The John Knox Village Genealogy Society

A. Dale Stewart, Founder

I arrived at John Knox Village in December 2008. My personal family history quest had been on hold for almost 20 years because I devoted much of my time to preaching, teaching and founding The Interfaith Alliance of Florida.

After attending a seminar by George Morgan entitled “The Genealogist as CSI,” I designed a workshop which took place at my home. Attendees were assigned different roles in accord with their abilities as genealogists. Beginners became the “victims” in this forensic experience. They were relaxing on a bed or couch in three different rooms and played the part of one of their ancestors (one for whom they wanted to discover more information). The more experienced genealogists played the part of a lead detective, seeking to elicit as much information from the victim/witness as possible. Others played the part of “probies” – fairly new detectives who had some idea of how to proceed with questioning, but not the skill of the “professional” detective/genealogists.

As the “detectives” asked questions like “where were you and your family in 1940? – and in 1910?” The answers were then taken by the probie to the living room where my computer was connected to websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch and a few other sites of genealogical data. The data was then printed out in my office, and the probie would take the data to the room where the lead detective was interviewing the ancestor/witness/victim.

The process continued for about 45 minutes and the results were astounding! Lou Brakeman was one of the victim/witnesses who had been interviewed. For those who remember Lou, he was quite reserved, former Chancellor of Stetson University and virtually unshakeable in his countenance. When he got home, his wife Lori called and asked “What did you do to Lou? – he has been so excited and bubbly that I can hardly get him calmed down to explain what happened at your workshop.”

When I later reported to George Morgan the results of this forensic exercise, he was thrilled with the creative way in which we had followed through on his concept of the genealogist as CSI. It is a program well worth repeating in other clubs.

The mutual sharing experience of such programs met a significant need in the Village, and our group soon grew to a dozen persons.

We adopted the sandhill crane as our mascot. It is both inquisitive and relentless in its thorough and careful selection of morsels. Thus it sets a pattern for us to follow: verifying data and choosing that which proves to be correct. We help each other follow leads, share our “brick walls” and family stories, and pass these on to future generations through the world-wide genealogy community. Today our club has matured to the point where we can invite outstanding speakers for our monthly meetings which are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 10:30 A.M. in the auditorium of the Barker Center.

Our theme this fall is “The Write Stuff.” One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to share stories of one’s grandparents. Our September 26 speaker is Patricia Charpentier, author of the multi-award winning book, Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time. Her subject is “Putting Meat on Dem Bones.”

We provide classes for beginners, the next series begins on Wednesday, September 5 at 10:30 A.M. and continues through October. The class is limited so as to provide individual help. You can sign up on the portal or at the Activities Desk.

We also have field trips. On October 6, we will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Florida Genealogical Society with a trip to the Saunders Library in Tampa. The program “Back to the Future” features two outstanding speakers: Josh Taylor and CeCe Moore.

On November 3, we go to Orlando for the Central Florida Family History Conference, an event which brings together ten internationally recognized genealogists – a buffet of helpful resources.

We have a growing library of resources located in Lake Fountain Vista on the second floor of Bay Building.

We publish a quarterly newsletter which includes up-to-date articles reprinted with permission from a variety of national publications. If you aren’t on our email list, just contact

Another underutilized resource is our SURNAME LIST from our members. Readers can find mutual ancestors through this resource.

We give individual help to all JKV residents, even those who are homebound. And we answer queries from readers beyond the local community.

Through our membership in the Federation of Genealogical Societies, we provide discounts on programs, products and services; and participate in webinars, podcasts and consultations.

We celebrate with thanksgiving those members who have passed on and left a legacy of stories and history which would have been lost without their diligence in writing for posterity.

Everyone has a story to tell. We can help you share that story with children and grandchildren and the larger community.

Last, but not least – we like to party. We delight in sharing our “AHA!” moments over lunch or at The Scoop or at a holiday celebration. Genealogy and family history are fun activities, and the benefits for future generations are well worth the effort.

If you aren’t already a member of this organization, try it! You’ll like it. Annual dues are $10 or $15 for a household which includes your partner, parrot and other pets. Enjoy the learning experiences and leave a legacy for future generations.