The 2021 AFAOA Conference – Williamsburg, Virginia
Against all odds, our 2021 Conference was held the weekend of October 14-16 in beautiful, historic Williamsburg, Virginia. Nothing has been easy, and many things have changed in the time of Covid, and our annual conferences have been no exception.  Sadly, we had to cancel our 2020 conference, and that’s the first time in decades, if ever, that had happened.  This year we had to be creative, and careful, but once again Austin family and friends gathered from around the country to enjoy each other’s company, learn from our speakers, and explore the Williamsburg area.  Early arrivals spent Thursday at Colonial Williamsburg, where we stepped into the 18th century as we walked around the restored buildings, watched the horse-drawn carriages roll by, and witnessed wheelwrights, carpenters, cooks, and more demonstrate their skills.   Thursday night, 21 conference attendees enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and time together at our Welcome Reception at the DoubleTree by Hilton.  It’s always fun to see old friends and cousins again and to meet new friends!
Friday morning began bright and early, sharing coffee and computer time before settling in to listen to our speakers.  Following a warm welcome from conference chair Elizabeth Neithamer and President John Clinard, we began with a talk by AFAOA member Dave Neithamer, “Family History: When Fact and Fiction Collide”.  Research sometimes shows oral history to be far from historical fact, yet the truth is often more interesting than the “facts” that have been passed down.  Dave shared with us his often-amusing journey seeking to sort out fact from fiction in his own Neithamer family history. Next up was AFAOA member Joy Davis, who spoke to the group about “Using the Steve Morse One-Step Website”.  Steve Morse's site provides an interface to search databases with one step instead of the multiple steps.  It’s a wonderful resource for vital records, immigration records, censuses, and more.  Wrapping up the morning was a talk on “Using Fold3 to Your Advantage: Virginia Style”, given virtually by Craig Scott.  Mr. Scott was speaking at the Virginia Genealogical Society’s virtual conference, and we were able to tap into that impressive resource.
Following our morning speakers, the group departed for a wonderful sunny afternoon at Historic Jamestown. We enjoyed lunch at the Dale House Café, and then listened to a delightful talk by Rebecca Suerdieck, giving us insights into the beginnings of the Jamestown colony.  She then led us on a guided tour of the old Jamestown church and the site of the original fort.  We concluded the afternoon with time in the Archaearium Archaeology Museum, exploring artifacts from the ongoing archaeological explorations for Jamestown.
We continued our time together Saturday morning, with John Clinard reporting on his work on his wife’s family tree, “Updating and Expanding the Austin/Riggs Family DNA Project”.  This was followed by another one of our virtual speakers, Barbara V. Little.  She gave us some practical genealogical research tools through her talk, “Tracking the Land: Virginia’s Land Tax Records”.  Dave Neithamer then introduced us to an often-overlooked resource through his talk on “Legacy Webinars: An Untapped Resource”. Our slate of speakers concluded with our last virtual speaker, Thomas W. Jones.  His talk on “Going Beyond the Bare Bones: Reconstructing Your Ancestors’ Lives” was full of information aimed at helping us to go beyond the facts and dates of their lives and see them as the real people that they were.
After a break for lunch, we came back together for our Annual Business Meeting. In his State of the Association Address, President Clinard gave special recognition and thanks to his Board of Officers, calling attention to Jim and Liz Carlin who recently retired after many dedicated years of service. Following officer and committee reports, nominations for the site of next year’s reunion were accepted, discussed, and narrowed down to two.  AFAOA members will now choose between Salt Lake City, Utah and Austin, Texas, with voting beginning soon, both electronically and by paper ballot. Our 2021 conference came to a close as we shared good food, good fellowship, and a “living history experience” with Rebecca Suerdieck as Marye Bucke, the Minister’s Wife. We all enjoyed stories about Marye’s voyage to the New World and her life in Jamestown in 1623.
2021 has been full of challenges and finding different ways of doing things, and this applied to our AFAOA conference as well.  Yet Austin friends and cousins still found a way to come together for research and fun.  2022 will mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of AFAOA by siblings Edith Austin Moore and Henry Warner Austin in 1942 in Washington DC.  Whether in Austin or Salt Lake City, I invite you to join us and find out what makes this such a special group.  See you in 2022! 

2021 Austin Families Association Conference
Williamsburg, Virginia
Wednesday & Thursday, October 13th & 14th 
Early arrival activities • Thursday evening social hour
Friday & Saturday, October 15th & 16th 
Speakers and workshops • Saturday evening dinner
Conference hotel: Doubletree by Hilton Williamsburg, 50 Kingsmill Road
Come join your Austin friends and cousins in Williamsburg this Fall!  Part reunion, part informational speakers and research, and part simply enjoying the city chosen as our host, this conference is an event many of us look forward to every year. Get help with your Austin research, exchange information with others, and take advantage of the research facilities in Williamsburg and Richmond.  Explore the rich history of Colonial Williamsburg, as well as nearby Historic Jamestown and Yorktown battlefield. It will be wonderful to learn and visit together again!  

