2023 New York State Family History Conference Speakers

Speaker Bios


Melissa Barker is a certified archives manager and public historian currently working at the Houston County Tennessee Archives. She is affectionally known as “The Archive Lady” to the genealogy community. She lectures, teaches, and writes about the genealogy research process, archival research, and records preservation. She conducts virtual webinar presentations across the United States for genealogical and historical societies. Melissa writes a popular blog entitled A Genealogist in the Archives, and is a well-known published book reviewer. She has been a professional genealogist for the past 19 years with expertise in Tennessee records. Melissa has been researching her own family history for the past 33 years.

Melissa Barker


Blaine Bettinger

Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD, is a professional genealogist specializing in DNA evidence. In 2007 he started The Genetic Genealogist, one of the earliest blogs on the topic. Blaine is the author of The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy and co-author with Debbie Parker Wayne of the award-winning Genetic Genealogy in Practice, the world’s first genetic genealogy workbook. He also co-authored the “Genetics for Genealogy” chapter with Judy Russell in 2018’s Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards (ProGen PPS). Blaine is or has been an instructor for genetic genealogy courses at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research. He is a graduate of ProGen Study Group 21 and a trustee for the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.



Jesse Brown is a supervisor of research services at the New York State Archives in Albany, New York. He received his Master of Library & Information Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He first joined the New York State Archives in 2007 as a project archivist.



A’Lelia Bundles

A’Lelia Bundles is the author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, a New York Times Notable Book about her entrepreneurial great-great-grandmother and the inspiration for Self Made, the fictional Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer. The Joy Goddess: A’Lelia Walker and the Harlem Renaissance, the first major biography of her great-grandmother, will be published in summer 2024 by Scribner. Bundles is the founder of the Madam Walker Family Archives and brand historian for MADAM by Madam C. J. Walker, a line of hair care products developed in partnership with Unilever’s Sundial Brands and Walmart. She serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute; the March on Washington Film Festival; Indiana Landmarks; the Women’s Suffrage National Monument Foundation; and the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative. A former network television executive and Emmy Award-winning producer at ABC News and NBC News, she is chair emerita of the National Archives Foundation and a vice chair emerita of Columbia University.


Lara Diamond began researching her own family around 1989. She has traced back all branches of her family multiple generations in Eastern Europe using Russian Empire-era and Austria-Hungarian Empire records. Most of her personal research is in modern-day Ukraine, with a smattering of Belarus and Poland. She has done client research leading to their ancestors in many parts of the former USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and more. She is president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland and is JewishGen’s Subcarpathia Research Director. She has lectured around the country and internationally on Jewish and Eastern European genealogy research as well as genetic genealogy. Lara also runs multiple district- and town-focused projects to collect documentation to assist all those researching ancestors from common towns. 

Lara Diamond


Skip Duett

Skip Duett is a professional genealogist specializing in Upstate New York research and Y-DNA analysis. He is actively researching post-Revolutionary War land companies along with grants and patents in New York. Skip serves on the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Family History Advisory Committee.



Alec Ferretti is a New York City-based professional genealogist, who works for the Wells Fargo Family & Business History Center, researching family histories for high-net-worth clients. He is a graduate of New York University and Long Island University’s dual master’s program, with degrees in archives and library science. Throughout his studies, he worked in various capacities in archives throughout New York City, including the Tamiment Library and the New-York Historical Society. Alec specializes in the genealogy of 20th-century immigrants to the United States alongside Italian genealogy. Alec serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists as well as on the Board of Reclaim the Records, a nonprofit dedicated to wrangling public records from restrictive government agencies. 

Alec Ferretti



Joshua Hauck-Whealton

Joshua Hauck-Whealton is an archivist, research services, at the New York State Archives in Albany, New York. Joshua received his Master of Library & Information Science degree from the University at Albany, SUNY. He worked as an archival assistant at the Museum of Innovation and Science for more than 10 years before joining the team at the New York State Archives. He brings more than 15 years of experience working with museums, historic sites, libraries, and institutional archives.  



Jean Wilcox Hibben is a native of the Chicago suburbs and a former board-certified genealogist. She now resides in Southern California, where she was a college professor for 13 years, teaching speech communication. She retired from teaching to pursue her passions: family history and folklore (with a doctorate in the latter). Jean is a national speaker, the former director of the Corona (CA) Family History Center; president and webmaster of the Corona Genealogical Society; and past-president of the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). She has also been on the boards of the Genealogical Speakers Guild, International Society of Family History Writers & Editors, and APG. Jean was also the lead researcher for the first season of the PBS show Genealogy Roadshow.

Jean Wilcox Hibben


Todd M. Hirsch headshot

Todd M. Hirsch oversees the development and implementation of educational programming at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B) as well as cultivates partnerships with other organizations to engage with and grow the NYG&B community. He plans and executes all aspects of the NYG&B’s diverse programming, including lectures, research tours, conferences, and workshops. A lawyer by training, Todd has served nonprofits both as in-house counsel and in development roles. Prior to the NYG&B, he was the associate counsel and, subsequently, the vice resident of development for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. He has also held associate legal positions in the private sector. Todd holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Columbia University and a joint J.D./LL.M. in taxation from Boston University School of Law.


Rhonda Hoffman currently serves as the genealogy specialist for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System in New York. She has a Master of Library Science degree from the University at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from SUNY Geneseo. Rhonda has been researching her own genealogy for more than two decades and is an active member of the Western New York Genealogical Society.

Rhonda Hoffman



Annette Burke Lyttle

Annette Burke Lyttle owns Heritage Detective, LLC, providing professional genealogical services in research, education, and writing. She speaks on a variety of genealogical topics at the national, state, and local levels and loves helping people uncover and share their family stories. She has a master’s degree in English and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is coordinator of the Fall Virtual Intermediate Foundations course for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and leads best practices study groups for a number of organizations, providing in-depth education on the genealogical research process in an interactive setting. Annette is also president of the Association of Professional Genealogists and editor of The Florida Genealogist.


