FEEFHS Celebrating Anniversary Year

In 2018, the Foundation for East European Family History Studies (FEEFHS) is proud to host the 25th Annual East European Research Conference. This year, we also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of FEEFHS. Truth be told, we need to put a couple of asterisks next to these Silver Anniversary designations.

FEEFHS Board of Directors
FEEFHS Board of Directors

The original FEEFHS constitution and bylaws were established 25 years ago in 1993, but the organization actually began the year before, when a small group of leading genealogists, linguists, and other specialists with East European expertise and diverse ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds met in Seattle, Washington on June 28-29, 1992. They decided to establish the Federation of East European Family History Societies, "to facilitate the exchange of information among all organizations, institutions, and individuals interested in researching ancestors in East Europe."1 At that meeting, they organized a provisional Executive Committee with Charles M. Hall, president, Ed Brandt, 1st vice-president, Brian J. Lenius, 2nd vice-president, and John D. Movies, 3rd vice-president. 

At that time, the recent collapse of the Iron Curtain had created new opportunities for working with Eastern European records, previously unknown or inaccessible to the genealogical community. This flow of information coincided with an upsurge in interest in genealogy and the movement to establish new genealogical societies in particular ethno-geographic niches. The founders of FEEFHS recognized the need for a support organization to foster the creation and development of individual societies, promote interaction between societies for mutual benefit, and advance the field of Eastern European genealogy research in general. Existing genealogical umbrella organizations served primarily North American and British Isles interest groups. The same kind of support organization was needed for the Eastern European genealogy. FEEFHS was created as a federation to meet that need.

By the end of 1992, eleven societies embraced the concept of FEEFHS as founding members. The number of FEEFHS' member organizations doubled each year for several years after its founding, eventually reaching hundreds of member societies. By bringing together people with similar interests, FEEFHS helped inspire the creation of several new organizations, including the German Galizien Descendants and the Silesian American Genealogical Society.

The internet was then in its infant stages and FEEFHS became one of the earliest genealogical organizations to establish a presence on the web in May 1995. The Feefhs.org domain was introduced in the spring of 1996. Feefhs.org was one of the earliest genealogy web portals and featured the first online Eastern European map collection for genealogical use.It has provided web space and links to organizational and individual member pages and other resources. The FEEFHS website has served as an incubator of sorts, providing an Internet presence for dozens of societies until they were able to start their own sites. The site has received several awards over the years, and was recognized in the first New York Times article on web-based genealogical research.

FEEFHS hosted its first annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah  May 14-16, 1994 and has hosted annual conferences there and in various other U.S. and Canadian cities through the years. While the 2018 conference will be the twenty-fifth, there is an asterisk, because two conferences were held in 1995 and none in 1998. (There was also an additional workshop on finding immigrant ancestors in 2013.)

FEEFHS began a quarterly newsletter in October 1992. By 1998 that publication had evolved into a respected professional genealogy journal, which continued another decade of publication until 2008. Since then, FEEFHS has used the web site, social media, and this electronic newsletter to continue to provide research articles, news, and information about resources and events relative to Eastern and Central European family history.

Over time, as member societies gained strength and developed an independent web presence, the need for an umbrella organization to support East European societies diminished. However, interest in Eastern and Central European genealogical studies has continued to grow and FEEFHS has continued to offer rich learning opportunities and information about resources through its conferences, web site, and other offerings.

Thom Edlund - FEEFHS president
Thom Edlund - FEEFHS president

In 2014, under the direction of current President, Thomas K. Edlund, FEEFHS changed its name to the Foundation for East European Family History Studies with a continuing mission to promote genealogical research in Eastern and Central Europe without ethnic, religious, or social distinctions. FEEFHS defines Eastern Europe in the most inclusive sense, taking into consideration current and former political alliances as well as geographic designations. 

We hope you will enjoy visiting our website to learn more and discover information and resources to help you in your research. Look for more feature articles to come in FEEFHS News emails this year, highlighting various aspects of the history of the organization, including a history of the web site, FEEFHS publications, annual conferences, and FEEFHS volunteers, past and present. And we hope you will join us at our 25th Annual Conference in August.