Hello Austin cousins and friends!  The AFAOA Board, after extensive discussion and consideration of both Covid concerns and our financial commitment to the conference hotel, has made the decision to proceed with plans for the October 2021 AFAOA Conference in Williamsburg.  It’s not too late for you to decide to attend!
Our conference, which until last year, has been held annually for more than 75 years, has been described as a combination of reunion, informational speakers and research, and enjoying the city where we meet.  This conference will probably be smaller than past gatherings, with a number of members interested but hesitant because of the pandemic.  However, even if we are a small group, we can still enjoy Williamsburg, each other’s company, and informal workshops – all with safety precautions.  We will encourage participants to be vaccinated, will practice social distancing where possible (plenty of space in the meeting room), and may be requiring masks in some situations.  An advantage to our location is that most tours and programs in Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown are outside.  Research opportunities at the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library and the Williamsburg Regional Library are available. So, we will gather in Williamsburg October 13–16, as safely as possible, and we hope you will join us!
More information about the hotel and possible activities is available below.  Contact me if you have any questions.
     Elizabeth Martin Neithamer

Hello Austin cousins and friends!  Back at the end of May, Covid vaccination rates were trending up and infection rates were way down, and so the AFAOA Board made the decision to proceed with plans to hold an in-person conference in beautiful and historic Williamsburg.  Then the Delta variant began sending things in the wrong direction, with infection rates and hospitalizations increasing dramatically.
There’s really no way of telling what things will be like in 2 months, and at this point AFAOA is financially committed, per our contract, to paying for the conference room and 90% of the unused hotel rooms in our block, even if we cancel the conference.  So, for now, we will continue with plans for the conference.  We will encourage participants to be vaccinated and may be requiring masks.  Where possible, activities will be conducted outside.  An advantage to our location is that most tours and programs in Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown are outside.
The AFAOA Board will meet again in mid-September.  If conditions have NOT improved the Board may have to consider other options, which could include some form of virtual conference.
So, what now?  If you are interested in attending the conference, but are hesitant to make a commitment, I would ask you to do two things.  First, if you haven’t already registered for the conference, please at least let us know that you are interested.  This will give us an idea of potential numbers to plan for.  Second, please go ahead and make your room reservation at the DoubleTree by September 11th, to be assured of the conference rate if you do attend.  After this date, the rooms we have reserved will be released to the general public, and reservations would be at the regular rate on a space-available basis.  If you decide not to attend, you can cancel your reservation, without penalty, up until the day before your expected arrival.
Please contact me with your comments and questions and stay tuned for further updates!
Elizabeth Martin Neithamer

Doubletree by Hilton Williamsburg
50 Kingsmill Road, Williamsburg, Virginia
The Doubletree by Hilton Williamsburg is within 10 minutes of Colonial Williamsburg and offers on-site dining at the Harvest Grille, Pitchers Pub, and the Williamsburg Café.  The conference room rate is $159 + tax for standard rooms (1 King or 2 Queen beds, with a mini-fridge, coffeemaker, and complimentary parking and WIFI).
A block of rooms has been reserved, at the conference rate, for the nights of Tuesday, October 12th through Sunday, October 17th. The conference rate will also apply two nights before and two nights after these dates, but on a space-available basis. Reservations at the conference rate must be made by September 11th or before the group block is sold-out, whichever comes first. After this this date, reservations will be accepted on a space and rate available basis.  So, make your reservations early!!
Making a reservation is simple.  Use the Hotel's direct website link for AFAOA's group or call the Hotel directly at 800-222-8733. Individuals must identify themselves as being with the group "AFAOA Annual Conference" when the reservation is made to receive the special group rate.
The conference registration fee is $100 per person, which includes Friday and Saturday speakers and workshops, the Thursday social hour and the Saturday night dinner. The fee is $75 per person for those who wish to attend only the social hour and dinner.
Print the 2021 Conference Registration Form (Word format or PDF format) and send your registration form, with check payable to AFAOA, to the Conference Registrar:  Austin Families Association, P.O. Box 494813, Redding, CA 96049
Or register online at /
If you have additional questions, please contact the Conference Chairman at
Arrive Early and Explore
The College of William & Mary
The College of William & Mary is the second-oldest college in America. The original plans for the College date back to 1618—decades before Harvard—but were derailed by an “Indian uprising.”  On February 8, 1693, King William III and Queen Mary II of England signed the charter for a “perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences” to be founded in the Virginia Colony. 
Workers began construction on the Sir Christopher Wren Building, then known simply as the College Building, in 1695, before the town of Williamsburg even existed.  A 17-year-old George Washington received his surveyor's license through the College and would return as its first American chancellor. Thomas Jefferson received his undergraduate education here, as did presidents John Tyler and James Monroe. 
Historic Jamestown
On May 14, 1607, the Virginia Company settlers landed on Jamestown Island to establish England’s first permanent colony in North America and planted the seeds for the United States of America.  It was located on the northeast bank of the James River about 2.5 miles southwest of the center of modern Williamsburg. Learn about life in James Fort, enjoy trades demonstrations and witness ongoing archaeological excavations, and find resources to help with family history research.
Yorktown, located close to the York River, was one of the eight original shires formed in colonial Virginia in 1682.  The town is most famous as the site of the siege and subsequent surrender of General Charles Cornwallis to General George Washington and the French Fleet during the American Revolutionary War, effectively ending the war. Visit the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center and the American Revolution Museum.  Architecture in the area of Main Street is almost exclusively original to the colonial era.
Colonial Williamsburg
Step back in time when you visit Colonial Williamsburg, which stretches over 301 acres, and includes 88 original 18th-century structures.  Houses, shops and public outbuildings are reconstructed on their original foundations. Walk the streets with costumed interpreters.  Visit the historic dining taverns and trades shops.
Research Opportunities
Swem Library, of the College of William and Mary, has a strong collection in 17th – 19th century Virginia history, that many genealogists have found useful in their research.  For family research outside Virginia, the library has a notable collection of Massachusetts and Connecticut vital records.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, 313 First Street, has collections that focus on the history and culture of colonial British America, the revolutionary era and early republic, with genealogical resources for researching Revolutionary War Virginians and 17th century settlers in the colony of Virginia.
Williamsburg Regional Library, 515 Scotland St., has a growing number of genealogy resources, with emphasis on the Tidewater region of Virginia. 
Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA, houses records of the colonial and state governments; county court records (wills, deeds, and marriage bonds); church and cemetery records; military service, pension, tax and land records.