|Start of the labyrinth at La Roche College|
Our first class today was the second part of Judy Russell's "Justice in the Empire State: Legal Records in NY State." Having had an overview of the laws and courts yesterday, today we were shown actual records and how you can use them to create a better family history. My favorite part of this session was her recommendation to go beyond the regular FAN club and find their enemies as well, as that makes for great court cases.
Then Karen Mauer Jones spoke on "The Dutch in New York." Understanding the Dutch is key to seventeenth and eighteenth century NY research, particularly in the Hudson Valley region of the state. An excellent starting point on this research is the New Netherland Institute.
After lunch Jane Wilcox presented on "New York City and State Governmental Vital Records and Alternatives." Having begun my genealogical research in New York, I remember being in shock when I found out that people in many states can just walk into the court house and start flipping through books of vital records and that these vital records go a long way back. NY records, particularly those outside of NYC, are not complete until the early 1900s and even then you have to check an index and order a copy while paying a large sum of money. Using items such as state census', newspapers, and city directories can be key to tracing your family back in time.
Lastly, Karen spoke on "Joseph Johnson Chase: An Upstate New York Case Study." I love hearing and reading case studies and this one was tremendously informative. The main point of this one was that using cluster genealogy can help break through brick walls, particularly during the difficult time period of 1780 and 1850. Looking for the women, in particular, is often difficult but also very rewarding.
I spent the time before dinner reading BCG portfolios, which are available at many conferences and institutes for those curious of the certification process. At this point in my genealogical study, I find the resumes showing the education opportunities they took part of most useful. The reports are very interesting and show me what to strive for in writing up my own research.
There was also an evening session today by Judy Russell. In "How Old Did He Have to Be?" Judy demonstrated how knowledge of the law of a specific time and place could assist in getting a person's age range and in deciding which John Smith was yours. Although it cannot give you an exact birth date, having even a small range is better than nothing. I cannot recommend her lectures enough and if you are in NY, she is speaking at the New York State Family History Conference in Syracuse in September.
Tomorrow's classes include land records, urban research, and workarounds to record shortages.