of the Ida B. Wells Service Award given by the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage for her dedication to broadcasting stories about enslaved and indentured ancestors of African descent. In addition, she received the Elizabeth Clark-Lewis Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) Genealogy Award in 2019 for original research in support of African American genealogy. Bennett is a founding director and faculty member with the award-winning Midwest African American Genealogy Institute.  She received the 2022 Midwest Region's Hartzog Award from the National Park Services for being a leader in unearthing and sharing Black homesteading stories and important historical documentation. Bennett—a New Orleans native and current resident of Maryland—enjoyed a 35-year career in domestic and international public health. She received an undergraduate degree from Grambling State University and a graduate degree in public health from the University of Michigan. 

Melvin CollierMelvin Collier has been conducting genealogical research for 30 years. Currently employed by the Department of Defense in Washington, DC, he is a former archivist at the Archives Research Center of the Robert W. Woodruff Library–Atlanta University Center, where he has worked on the Morehouse College Dr. Martin Luther King papers, the Maynard Jackson administrative papers and photographs, the Dr. Asa Hilliard III papers, and other collections. Collier has appeared as an expert genealogist on the PBS show “Who Do You Think You Are” and has given numerous presentations on genealogy, enslaved ancestral research, and genetic genealogy (DNA). Collier is the author of Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery; 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended; and Early Family Heritage: Documenting Our Legacy.  His books have been used by genealogical and historical scholars as great reference sources for genealogical methodologies. Collier earned a Master of Arts degree in African American studies from Clark Atlanta University in 2008, with additional graduate coursework in archival studies from Clayton State University, 2010 –2012. He was the recipient of the 2012 Marsha M. Greenlee History Award from the National Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS). 

Jay SchexnaydreJay Schexnaydre is a 10th-generation native of Convent in St. James Parish, where his ancestors have resided for 300 years, but he currently resides in Thibodaux. He has been employed as the manager at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, since 2001. He has been a member of the German-Acadian Coast Historical & Genealogical Society since 1999 and since 2016 has served as president of that organization. Jay also served two terms as president of the Genealogical Research Society of New Orleans (2011–2013 and 2015–2017). Schexnaydre has intensely studied the families of  St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Iberville, and  Lafourche Parishes.  He is particularly interested in the complex and extended network of families (and their origins) found along the German Coast, the Acadian Coast, and the Bayou Lafourche region. He holds a wealth of knowledge on available digital and printed resources, tips for research, and ready answers to commonly asked genealogical questions. Also, he holds memberships in the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Terrebonne Genealogy Society and is a board member of Lafourche Heritage Society. 


About THNOC’s “Caring for Your Collection” and past “Genealogy Workshop” Program Series  

Since 1992, The Historic New Orleans Collection has developed various programs on caring for the personal collections of our community. Over the years, these “Caring for Your....” programs have included household disaster planning, private collections, family photographs, antiques, Mardi Gras collectibles, and family tombs. Similarly, for over a decade (until 2010) The Historic New Orleans Collection presented an annual Genealogy Workshop with niche topics such as using Spanish language church records; an overview of repositories found in Louisiana; researching ancestors from Germany, the British Isles, Italy, and St. Domingue; and civil law concepts and notarial records. Many of these programs have been digitized as resources available to the public. For more information, email