The Catholic Gene has assembled a conclave of genealogists, bloggers, and research experts to present articles on anything related to the Roman Catholic faith and genealogy.  Allow us to introduce ourselves:


Craig Manson was born in 1954 in St. Peter Parish, Jefferson City, Missouri, in the parish hospital (St. Mary’s – first hospital in Jeff city).  He grew up on military bases in Indiana, Germany, New Mexico, and California and always attended Mass at the base chapels. Craig was an altar boy from ages 7 through 15, and while he hated Midnight Mass at Christmas and sunrise Mass on Easter, he thought it was pretty cool to be called a “Knight of the Altar.”  At age 15, he involuntarily became a lector when attending Mass at the Presidio of Monterey, California. The priest asked for volunteers to lector – when no one else raised their hand, Craig’s dad said to him “Son, get on up there!”  Thus began 25 years as a lector at various parishes around the world.  Though he never attended Catholic school, Craig attended catechism classes from age 6 to age 17.  Craig graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976.  During his time there, church was mandatory for all cadets and he served four years on the Catholic Cadet Council.  As an Air Force officer, Craig participated in liturgies in many parishes around the world.  His “strangest place” to attend Mass was in the middle of a muddy field near Suwon, Korea and reminded him of M*A*S*H! Learn more about Craig and his family at GeneaBlogie, “an occasional journal chronicling the author’s adventures in genealogy.”

Denise Levenick was born under the care of the Sisters at Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles, but raised in a family of Baptist missionaries and ministers. As a child, she harbored a secret jealousy of the 60-minute Mass and the many Holy Day holidays enjoyed by her neighborhood friends attending the local parish schools. A college tour of European cathedrals with her Catholic boyfriend introduced her to the beauties of the Catholic faith and inspired her first conversion from journalism major to Medieval Studies. Following marriage to the Catholic boy in the Catholic Church, and the birth and baptism of their first son, Denise privately prepared for her confirmation one Easter Season, much to the surprise of her spouse. Denise taught English and Journalism at local Catholic private schools for nearly twenty years and worships at St. Andrew Church in Pasadena where she is presently working on projects for the church’s 125th Anniversary. Denise writes about preserving family history at The Family Curator, and prays for divine inspiration when she dons hat and veil to pen tales as Miss Penelope Dreadful for Shades of the Departed Magazine.

Donna Pointkouski attended sixteen years of Catholic schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – including attendance (sadly, not perfect attendance) at both a grade school and a college run solely by the good Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.  Her faith took root at Our Lady of Calvary parish in Northeast Philadelphia, where she spent many years as a lector, CCD teacher, and Eucharistic Minister.  She often intercedes to St. Anthony for help in finding her lost and missing Polish and Bavarian ancestors.  When not writing or speaking about genealogy, Donna works as a procurement executive for the federal government and once managed the program responsible for ecclesiastical supplies used by military chaplains of all faiths. Read more about Donna’s genealogical adventures at her blog, What’s Past is Prologue, which was named one of Family Tree Magazine’s Top 40 Genealogy Blogs for 2010.

Jasia comes from a long line of Polish Catholics and has a Polish priest and Pol-Am sisters on her family tree. Although she didn’t attend Catholic grade school, she had the pleasure of attending 8 years of weekly Catechism classes at her neighborhood parish. After graduating from college, she worked as a clinical therapist for Catholic Social Services for a number of years. She didn’t save any souls while she was employed there but she did save some parents of teenagers a few headaches. More recently, Jasia created web sites for 3 Polish parishes in Detroit, Michigan. She is currently the webmaster for Sweetest Heart of Mary Church, and author of a blog and Facebook page for Assumption BVM Church. After all, the Pope encourages the use of technology for reaching out to the people. Go forth and blog! Amen.

Lisa A. Alzo was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith at Holy Trinity Church in Duquesne (now in West Mifflin), Pennsylvania. She attended Duquesne Catholic School for grades 1-8, and high school at Serra Catholic in McKeesport, PA. Lisa earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in nonfiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh and is a freelance writer, lecturer and instructor. An avid genealogist for more than 21 years, Lisa specializes in East European research (especially Slovakia), tracing female and immigrant ancestors and writing family history. Lisa credits her “Auntie” Sr. Mary Camilla Alzo, a nun with the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, with sparking her interest in writing and researching her family’s Slovak heritage. Lisa shares her adventures in genealogy and writing on her blog, The Accidental Genealogist.

In her search for genealogy thus far, Lisa (aka Smallest Leaf) has found unbroken lines of Catholic heritage within every branch of her family – Irish, Hungarian and Croatian. As a child, she was especially inspired by the faith of her Hungarian-American great-grandmother, a Third Order Franciscan. During Mass on First Communion day, Lisa remembers praying fervently for the row of kneeling First Communicants next to her to finish their prayers and get off of the kneeler – her foot was pinned underneath! Today Lisa is raising her own children – ages toddler to teen – in the beloved faith of her ancestors. She regularly finds herself seeking the intercession of new patron saints for her family’s varied needs. (Anyone know the patron saint of intercontinental air travel with a toddler?) Using her pen name – “Smallest Leaf” – Lisa is the author of several blogs about the various cultural Catholic faith traditions within her family tree, about her family’s ancestral parishes, and much more.  You can find Lisa’s articles for The Catholic Gene here.

