Seton Shields* Genealogy Grants

205 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


January - March 2018

NJ IndicesVine Lake Preservation Trust is a nonprofit charitable organization promoting appreciation of the cultural, historical, and natural resources in Medfield, Massachusetts’ Vine Lake Cemetery founded in 1651. The Trust maintains an extensive database of persons buried in the four acre Old Section, which is frequently accessed by family historians from across the country researching relatives who earlier resided in the Medfield community. Today the Trust makes available on its website a burial search feature, as well as allowing folks to publish memories of the deceased. They also have a free app available for both Android and Apple users, Vine Lake Cemetery, to assist researchers to locate burial locations using GPS.


The grant will support enhancement of the website search feature and the app with photographs of 18th Century gravestones and their identified carvers. The edited photos will be uploaded from the Trust’s photo database and linked to the corresponding burial sites.


To join me in supporting their efforts, please consider making a donation.


Judy Purkiss, a professional genealogist based in Western Australia, has been awarded a grant to assist with photographing and indexing the Busselton Letters Book, a record of police correspondence in the area covering 1902 – 1913. The book records incidents such as robberies, fires, accidents and murders and lists the names of those people involved and a summary of the incident and investigation. Once photographed and indexed, a copy will be sent to the Western Australian Genealogical Society so anyone researching Western Australian ancestors will have access to the information.



The General N.B. Baker Library of Sutherland, Iowa is a public library which began development of the Northwest Iowa Historical and Genealogical Research Area in 2016. The Research Area contains books related to Iowa history and genealogy as a whole; books related specifically to the history and genealogy of O’Brien County (Iowa) and the eight surrounding counties; a digital material collection including county histories, military rosters, and diaries; and a cemetery index which includes printed obituaries for people buried in area cemeteries and those from Sutherland who are buried elsewhere. The library is now starting a new initiative to make digital copies of any photos related to Sutherland and the surrounding areas.


The grant will provide funds toward the purchase of a scanner for converting larger documents, photos and objects to a digital format.


October - December 2017

NJ IndicesI have awarded my latest grant to the Sturgis Library of Barnstable, MA to assist with the purchase of materials necessary to make the 15 new collections of family papers and historical materials donated since 2016 ready for use by the public.


Click through to the post for more details and to see how you can join me in supporting the library, which has become a premiere resource for the study of Cape Cod history, genealogy, and the maritime trades.


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





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.


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

Join Megan on:
Join Megan on Facebook
Join Megan on Twitter
Join Megan on Pinterest
Join Megan on Google+
Megan's Huffington Post Blog
Megan Smolenyak's Roots World Blog
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak - LinkedIn

Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing


Megan on TV

Celebrity Roots


Home | Events | Books | Library | Celebs | Grants | Submissions | About Megan | Contact | Site Map

Copyright 2001 - 2018 Smolenyak2, LLC. All rights reserved.
Site Design by Silverleaf Design.