An NYG&B member since 1993, Susan R. Miller oversees the NYG&B’s print and digital publications. She is the editor of the New York Researcher magazine and a managing editor of the New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer and the NYG&B county guide series. Susan also presents genealogical lectures on a national, regional, and local basis. Prior to her genealogical career, Susan worked in the sailing industry and for Emigrant Savings Bank in New York City for 23 years. A graduate of Brown University, she is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and several other genealogical and historical societies. Susan is a lifelong sailor (racing and cruising) and past commodore of the Manhasset Bay and Frostbite Yacht Clubs.

Susan R. Miller


Jill Morelli

Jill Morelli, CG, CGL, is a writer and lecturer specializing in the Midwest and Scandinavia research. She is a founder of the online Certification Discussion Group and Applied Genealogy Institute.



Bryna O’Sullivan is the owner of Charter Oak Genealogy and a lineage society application specialist. In her eight years of experience, she has assisted clients in joining the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (Mayflower Society), the National Society Colonial Dames of America, and many other organizations, often using family trees that extend across North America and through difficult-to-document regions. Based in Middletown, Connecticut, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and French literature from Tufts University, a Master of Arts degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She has also completed the Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research, the National Institute for Genealogical Studies Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies, the ProGen Study Group, the DAR Genealogical Education Program, and more.

Bryna O’Sullivan


Pam Ricciardi Paschke

Pam Ricciardi Paschke has been researching her family history since she was a teenager. She is a life member of the National Genealogical Society and Ohio Genealogical Society and is a member of many other societies, including the Association of Professional Genealogists and First Families of Ohio. Pam is a 2018 graduate of the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records and has completed courses at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, and Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. She is a manager for four projects at FamilyTreeDNA, has written articles for the New York Researcher and Maryland Genealogical Society Journal, and published her first book in September 2018. She concentrates on colonial and early U.S. conundrums, immigration, and DNA relationship analysis.


Brian Rhinehart is a genealogical researcher and speaker specializing in on-site research and record retrieval for the Civil War, War of 1812, and federal land records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Brian is a graduate of the Boston University Genealogy Research Certificate program and also completed the 18-month ProGen (Professional Genealogy) Study Group and the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. In addition to having expertise in military records, Brian also has experience with traditional genealogy research and DNA analysis and completed the Advanced DNA Evidence course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

Brian Rhinehart


Jeanette Sheliga

Jeanette Sheliga lives in Lockport, New York, and has been researching her family tree since 2002.  She began lecturing at the North Tonawanda Public Library in 2011 and, soon after, formed the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club, which she managed for 10 years. In 2013, she became a board member for the Niagara County Genealogical Society and holds positions as the Society’s vice president and program chairperson.  Jeanette was also the chairman of the board for two years. In 2021, she held a position as a director for the board of the Western New York Genealogical Society for one year and continues as programming chair. Jeanette is also the president of the Virtual Genealogical Association.


D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS, FUGA, is the president of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B). A nationally known and recognized genealogist, Joshua was named president of the NYG&B in 2016 and is an officer, trustee ex officio, on NYG&B’s Board of Trustees. Previously, Joshua held senior leadership positions with Findmypast and the New England Historic Genealogical Society and has volunteered in leadership positions for the Federation of Genealogical Societies and other organizations. A prolific author and popular speaker, Joshua has been a coordinator for courses at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh and is the recipient of RootsTech’s Distinguished Presenter Award. He has been a featured genealogist on Who Do You Think You Are? and was a host on the PBS series Genealogy Roadshow. Joshua holds a Master of Library Science degree in archival management and a Master of Arts degree in history from Simmons College. In 2017, Joshua was named as one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers, and in 2022, he was named as a Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association.

D. Joshua Taylor


Rich Venezia

Rich Venezia is a New Jersey native who now calls Pittsburgh home, with roots in Italy, Ireland, England, Wales, and Prussia. He founded Rich Roots Genealogy in 2013. Rich is one of the foremost experts on 20th-century immigration records in the genealogical field. He was a member of the research team of Genealogy Roadshow (PBS) for two seasons and also consulted on Follow Your Past (Travel Channel). Rich holds a certificate in genealogical research from Boston University. He is a coordinator for the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy; TEDx alum; and a records access advocate.


Pamela Vittorio is a historian (M.A.) and professional genealogist. She received a certificate in genealogical research from Boston University and a PLCGS from the International Institute of Genealogical Studies (Toronto University). Among Pamela’s research interests are artifacts; DNA; and land, military, and transportation history as well as various ethnic groups, including African American, Canadian, English, French, German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Scottish ancestors—many of whom were travelers, workers, or businesspersons associated with New York State canals.

Pamela Vittorio



Jane E. Wilcox

Jane E. Wilcox serves on the New York State Archives Advisory Committee and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s (NYG&B) Family History Advisory Committee. She specializes in colonial and early federal New York research, as well as on researching people and their times and writing their stories. Her degrees in history, journalism, and education provide an academic foundation for her work in genealogy. She previously served as an editorial board member of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Jane is the author of a forthcoming book on New York State Archives collections that will be published by the NYG&B.


Jo-Ann Wong is currently employed as a Librarian II in the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division at the New York Public Library. She has working experience in both public and association libraries. Jo-Ann has experience in providing reference and reader’s advisory services for both circulating and special collections as well as creating library programs for all ages. Jo-Ann is a graduate of Pratt Institute’s School of Information, with a master’s degree in information and library sciences and certification in archives.

Jo-Ann Wong