NERGC 2013: Day 1

At the end of the NERGC conference in 2011 I was fortunate enough to win a free registration to the 2013 conference in Manchester, New Hampshire, which began today.  I unfortunately missed the opening session this morning as we arrived at our hotel at 3am this morning, but I attended 3 sessions today, as well as visiting the exhibition hall.

The first session was Colleen Fitzpatrick’s “The Dead Horse Investigation: Not Just the Facts, Ma'am.”  Colleen showed how much information you can find to identify a photograph by looking at all the little details and using other sources, such as city directories and census records.

Next I went to “What Exactly is a "Reasonably Exhaustive Search"?” by Laura Murphy DeGrazia.  While many genealogists know they are supposed to complete a reasonably exhaustive search, most do not know what that entails.  Since each circumstance is different, there is no checklists or shortcuts, instead, we all need to learn how to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search from experience.  She recommended reading as many journal articles as possible and studying the footnotes and sources used, as well as showing your work to experts at events such as the Ancestor Road Show at NERGC to learn more.  Laura was a great speaker and one I will be adding to my “must see at conferences” list.

My last session today was by one of my favorite speakers, F. Warren Bittner, on “Complex Evidence: What it is, How it works, and Why it matters? (An example from NYC)”.  According to Warren “the goal of family history is to establish identity” and if we cannot do this, all of our other goals are a waste.  In order to truly establish identity you need to use complex evidence and analyze and compare all of your sources to create a written proof summary.  The problem many genealogists have is that family tree software and charts make it seem that filling in dates and sources of each person is enough, when really that isn’t the point of genealogical research at all.  You can have a birth, marriage and death date for John Smith, but they may be three different John Smiths, which is why the analysis is necessary.  The presentation reminded me once again of the work I have to do with my research beyond proper sourcing and putting it in Legacy.

The society fair began at 5:15, followed by the exhibit hall opening at 6pm.  Not having New England ancestry, there were not any societies I was interested in joining, although I was impressed by and interested in the Maine Old Cemetery Association and the work they do to preserve cemeteries.  The exhibit hall was very full and it was a bit difficult to look at the booths.  I bought New York State Censuses & Substitutes by William Dollarhide, which I am very excited to add to my genealogy library.

Tomorrow is a long day starting with a workshop on evidence analysis in the morning and ending with a blogging special interest group at night. 

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