Genealogy 101

Are you interested in documenting your family history? “Begin your search with one question that you want to answer and keep a narrow focus.”

That is the advice of John “Doc” Hamels who will be presenting a seminar for community members who are interested in learning valuable tips regarding their genealogy quest.

Edgewood Communities on the Lutheran Campus in Jamestown is hosting another seminar in its Best of Times Series. John Hamels, Ph.D, a retired school superintendent from Ripley Central School and a local musician and author, will present “Genealogy 101. Tips for Beginners.”

His presentation will be based on his own experiences with researching his family history. The seminar will be held Thursday, Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m. in Christ Chapel located on the Lutheran Campus. The program is free. Reservations can be made by calling Patty Eckwahl at 720-9122 or online at

“Too often people become overwhelmed once they begin researching their family history because they broaden their scope and forget what they wanted to know in the beginning,” Hamels said. “It’s not unlike a ‘thesis’ where you come up with one specific question and you set out to find the answer. When I began, I just wanted to know about my grandfather.”

Over the last few years, Hamels has gained valuable insight on how to be successful in charting a family history.

“There are a lot of good websites and resources available and at times it can become frustrating,” Hamels said. “I’ll share my story and some of the lessons I have learned. The evening should be a lot of fun!”

Hamels was born and raised in Buffalo. After completing his B.S. in education, he began his career with the Chautauqua County BOCES. He taught for 15 years and then moved on within the system to special education training specialist, assistant principal, principal, and regional administrator. During this time he received his M.S. in education, a certificate of advanced study in administration and a Ph.D. in education.

Hamels is also a familiar personality on “Senior Report”on Cable Access 5 TV and writes a monthly column, “From Out of the West” for the Silver Magazine in The Post-Journal. Throughout the tri-state area, he can be found playing Irish and American folk music in the popular duo, “Doc and Bill.” He currently lives in Ripley with his wife of 32 years, Barbara. They have four children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The Best of Times Seminar Series is sponsored by Edgewood Communities at Lutheran. The series provides information and support to help people plan well so they can age well. Edgewood Communities is located on the Lutheran Campus off Falconer Street in Jamestown. Units include one and two-bedroom apartments, duplex homes and the new Smartment building.