Dana M. Kelly hired as leader of NAGC

“I’m thrilled to finally be working where my heart has always been,” says new director

David Wright
Norwegian American Genealogical Center

NAGC - Dana M. Kelly

Photo: Diane Maurer / NAGC & NL
Dana M. Kelly has been passionate about genealogy since she was 12.

The board of directors of the Norwegian American Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library, Madison, Wis., is pleased to announce the selection of Dana M. Kelly as its executive director. Recommended by the board’s search committee, Kelly offers superb qualifications for the new, full-time position, including her academic training, work experience, and lifelong passion for genealogy. She began her work at NAGC in August and is eager to meet its many members and patrons across the country.

Growing up near Deerfield, Wis., Kelly had three grandparents whose ancestors settled in the Koshkonong Prairie area of Wisconsin in the 1840s and 1850s. “Koshkonong was a well-known Norwegian settlement in its day,” she said. “Growing up in that area really gave me a Norwegian-American identity.” She traces her roots back to the Buskerud, Telemark, Hordaland, Oppland, Hedmark, and Sogn og Fjordane districts of Norway.

In 2001, Kelly graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double major in Scandinavian studies and sociology, and she also earned a certificate in European studies. She speaks and writes Norwegian and has traveled to Norway to trace the locales of her ancestors.

In addition to her administrative and managerial experience, Kelly has been an active member on the Board of the Koshkonong Prairie Historical Society as editor of its newsletter and author of the daily posts on its popular Facebook page. She and her spouse, Gary Swain, were instrumental in the creation of an important documentary film on Koshkonong, helping with all aspects of the project, including successful fundraising efforts.

At NAGC, Kelly will take over for Jeanne and David Wright, who are retiring from their decade of part-time work for the administration and development of the center. Referring to her post at NAGC as her “dream job,” Kelly is beginning her work in administration and development, with some time for genealogical research, presentations, and publications. She will be the new editor of the member newsletter, “Norwegian Tracks.”

Kelly’s passion for genealogy took hold when she was 12. Discovering some of her family history in an old Bible, she began researching her ancestry and has traced her roots back to 16th-century Norway. Her interest has never ceased, and her children are known to remark on her continuing preoccupation with Ancestry.com. “They make fun of me and tell me all I do is look at family tree stuff, but I hope that some of my appreciation for my heritage will rub off on them,” she said. “I connected with my grandparents and their siblings with family history questions and I have my fingers crossed that they are following my example.”

Dana M. Kelly says of her new position, “I am incredibly honored to be given the opportunity to serve NAGC, because the center was invaluable to me when I began delving into Norwegian records. I’m thrilled to finally be working where my heart has always been.”

One of Kelly’s first priorities will be to hire a senior genealogical researcher for the center. With the planned retirement of Gerald “Jerry” Paulson, NAGC is searching for a new senior researcher. Qualifications include understanding of genealogical resources and research techniques, including relevant computer skills. Reading knowledge of Norwegian is preferable. The salary and benefit package will be commensurate with applicant’s qualifications, skills, and experience. Interested parties should submit cover letter, resume, and three references to Dana M. Kelly via danakelly@nagcnl.org or via regular mail to Dana M. Kelly, Executive Director, NAGC & NL, 415 West Main Street, Madison WI 53703-3116. Complete details will be provided after initial inquiry has been submitted.

The Norwegian American Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library is an educational non-profit research center with national and international scope. The center discovers, collects, preserves, shares, and interprets resources for the study of Norwegian heritage, assisting both Norwegian Americans and Norwegians in their family history research.

This article originally appeared in the September 6, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.