Archives for FGS

Information Overload

Have you ever had a serious case of information overload?  That’s what I’m suffering from right now.  FGS in Fort Wayne was amazing, but exhausting!  Classes all day from 8 am until 6 pm and then off to the Allen County Library for research each evening until 11.  It was actually open until midnight Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but I just couldn’t last that long.  Because the 2 hotels that were right downtown had filled up already, I had to stay at a place about 10 miles away and get a shuttle back and forth.  That little detail added at least an hour onto each day.

The classes that I chose to attend were mostly in the Methodologies  Track, so they were more about the “big picture”, putting it all together, building a case from various bits of indirect evidence and resolving conflicting evidence rather than classes about an individual subject, location or records group.  There were many great speakers, but may favorite was Elizabeth Shown Mills, who gave 4 presentations

  • Smiths and Joneses: Success with Families of Common Name
  • Trousers, Beds, Tacks& Housekeeping bills: Problem Solving with ‘Trivial Details’!
  • Identity Crisis: Right Name, Wrong Man? Wrong name, Right Man?
  • Finding Fathers: Bridging the Generation Gap

You can start to get the idea just from the lecture names.  In each one she illustrated how difficult problems can be solved if we employ the Genealogical Proof Standard, beginning with reasonably exhaustive research, then complete and accurate source identification, skilled analysis and correlation of data, resolution of any conflicts in evidence and finally, last but not least, “a soundly reasoned conclusion or ‘proof argument’.   One example in the Smiths and Jones’ lecture yielded a probable identity for the father of a woman by using land records.  Not just one land record, but actually plotting all the land belonging to likely families despite the fact that it stretched across county lines and into different townships even within the county.   Then correlating that with the road maintenance records from supervisors or commissioners minutes and plotting property of each man named.  These records will sometimes name young men still living at home, they might not own the property, but they will be maintaining it!  Another research avenue she mentioned also involved land records.  Often there is a separate index for grantees and grantors and I have been satisfied to look for the name there and then just go to the particular book and page named.  Ms Mills pointed out that sometimes each individual book will also have an index and that index might have quite a bit more detail.  Particularly in those places where other things like marriages, indentures, bastardy bonds and other great records are recorded in the deed books.  The clerk who compiled the grantee/grantor index might have just left those other little bits out.  There’s also the extra layer of transcription that may have introduced more error.  Knowledge Ability Skill Words 3-Way Signs Learning In the Trivial Details lecture, a man’s date of death was found by looking through his probate file.  The actual date was not mentioned anywhere and the probate had not been promptly opened when the man died.  By reading each of the little receipts and bills and other scraps of paper in the probate file she came across a dated bill against the estate from a merchant for multiple yards of “black domestic” and tacks.  That invoice for the necessary items to outfit a casket and a house in mourning pinned down the date.

These are just a couple examples of things I learned in 1 or 2 classes.  How many brick walls will come tumbling down if I can develop the skill to use the knowledge I received at this conference?

What to Bring??

FGS is only a couple of weeks away and planning for it is my biggest task right now. The question of what to pack for a conference is always puzzling .  There are so many variables between what I might bring and what others bring depending  upon the mode of travel.  Obviously, if you are driving you can throw in the extra pairs of shoes, just in case those new ones turn out to be not so comfortable after a long day.  When traveling by plane, as I seem to always be, a little more planning is required.

Firstly, never bring the new shoes that you haven’t worn much!  Having sore feet definitely puts a damper on your enjoyment of a conference  and you could find your decisions about which class to attend or if you should walk back to the exhibit hall during the break being dictated by your shoe choice.  Tennis shoes are great for the conference, but for air travel I don’t want to pack them because they take up so much space and I don’t want to wear them because of airport security.  Comfortable slip-ons  seem to be the best compromise for me.

