Called the proverbial dean of American genealogical research by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Johni Cerny died Feb. 22, 2020 in Lehi, Utah. She was born in Kansas City, Mo., received a bachelor’s degree in social work and genealogical research in 1969 at Brigham Young University, and was chief genealogist for the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.”

She helped about 200 famous people trace their ancestry, including Oprah Winfrey, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

She was editor and author of "The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy" (1984) and "The Library: A Guide to the LDS Family History Library" (1986).

Read Legacy’s obituary at The genealogical community has lost a special friend.

British Ancestry in Wisconsin

The British Interest Group of Wisconsin & Illinois (BIGWILL) helps its members trace their ancestry to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It has a website at, a Facebook page at, and a library collection in the McHenry Public Library.

Its next meeting will be Saturday, March 21, in Richmond, Ill., Michael Rehberg will speak on “English Settlement at Racine, Wisconsin.” All are welcome to attend.

The BIGWILL website has more information, including meeting details, and also links to helpful handouts that were provided at past meetings.

Gravesite Database

The Church of England is planning to create a searchable database of British burial sites in Anglican graveyards as well as those “on unconsecrated land.” Read this important Daily Mail announcement at

Google Alert to Help Genealogists

Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter recently reported on a new tool, Google Alert, which enables researchers to be alerted when specific ancestors are added by Google to its search index pages. “Google is adding an average of 68 million new web pages to its search index every day.”

Read more of Eastman’s announcement at To create a Google Alert go to The process is explained by using Abraham Lincoln and Nancy Hanks as an example. Has Google found any of your ancestors?

Genealogical Proof Standard

The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) was created by the Board for Certification of Genealogists providing a standard upon which conclusions are to be measured. At Marc McDermott (with contributions from Elizabeth Shown Mills and Thomas W. Jones) has posted a guide (“Genealogy Explained”) and a process flowchart showing how to conduct research using the GPS.

Experienced as well as beginning genealogists would be wise to study the many details in this guide.

Online German Letter Writing Guide Helpful

Anyone who has ever wished to be able to write a brief letter to Germany would enjoy the German Letter Writing Guide, a research aid from the LDS Family History Library, which can be found at In addition to basic letter writing skills, the website provides various genealogical request examples that might be appropriate. Good luck.

Queries, as well as a general exchange of genealogical material that readers would like to share, will be printed in the column for free. Contact Joan Griffis by e-mailing

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