Seton Shields* Genealogy Grants


201 grants awarded since May 2000!

What Do You Mean by "Genealogy Grants"?
Genealogical societies, local and specialized libraries, and avid genealogists are always short of the funds they need to access or buy appropriate research resources, acquire computers and other equipment, get collected information into print, digitized, and/or online, and pursue other projects. I’d like to take a tiny step toward addressing this problem.

If you represent an organization which serves the genealogical community at large - or if you serve a smaller community (perhaps you produce a family newsletter, host a website, organize reunions or some such thing) -- and find yourself shy of necessary funds, please consider filling out the form below to apply for a small grant. I will review all submissions and periodically select one for a donation. My goal is one per quarter. Submissions will remain active candidates for six months from the date of receipt. Hint: I find myself drawn to innovative ideas that can serve as a model to others! Why not give it a go?

I'm just one person, so I can only give small amounts, but I'm operating on the optimistic principle that every little bit helps. For the few minutes it takes to complete this form, you may be able to buy that handful of books or that scanner that's been on your wish list for so long.

What's the Catch?
There is none. Honest. I have had so much fun with genealogy for three decades and have benefited from the help of countless other genealogists. Now it's my turn to give back to the genealogical community.

Read More about Megan's Seton Shields Genealogy Grant program here and in this Wall Street Journal article.


Current Seton Shields Genealogy Grants




July - September 2017

NJ Indices The moment I learned about Alec Ferretti's success with obtaining twentieth century New Jersey marriage indexes in conjunction with Reclaim the Records, I knew what my first target would be: my grandparents' marriage.

I’ve been a professional genealogist for 18 years, and somewhat paradoxically, rarely have time to indulge in researching my own family history, but we all have those gaps that torment us, and this was one of mine. I had to look.

My grandparents were from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, both children of coal-mining Rusyn immigrants, so logically, they would have married in Luzerne County, PA. But no, the records came up empty. Then I tried nearby counties including Broome in New York as it was once known as a Gretna Green – that is, a place where laws made it easier to get married. Nothing.

My dad – their first child – was born in Harlem in Manhattan, so perhaps they married in New York City? I tried all five boroughs. Nope.

By now, my father and I were starting to entertain the notion that his parents had a common law marriage, and that no record would exist.

But then this New Jersey index arrived. After years of searching, I had resigned myself to yet another disappointment, but still, you have to be thorough, right? So I looked – and there it was!

Oh, the names were butchered – Smolenyak was Smolenisk and Sydorko was Sedurka – but it was them!

For this particular period, the only information provided was the year and certificate number, but I knew for sure the record existed. My first instinct was to order it through the New Jersey State Archives, but their online ordering system only permits requests up to 1916 at the moment, so I turned to professional researchers sending the specifics I had along with the guess that Essex, Hudson, and Union counties (close to New York) were most likely. I struck out twice with people who wanted to help, but weren’t available, but this was a case of third time lucky. The last one I contacted was at the Archives when I reached out to her and pulled the record within minutes.

Moments later, I was on the phone with my dad (not a fan of technology, so no computer or smart phone) who insisted that I methodically talk him through every snippet of information in the record. After so many years of waiting, he was sucking the marrow out of the bone, and I was rewarded with stories about the witnesses and other tangential memories.

Coincidentally, I had selected Reclaim the Records for a Seton Shields Genealogy Grant a week or two before all of this transpired because I’ve been so impressed with the accomplishments of Brooke Schreier Ganz and the organization she’s created. I’m sure I would have found the record regardless, but then again, maybe there is such a thing as genealogical karma. Why not find out yourself?

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I was invited to join the Reclaim the Records board – but this was after I had selected the initiative for a grant and before I had made notification.

As a reminder, you can apply for a Seton Shields grant here.



April - June 2017

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center: Seton Shields Genealogy Grant #200!

When I began my grants program back in May 2000, I was just hoping to be able to make a living as a genealogist. Little could I have imagined that I’d still be plugging away 17 years later about to award the 200th grant.

During that time, virtually nothing has remained the same in Genea-Land, so for this special milestone, I decided to celebrate one of the few constants: the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

If you're an American genealogist, ACPL Genealogy Center needs no introduction, but those overseas may wish to view this brochure to learn more. Suffice it to say that it's the Stefon of genealogy in that "this place has everything" – countless books and microfilms, online databases, events ranging from national conferences to summer camps, and world class genealogists like Curt Witcher, one of the first to welcome me into the fold.

The 200th Seton Shields Genealogy Grant goes to ACPL Genealogy Center for whatever use they think would be most helpful.

If you or your organization would like to be among the next 200, please consider applying here. And be sure to keep your eyes open for an upcoming interview about this program to improve your odds of being selected!



January - March 2017

 Westside Cemetery Preservation Association This quarter, I awarded a grant to the Westside Cemetery Preservation Association to support their work of restoring and cleaning up the gravesites of African American slaves and their descendants, found in cemeteries that have become overgrown and are largely hidden in secluded woods near sugar cane fields in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.

You can read more about the work of the Westside Cemetery Preservation Association in this newspaper article.

If you would like to join me in supporting the work with WCPA is doing, please consider donating via their GoFundMe campaign.

To apply for a Seton Shields grant, fill out and submit the form here.



Apply for a Grant

* Who is Seton Shields?
My remarkable mother. Naming this grants program after her is one small way to keep her memory alive, though she's no longer with us.


Seton Shields
Irish America - "Photo Album: The Shields Family" by Megan Smolenyak
and Irish America Digital Magazine [Page 96] - "My Irish Mother" by Megan Smolenyak








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