Behind the Scenes at MAAGI 2016

© 2016, ns2 photography |

Get an inside look at the most innovative and stimulating gathering for African American genealogy and family history research – the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI). Featured image: Michael N. Henderson, author of Got Proof!, browses the shelves at the Allen County Public Library.

The popularity of genealogy has soared in recent years. From Finding Your Roots to Genealogy Roadshow, the general public is absolutely gaga over all things ancestry related. Add DNA or genetic genealogy research to the recipe and the interest is even larger.

With this newfound interest comes an onslaught of self-taught researchers, eager to make new discoveries on a continual basis but sometimes lacking the skills necessary to maintain the momentum.

Enter MAAGI – the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute. This is not your typical conference, in fact, that’s why the word conference isn’t in the name. In its fourth year, MAAGI is a place where attendees are taught proven and successful techniques in genealogy and are steered toward putting what they learn into practice as the Institute takes place. Attendees choose a track based on their research interests and all courses are focused on subject matter that relates to the overarching theme of the track. Due to the nature of the event, attendees often suffer from what I call “The MAAGI Effect;” bulldozing through genealogical brick walls in a fury, sometimes by osmosis, and most times with the help of their instructors, fellow classmates, and through putting their newest skills into practice.

MAAGI has previously been held at Harris-Stowe University in St. Louis. This year’s installment took place at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN and had it’s largest attendance to date. I have been honored to be part of the distinguished faculty since it’s inception. This year’s faculty included: Angela Walton-Raji, Bernice Bennett, Janis Minor Forte, Dr. Shelley Murphy, Shannon Christmas, Judy Russell, Thomas MacEntee, Dr. Alfred Brothers, Anita Henderson, Roberta Ridley, Juliana Szucs, David Paterson, and Melissa Tennant.

I’ve gone to a lot of genealogy gatherings and trust my word on this – MAAGI is THE ONLY event of it’s kind that is geared entirely toward African American genealogy and family history research. This is especially the case when you factor in an entire DNA/genetic genealogy track of courses that focuses on African Americans. 2017 will be held again at the Allen County Public Library – will you be there? 🙂

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Nicka Smith is a professional photographer, speaker, and documentarian with more than 19 years of experience as a genealogist. She has extensive experience in African ancestored genealogy, reverse genealogy, and family reunion planning and execution. She is also an expert in genealogical research in the Northeastern Louisiana area, sharing genealogy with youth, documenting the ancestral journey, and employing the use of new technology in genealogy and family history research.


  1. Judy G Russell
    July 20, 2016

    I’m not sure which is more fun: teaching at MAAGI or getting to see your photos afterwards, Nicka!

  2. Phyllis Grimes
    July 20, 2016

    These pictures are great! Nicka did a fantastic job! I really enjoyed the MAAGI training. I learned a lot and met so many fantastic people. The trainers were excellent and I look forward to returning next year.


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