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Interview with Ginger Frere, an ISGS Conference Speaker

Ginger Frere is a professional researcher, speaker and instructor who provides a variety of research services to authors, historians, and genealogists. Her primary research interests include Chicago and mid-western research. The Illinois State Genealogical Society is delighted to announce that Ginger Frere will be leading two lectures at the Annual Fall Conference. We caught up with Ginger this summer and asked her a few questions about her background, her passion for genealogy and research, and the ISGS Conference.

Illinois State Genealogical Society: Tell us a little about the lectures you'll be presenting at the ISGS conference.
Ginger Frere: I’ll be presenting two of my favorite lectures at ISGS! In “Looking for Love in the Midwest” I’ll discuss some of the reasons marriage records just may not be where you think they should. I’ll offer some strategies and suggestions for finding those elusive “I Do” records.
Social histories are the stories of ordinary people and their ordinary activities and institutions. “Adding Context: Social History for Genealogists” will provide some great ideas for resources created by social historians that can be used by genealogists to aid in understanding our ancestors’ lives and times. These histories can be important additions to our research toolboxes.
ISGS: How did you become interested in genealogy? How long have you been researching?
GF: As with many other genealogists, my interest in genealogy started with one of those “family tree” projects in grammar school. My grandmother loved to tell stories about her family and I was always a willing audience. I later discovered that the stories she shared about my grandfather’s family were not quite so accurate, however!
ISGS: What has been a defining moment in your career as a genealogist?
GF: A turning point in my genealogical career occurred when I found out that my great-great-grandfather was not really the little old, illiterate shoemaker I thought he was. Rather he was a fairly well-travelled, early union organizer. This discovery really made me realize that each of our ancestors has a unique story, that we must be careful about making assumptions about their lives – and that it is their story, not just their names and dates, that is truly important.
ISGS: What are you most looking forward at the ISGS annual fall conference?
GF: Seeing old friends, making new friends and learning about new resources and research techniques!
ISGS: In what ways are you expanding your knowledge in the field of genealogy?
GF: There’s always so much to learn! Conferences such as the ISGS conference are wonderful. Webinars are always available. Genealogical society meetings are great opportunities to learn and socialize. Organizations such as the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) provide plenty of opportunities to compare notes with other professionals. And of course, there’s learning by doing! With every new project there is a need to search all relevant resources – and there always seems to some I haven’t used before.
ISGS: Why do you research your ancestors?
GF: When I first started doing genealogy as an adult, I read “Voices in Your Blood,” by G.G. Vandagriff. The title just resonated with me! These people are in my DNA. Their experiences and attitudes determined the family I was born into, influenced the place I live, the occupations I’ve chosen, the talents I have.
ISGS: A major accomplishment of yours is the creation of Tell us about that resource.
GF: is a unique Newberry website (first conceived by Jack Simpson) developed to help genealogists and local historians discover and share historical information about Chicago.  When researching a large city like Chicago, it can be very difficult to answer questions such as “what school or church did my family attend?” ChicagoAncestors lets you search a wide variety of information about Chicago by entering an address, intersection, or keyword.
The site also provides links to other sites critical to doing Chicago research, as well as articles with important Chicago research notes.

Researchers and genealogists are encouraged to contribute their own family information, historical research, queries and photographs.  If you haven’t used it, check it out!
ISGS: What was the most memorable experience for you on “Who Do You Think You Are”? What was it like preparing for that show?
GF: Working with the production crew and meeting Jessica was great fun. The crew was very encouraging and was very invested in making sure that not only was the episode good television, but that all the research was accurate and reasonably exhaustive. Jessica was truly excited to hear what we had learned.
ISGS: You have a Master of Library and Information Science degree. What is your favorite library? Why?
GF: After working at the Newberry Library for 12 years, what else could I say! The Newberry is an incredible institution with great people and a superior collection. If I had to pick another library it would be the Library of Congress. Sitting in the Main Reading Room surrounded by magnificent art and architecture is an inspiring experience.


Catch Ginger Frere’s lectures “Looking for Love in the Midwest” and “Adding Context: Social History for Genealogists” at the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s 2017 Annual Fall Conference on October 27 and 28 in Moline, Illinois. For more details about the conference and to register, visit the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s website.
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