Sunday, April 21, 2013

NERGC 2013: Day 3

Saturday morning meant the end of NERGC was near.  I began with the New York track, starting with “But She Died in Upstate New York in the 1850s: How Can I Identify Her Parents?” By David Ouimette.  New York state is not the easiest to research in.  Vital records did not start until 1880, were not prevalent until the early 1900s and even though they are open to researchers, they are not available to browse, instead you have to fill out a form and hope.

This means that you need to use alternate records and get creative in your search.  David discussed the importance of cluster genealogy, looking at neighbors, checking neighboring localities and going forward in order to go back, since you never know what information a descendent might have that can help you.  My favorite thing he said, “the search for an individual is the search for the family” is one of the most important things to remember when conducting genealogical research.  Even professional genealogists do not know everything.  At the end of the session a woman in the audience asked if he had looked at a certain record set for his case study.  Hopefully this new resource will help him in his search.

The second part of the NY track was “Spanning the Great New York Abyss: Connecting Generations When No Vital Records Exist” by Laura Murphy DeGrazia.  Laura gave a lot of resources for NY researchers and I will write a post expanding on this later in the week.

After lunch (and another volunteer lunch ticket collection), I attended the workshop “Baker's Dozen Steps to Writing Research Reports Workshop” by Elissa Scalise Powell.  If you have the opportunity to take this workshop, do it.  I wish someone had explained research reports to me like this when I was still a baby genealogist.  Everyone should be writing research reports using the standards shown in the BCG manual.  Elissa recommends having a template for these reports that you can fill in throughout your research process.  This report should be the very first thing you do, prior to any research, for any question you have.  The way she explained it made it seem so easy that of course you will always write a research report.  My goal is to write and post these on my blog weekly, particularly showing the process of writing it throughout the next few weeks.

My last workshop of the conference was “My Grandmother was a Fascist: Alien Registration Files and Italian immigrant communities up to WWII” by Shellee A. Morehead.  This session was actually useful to anyone with immigrant ancestors who did not get naturalized until after 1940.  The Alien Registration Act of 1940 made every un-naturalized immigrant register on a yearly basis.  To see if your ancestor has a file, go here.

The next NERGC conference will be in 2015 in Providence, Rhode Island.  I can’t wait!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

NERGC 2013: Day 2

Day 2 at NERGC began with the “Evidence Analysis” workshop by Barbara Mathews.  Barbara started by giving us a list of useful books, all of which I happily have in my genealogical library, that explain the terms used for evidence and sources.  We also got a sneak peak at the new terms Tom Jones has put in his new book out in just a few weeks (have you pre-ordered yours yet?).  She then discussed the importance of evaluating each source and the information found therein. 

Next came my favorite part, discussing case studies.  First we looked at one on straightforward information.  This would be something such as looking at the parentage of your parent, where all of the documents match.  Nice and simple, but you still want to write up a proof argument on it.  Next we looked at one involving conflicting evidence, involving inferred relationships on early census records and secondary information from a death certificate.  Worksheets such as census comparison charts helped us figure out who a person’s parents were.

Last she gave us a lot of documents to establish the correct parentage of Charles Goodrich.  This was published in multiple printed genealogies, with differing results.  We were put into groups and asked to come up with an answer and a reason why.  I am happy to say I came up with the correct answer!  It showed the importance of always going beyond printed genealogies to sources such as probate and vital records.  When writing out a proof argument it is important that we not hide these types of conflicts, but instead discuss them and why we reached our conclusion.  And as always, footnote, footnote, footnote.

After the workshop, I wandered to the blogger area in the expo center, which was sadly deserted.  I then looked around the exhibits a bit and finally purchased The Journey Takers after about three years of meaning to, and There's a Map on My Lap!: All About Maps (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library), which is a great introduction to maps for children.  I also got an amazing deal on the 2004 APG conference syllabus and the 2011 NGS conference syllabus.  I can’t wait to read through them.  Then I went to volunteer experience #1, collecting tickets for lunch. 

My first afternoon workshop was “Should you believe your eyes? Sizing up Sources & Information” by Laura Murphy DeGrazia.  The answer to this, of course, is no.  It is important to look at who the informant is, the condition of the material, the purpose of the document, the context and procedure it was created with, the completeness of the information and the creator’s conventions, aka always read the introductory material, for each source you find.  Once you have done this, you can compare and contrast all of the data you have and reconsider the relevance of each piece.  I also volunteered for this session to check name badges and collect evaluation sheets.  I highly recommend this very easy volunteer position, as you help conference organizers by doing a little extra work at a session you would attend anyway and you get entered to win some awesome prizes.

In what turned out to be my last workshop of the day, I went to “Digging Up the Dirt on Your Farmer” by Lori Thornton.  Here I met Madaleine Laird, a new blogger who you should definitely check out!  Lori gave us a multitude of sources to find information on your farmer.  She is the one person who has more farmers in her family tree than I do (my ancestry has a random gardener and day laborers in it).  Always look at the agricultural census if it is available, as well as tax, land and patent records.

After this I was pretty fried.  I was going to go to the poster sessions, but an hour of standing wasn’t looking so good, so instead I came back to the hotel for a quick nap, which turned into my waking up halfway through the blogging special interest group I had planned to attend.  At that point my husband and I went to grab dinner and then came back to relax and watch HGTV.  Only one more day left at the conference!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

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. 

52 Ancestors: Angela Rosa Palmiero

Amy Johnson Crow at  No Story Too Small  began the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge in 2014.  I am playing along this year.  I wi...