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Megan Smolenyak, well-known "genealogical adventurer and storyteller," has made some changes to her website, making it easier to read her recent blog posts and learn of genealogy news and events.

She is also proud of the fact that her Seton Shields Genealogy Grants program (named after her mother) recently celebrated its 15th anniversary! After giving away 186 monthly grants, she now intends to award them quarterly and also will increase each award to three times the previous amount.

Visit and from the toolbar at the top click books, celebrity roots, videos, blog, press, grants, events or about Smolenyak.

Her website also provides information on the May-July 2015 (15th anniversary) grant recipient — who didn't even know he'd be getting a check because a fellow genealogist submitted on his behalf. She explained that for the past several years, Earl Sundmaker has been going to Protestant churches in the greater New Orleans area to ask if he can copy their records.

"He has discovered records in fire-damaged and mildew-laden storage areas, and even found some in file cabinets stored outside," according to the website. At his own expense, he scans each page of the books and prints out three copies. The copies go into binders, and one set of binders is given back to the church for its use.

"He has also set up a research room at the German-American Cultural Center in Gretna, La., where a set of his church books is a major draw. Thanks to his generosity and hard work, hundreds of years of records are now available, for free," the website says.

His grant will pay for an estimated seven to 10 new church binders.

Any organization or individual may apply for a Seton Shields Genealogy Grant. The application (on the website) is very brief, only asking for contact information, a "brief overview of how your organization or activities serve/s the genealogical community, the amount of funding sought and the specific purpose for which funding will be used."

It is also possible to sign up for her free newsletter. Be sure to visit her new website!

Military heritage

As we continue to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, it is appropriate to take advantage of the resources at the Genealogy Center at the Allen County (Ind.) Public Library in Fort Wayne. At, there is a wealth of Civil War material available online on this website, "Our Military Heritage."

One can scroll down the lengthy list of biographies, burials, diaries, individuals, letters, photographs, other documents, postwar activities and lineage societies, unit histories and rosters, and battles and war, or click on a link taking one directly to a specific Civil War resource. (Also, be sure to read the directions for making an effective search.)

Not all the resources at this Indiana library pertain to Indiana. For example, this website includes records and images of burials at the Cedar Hill Cemetery, GAR Section, at Newark, Licking County, Ohio, and also the Confederate Circle, Evergreen Cemetery, Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tenn.

Furthermore, many of the Civil War veterans having personal data on this website had been in non-Indiana units, including Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and California. It should be noted that much information pertaining to veterans who served in other U.S. wars can also be accessed from this website: colonial wars, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Indian wars, Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraqi War and peacetime service. (Click on any war to access resources in many of the same categories as mentioned above for Civil War.)

Illinois fall conference

It is not too early to begin making plans to attend the Illinois State Genealogical Society's 2015 fall conference to be held Oct. 23 and 24 in Oak Lawn. This event will feature nationally known speakers and provide an opportunity to network with other genealogists and family historians.

A conference brochure and registration information can be read/downloaded at

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.