Lesley K. Cafarelli, Ph.D.

ProGen Member Overview

I love figuring out mysteries and puzzles, especially involving people who had the courage to leave familiar territories, cultures, and languages and migrate to new places in search of opportunities. I have traced immigrants to the U.S. from Italy, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Ukraine as well as pioneers who left the northeastern and mid-Atlantic areas of the U.S. for Ohio, Indiana, and areas west. I use both historical records and DNA evidence to discover the stories of ancestors' lives.

I also enjoy coaching enthusiastic but less experienced genealogists who want to increase their knowledge and skills, particularly in research methodology and evidence analysis. It's especially gratifying to see some of them go on to help others in the research community.

I've currently paused taking new clients until I complete and submit my portfolio to the Board for Certification of Genealogists. Please watch my profile for updates.


- ProGen 31.
- Numerous conferences, webinars, and other programs of national and state genealogical associations, including the Association of Professional Genealogists, National Genealogical Society, New England Historic Genealogy Society, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, JewishGen, and the Israel Genealogy Research Association.
- Ph.D., Boston University (Classical Studies)
- M.A., Brandeis University (Mediterranean/Ancient Near Eastern Studies)
- A.B. with honors, Wellesley College (Classical Archaeology)


My interest in genealogical research started with a burning question: What happened to the family my Grandma Sarah left behind in Russia when she emigrated alone to the U.S. in 1921 at the age of 17? I had no idea that cousins now living in Israel were looking for Sarah's descendants, too, and we had a joyful reunion in August 2000. My husband, the eldest of six, loved to tell stories about his grandparents, aunts, and uncles, his paternal side from Italy and Ireland and his maternal ancestors from Great Britain, at least one of whom was thought to have fought the British in the American Revolution. This was the launchpad for my research, which has taken me into a wide range of locations and record types, many of them unfamiliar to genealogy hobbyists.

Publications & BLOGs

Cafarelli, Lesley K., "What’s in a Name? Solving the Mystery of
Amelia Rosso’s Birth," Minnesota Genealogist 49, no. 3 (2018): 19-27.
(Winner of the Minnesota Genealogical Society's 2018 Family History
Writing Competition Problem-solving Category)