Stephen Danko descends from a long line of Polish Roman Catholics.  He grew up in the parish of St. Vincent de Paul in Albany, New York and attended school from K-12 at Vincentian Institute under the all-seeing eyes of the Sisters of Mercy and the Brothers of the Holy Cross.  Steve did time as an altar boy between the ages of  8 and 13 where his favorite duty was that of thurifer, though he was more often relegated to the duty of boat boy.  His most memorable moment on the altar was during a Novena on the evening of November 9, 1965 when the church plunged into total darkness during the Great Northeast Blackout, an event for which Steve still denys any culpability.  These days, Steve can be found driving around the streets of San Francisco, praying for a parking space.  He writes about his family history on Steve’s Genealogy Blog.


Bernie Gracy is VP Business Development and Chief Technology Officer for a fortune 500 company and is very active in scouting.  Happily married for 24 years he has four teenage children – three of them who are the same age.  An avid field genealogist (when he has the time) he has lectured around the country on using geodemographic and other location based techniques to break down brick walls in research. Bernie is a member of Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, CT where he was baptized in 1963 and is currently a lector.  In the early 1970s Bernie was an altar boy at what was then St. Colman’s Church in Brockton, Massachusetts.  It was there he learned that the congregation cued off of the movements of the altar boy and not the priest.  Bernie enjoyed manipulating the congregation’s standing, sitting, and kneeling until his father figured out what he was doing and put a stop to it!

Cecile Marie Agata Wendt Jensen (Ceil) carries the names of her Polish grandmothers—Cecelia Marie Wojtkowiak Przytulski and Agata Zdziebko Wendt. Ceil’s life in the Catholic Church began with her baptism at Epiphany Parish on the Westside of Detroit, Michigan. She attended the parish grade school with her four siblings and eight cousins.  The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who staffed the school returned to the parish in late summer. Ceil would rush to help set up the classrooms for the coming year. She considered joining the convent until she understood the full concept of the “no-dating” clause. She spent her high school years at Immaculata wearing a scratchy scapular, a blue and white uniform and sensible shoes. For thirty years, she taught Art, Art History and Social Studies to public high school students — sans veil. Ceil’s transition to professional genealogy began in the 1990s. She established the Polonica Americana Research Institute (PARI) in 2008 with a little help from her friends. Located on the historic campus of St. Mary’s of Orchard Lake, it is a true Polish “nest”.  Father Timothy Whalen, Chancellor of the Orchard Lake Schools, calls PARI a lay ministry that engages researchers with their Catholic roots.

Julie Goucher has been researching her ancestry since 1986. She hails from originally from Surrey England, but now lives in the West Country with her husband and a rather enthusiastic Border Terrier called Alfie. Despite a career in Pharmacy Management, Julie has a degree in History, which is a real passion. Julie is half Italian and is a founder member of The Anglo Italian Family History Society, with a particular interest in post Second World War migration. As well as researching her ancestry, Julie loves reading and all things Victorian. Visit Julie’s blog, Anglers Rest, to read more of her work!

Born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California, Sheri Fenley descends from German Russian Catholics on her father’s side and Irish Catholics on her mother’s side. She can even trace her ancestry to those Catholics who were tossed out of Maryland and landed in Kentucky. Sheri attended Mary Immaculate School, where Sister Mary Anastasia was her guiding light, and she carries emergency holy water and rosary beads at all times.  Sheri has an ancestral connection to the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods in Vigo County, Indiana and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Sheri thinks it’s likely that her endless supply of “Get Out Of Hell Free” cards relates to the above mentioned spiritual connections. While genealogy bloggers everywhere call her The Educated Genealogist, here at The Catholic Gene we lovingly call her “Mother Superior”.

Trent Hale is a postulant of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual (O.F.M. Conv.) and is currently studying social work and religious studies at Our Lady of the Lake University. Trent was baptized Catholic at Christ the Redeemer Parish in Houston, TX. While his immediate family was Catholic, the majority of his extended family–of English, Russian, Polish, and Native American ancestry–was Protestant. For this reason, Trent grew up in a very religiously pluralistic household, and he is very grateful for this today. After moving parishes, his family ended up at the vibrant parish, Prince of Peace Catholic Community in Houston. Trent quickly immersed himself in every ministry he could, and it was this that led him to discern a call to the religious life. Today Trent is studying with the Conventual Franciscan Friars and hopes to be a brother to all through vowed ministry and service.


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6 thoughts on “Authors”

  1. What a line-up of terrific authors. This looks like the perfect place to find answers to my research questions for my French Canadian ancestors. Good luck with the blog.

    Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

  2. Randolph Clark said:

    Good luck with the blog.

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