A second consideration is what do I wear??  Convention centers are huge cavernous spaces, usually broken up into different sized rooms with dividers.  This means that the temperature inside can vary greatly from one room to the next.  You could be burning up in a sweater in a crowded exhibit hall or a tiny over packed room, but shivering in a larger room or seated under an air conditioning duct.  I generally solve this by wearing short sleeved tops with a sweater or jacket.  During the course of a day that sweater will be on and off multiple times as the need arises.

My third and biggest decision is what to bring to carry my stuff in during the day.  I have tried most of the options with varying results. This year’s FGS is going to be even more difficult to plan what to carry because I will be spending part of each day at the Allen CountyPublic Library doing research, so I do need my computer, and it’s cord.  I was not able to get into one of the original conference hotels right downtown so when the shuttle picks me up in the morning I have to have everything I will need all day with me.   Just carrying my purse is great, but no room there for even my ipad, a bottle of water, or things I might buy.  A backpack never actually gets properly put on my back and so I end up with a terrible backache from carrying it slung over one shoulder, plus it looks pretty unprofessional and I tend to wack people in the face with it when I do put it on my back.  It’s also quite unwieldy when  I get to a room late and have to squeeze into a seat in the middle of the row.  The last couple of conferences I have gone with a rolling briefcase, easy to transport without adverse effects on the back (unless lots of steps are involved), I can bring water and snacks in it and has room for any handouts or purchases and the computer.  The biggest drawback to the rolling bag is that issue of squeezing into a middle seat again.  I did purchase a smaller one that I used at NGS and at least it fits under my seat, but getting it there is sometimes quite difficult.  For FGS this year I think that I will try using the great bag that was given out at Roots Tech this year.  This bag has plenty of room for my computer/ipad, various notes and  papers that I seem to collect, a wallet, snacks and even an outside water bottle pocket. Under the flap there are easily accessible pockets for pens/pencils and a pocket for my phone.  The strap is long enough to be carried cross body if I am walking a long way, but it also has a small hand grip.  Best of all, it takes up almost no room in my luggage so I will bring the rolling briefcase for my airplane carryon and the RootsTech bag will fit in my luggage.  I can always revert to the rolling briefcase if the shoulder bag gets too heavy.  I wish I knew what kind of bag will be handed out for FGS.  Maybe I wouldn’t need to bring anything at all!DSCN2200

I wish that I didn’t need to carry a water bottle because that is a large part of the weight I carry around, but I’ve found that I need to have the bottle with a measured amount of water in it to keep track of how much I drink.  I need 4 of those 16 ounce bottles a day.  Conference organizers are usually very good about having water dispensers with the little cups near the various classrooms, but for me, getting enough of those little 4 oz cups never really works well.  Staying hydrated is not really a packing issue, but it is one of the most important tips that I can pass along.  My brain just does not perform to capacity when I am not drinking enough water, there is a fog that settles in and comprehension drops dramatically.  With all the time, effort and expense it takes to attend a conference, it is important to pay attention to the little things that ultimately determine how much information is gained.

I’d better get to packing!  See you there!

 

Choices, Choices, Choices

The registration is long ago done, the plane tickets purchased, hotel reserved (not the one I wanted…too slow there), still need to decide if I  rent a car or use taxi/shuttle combo.  I’m ready for FGS coming up in just over a month.  Well, not quite.  The biggest decisions still need to be made.  How do I decide which classes I will attend?

crossroads image

 

At any time during the day there are at least 8 different classes going on and special workshops in addition. Each and every one of those lecturers will be presenting information that I could benefit from, especially as a professional who may be called upon to research in places other than where my families originated or where they ultimately settled.  Unfortunately, there is no way that I can learn and retain longer than 5 minutes any information that I will not be putting to use in the very near future!

This is why my primary choices tend to be classes dealing with methodology.  I know that, in many cases, I already have the key to tear down my brickwalls.  It is just buried in a document collected years ago.  That document is definitely stored digitally on multiple computers and external hard drives and backed up in the cloud using several services.  That digital image will not be lost, but what good does it do me if it was not properly analyzed?  Even if I actually got it attached to all of the individuals mentioned in the record, out of the 4993 individuals in my database (I really need 7 new people) ,  how will I ever go back and reanalyze the information contained in that source?  When I obtained the image, especially if it was at the Family History Library or on some other research trip, I know that I made notes about the film, questions the document raised in my mind, other people who were mentioned etc., but those notes were in whatever spiral notebook I had with me on that trip.  Those notebooks, hopefully, now reside in  the huge pile in my office waiting for me to go through them and revisit each and every note or document I have found in the last 10 years.  There needs to be a better system!!!

I know that there is.  It involves retraining myself to approach a research trip with a written research plan and then turning that plan into a research report as I do the research.   This is what I have been learning in the last few conferences that I have attended.  Until I get it down and into practice this will be the main focus of the classes that I choose to attend.   So many of the class descriptions are appealing and yes, I need to learn more about DNA, I have those results and don’t know what to do with them so should attend T-234. I have one ancestor who I believe worked on the Erie Canal, at least he lived in Lockport at the right time period, so I would love to go to T-216 and hear Karen Mauer Green speak about “Navigating the Erie Canal Records”.   So many other classes that will be covering things that would benefit my research to know, but alas, I can’t attend them all.    Maybe the DNA class would have info about cloning myself??  Hmmmm?

So, instead of attending all the classes that sound like great fun, many of them having really engaging speakers who tell great stories, I will be reading about those in the syllabus, getting some of the info presented but missing the fun, and attending the methodology classes and hearing over and over again that I need to write and follow a research plan and write research reports for each family.  This is the one thing that will most impact my genealogy skill set in the long run and so it needs to be my focus and priority.  Research varies on how long it takes to form new habits and I think I may be more resistant to change than many, but I will continue exposing myself to the influences that will produce change in my life until that change is accomplished.

Unless of course it is late in the day and the class I have chosen to attend next is way across the convention center.  I may just decide to stay for whatever class is next in the room where I am.

tired person

FGS and Allen County Public Library, a Winning Combo!

The opportunity of  a lifetime!  That’s the only way to describe the unique synergy that will happen  August 21-24 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  All of the families that I research, except my own, ended up in the West and in doing so passed through the Midwestern states, particularly Ohio and Indiana. New England and New York ancestors  made their way West through these more northern parts while Kentucky and Tennessee were common transition states for those moving from the southern states like the Carolinas.  These states and more will be featured at FGS this year.
One of the tracks of the FGS Conference is all about researching in Midwestern and Neighboring States.  Distinguished presenters with expertise in individual states will be sharing the secrets that they have learned over the years and we can just glean the benefit of their years of familiarity with these new localities.  An important concept that I embraced from the recent NGS convention in Las Vegas was the use of locality guides.  Now, the presenters in Fort Wayne will not be able to give us everything we might need for a locality guide in their 1 hour presentation, but they will most definitely be giving us a head start!

Once we have been given this head start, we will have the opportunity to immediately apply some of the knowledge by visiting the nearby Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library .  A brief look at the brochure describing some of their holdings can be found at http://www.genealogycenter.org/pdf/AboutUsBrochure.pdf   I am particularly looking forward to taking advantage of their extensive genealogy and local history periodical collection which is the largest English language collection in the world.  They have current subscriptions to 6200 periodicals and over 10,000 titles.  This amount of material would seem daunting if it were not for the amazing work that has been done by the library staff in compiling the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI).  This index is not the place to plug in your surnames as it is not an index of all words in each article, but it is ideal place to learn about the areas, occupations and life of your ancestors and maybe you will be lucky enough to have one of those 10,000 titles be a periodical dedicated to your family.
This periodical collection is something that is unique to the Allen County library.  Other genealogical libraries have some periodicals, but nothing like ACPL, so this in itself is a great reason to come to Fort Wayne in August.  I will be hard at work between now and then putting together my research plans.  Hope to see you there!

 

Why Genealogy Conferences?

FGS blog logo

You may have noticed this emblem on the sidebar of this blog.  It is there to direct your attention to one of the most exciting genealogy events to be held in 2013,  Journey Through Generations, the Federation of Genealogical Societies  annual conference.  It will be held this year in Fort Wayne, Indiana August 21-24.  Those of you who have never been to a major conference might be asking yourselves the question, “Why Genealogy Conferences?”  Those who have attended in the past know why, but that reason might be different for each individual.

My first national conference was last year’s FGS conference in Birmingham, Alabama and my answer to “Why Genealogy Conferences?” was “Elizabeth Shown Mills“.  She is my genealogy hero, and not only for her work on citing sources.  She is the foremost authority on Natchitoches, LA region genealogy where my husband has multiple ancestors. Future blogs will deal with this more. Ms. Mills does not appear at a lot of conferences, at least not out west at my local society,  but I had promised myself that if I saw a conference where she was speaking I would be there if I could.  Last year FGS was my chance and I was not disappointed.  Her talks were informative, but more than that they were fun!  She will once again be a presenter at FGS and I will be there in each of her sessions.   This year’s conference is full of presentations by other amazing genealogists who speak to so many different subjects.  The location of the FGS conference each year lends to the emphasis of one or two of the different tracks and this year’s has many lectures focusing on the Midwest and the groups that tended to settle there.  Most of our ancestors spent some time at least passing through the Midwest and this is the ideal time to focus our learning there.  Many times some of the sessions are recorded and you could possibly listen later to the presentations, but the dynamics of being there in person are not to be missed.  The ability to speak one-on-one to the presenter, to ask questions, to get that little tidbit of advice or direction from an expert in the field that has you stumped….PRICELESS as the commercial would say.

The ability to interact with superstar genealogists is only one facet that comes from attendance at a conference like FGS.  Imagine spending 3 or 4 days with hundreds of people that are just as passionate about genealogy as you are!  The energy that comes from just being able to sit and talk with others that will listen and give suggestions is sometimes enough to blast down those brick walls.  Maybe you will have the key to blast through for someone else?  Maybe you will find the long lost cousin that has the family Bible?  Genealogists are some of the most generous people that I have ever met and this give and take and sharing of strategies is all the answer that is needed for some to answer, “Why Genealogy Conferences?”

The Exhibition Hall is the answer for others.  Are you an “early adapter”?  One of those that always has the newest program, the latest device?  This is where you will find them.  New tools are coming out all the time and the vendors are more than happy to take the time to explain to you how to use them to your advantage.  Even if you aren’t interested in learning new methods or programs, the largest booths are occupied by those tried and true favorites like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, Fold3, NEHGS.  They all have a supply of computers there with staff just waiting to help you perfect your search strategies on their sites.  Who knows the breakthroughs that could be waiting there for you?

One of my reasons for being particularly excited about this year’s FGS is the location.   Fort Wayne, Indiana is the home of the The Genealogy Center of Allen County Library, the second largest genealogy library in the US.    This will be my first visit there and I am really looking forward to exploring the unique resources there.  The Allen County Library is the home to the largest collection of English language genealogy and local history magazines and newsletters.  The PERSI (Periodical Source Index) was developed by the staff there to allow you to find articles of interest to your research.  PERSI can be accessed through HeritageQuest at many libraries, but only in Fort Wayne can you have instant access to the articles of interest once you find one in the index.  Many people journey to Fort Wayne even when there is not a conference going on right there, but travelling there Aug 21-24 for FGS is like getting 2 trips for the price of 1.  How could you pass up a deal like that!

One final group that does not need me to give them a reason for attending FGS 2013 is those that have responsibility for the growth of their local genealogy societies.  FGS does after all stand for “Federation of Genealogical Societies” and the schedule on Wednesday the 21st is dedicated to programs geared to helping societies develop new programs and expand and serve the growing number of genealogists.

See you there!

St. Louis, