Saturday, February 9, 2019

NERGC 2019 Interview ~ Elissa Scalise Powell

The 15th biennial New England Regional Genealogical Consortium conference will be held in Manchester, New Hampshire, from April 3-6. Visit the website for all the conference information and register before February 28 to get the early bird discount! For those of you in New England, this is the best, closest conference you'll get a chance to attend. This will be the third NERGC conference that I have attended and I'm looking forward to it!

Several New England Geneabloggers have been invited to interview some of the speakers and I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Elissa Scalise Powell, CG®, CGL.


Elizabeth Handler [EH]: What got you interested in genealogy and how long have you been doing it?
Elissa Scalise Powell [ESP]: I have been doing genealogy over 30 years. I began when we lived in Massachusetts and I stopped working to be at home with my young children and wanted to update the family history I knew about that had been published in 1892. I am still not done with that one as one thing led to another and I found that as I took on clients, I spent less time on my own family history.

EH: Your bio says that you are a Pennsylvania researcher. Did you gain your initial experience by researching your own ancestry in the Allegheny County area? (Readers of my blog will know that my maternal grandmother has many ancestors and relatives in Allegheny County. This was my “excuse” to attend the FGS 2017 conference in Pittsburgh.)
ESP: I actually have no one in Allegheny County historically, although some collateral branches from Washington and Westmoreland counties and Altoona (Blair County) have found their way to Allegheny. I specialized in my home county and the surrounding area because I lived here. In the B.C. era (Before Computers) one would have to hire a local research to do “boots on the ground” research that can now commonly be done online. Even now, there are specialized non-digital collections that need someone to actually visit and research. Clients also need someone to lead their research through the tangle of records they can now find, but don’t understand and can’t analyze.

EH: From your website, I see that you enjoy teaching. What are your favorite genealogical subjects to teach?
ESP: I love to teach how to do genealogy and see the light bulbs and excitement grow as each student becomes infected with the genealogy bug. I like to share my passion for recording and telling the stories of our ancestors. I like to help people break through brick walls. What is a brick wall to one person is a stepping stone for another. I like to give my audiences the benefit of my 30+ years of experience so that they don’t commit the mistakes I made – they can commit their own. (smile)

EH: You have been coordinator and director of a couple of Institutes. For those who are not familiar with what an Institute is, can you provide a brief description. (I would love to find a week to attend one.)
ESP: An institute is different than a conference in that at a conference, such as NERGC, you pick the topic you want to see each hour and they can vary widely in content and subject. At an institute you pick one course and attend it for 5 days in a progression of learning on that one topic, whether it is Irish Research or Advanced Strategies for Success in New England or DNA or writing or methodology (all of which are being offered in June at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh – GRIP). Institutes offer high quality courses from the instructors whose blogs and books you are reading with hand-on experiences. You not only interact with the instructor but with your classmates who have also chosen the course because of their interest in the topic. Sharing information at an institute (and to some degree at a conference) not only happens in the classrooms but also in the hallways and at meal times. You never know when someone will say something that will help you break through that brick wall problem. People find institutes to be great fun with a lot of camaraderie as you learn about your classmates throughout the week. For more information see Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh/What is an Institute? 

EH: When did you become a Certified Genealogist? How has this helped you as a genealogist?
ESP: I was first certified in 1995 and have been successful in my renewals every 5 years since. I was president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists 2012-2014. Being certified has attracted serious clients who are willing to pay for professional genealogy services from someone who has been tested and endorsed as working to standards.

EH: Have you attended NERGC in the past? What are you most looking forward to at NERGC 2019 (besides enjoying the company of hundreds of other genealogists)?
ESP: I have attended NERGC several times in the past. They always do a great job of putting together a first rate conference with nationally-known speakers and quality presentations. I enjoy the variety of topics not offered everywhere and concentrating on New England. I enjoy the exhibit hall and talking with the vendors there. The specialty day ahead of the conference is also a great way to get some specific education aside from the one-hour lectures at the conference. I am teaching one of those workshops, “From Research Question to Report: The Process” where we will take the research process apart step-by-step and go through the “Writing as You Go” method (a term which I think I coined).


Elissa Scalise Powell, CG®, CGL, (read about certification here) will be teaching the following sessions:
"From Research Question to Report: The Process" (Wednesday Workshop, 9:30-11:30)
"Deeper Analysis: Techniques for Successful Problem-Solving" (Thursday, 1:30-2:30)
"Thinking Outside the Index: Advanced Search Techniques" (Thursday, 4:30-5:30)

Let me know in the comments if you're planning to attend NERGC.

See Elissa's website at Powell Genealogical Services


  1. Good interview! Sorry I won't be at NERGC this time ;( But I'll look forward to your blog posts about the wonderful speakers.

    1. Thanks for the comment and sorry I won't see you at NERGC this year.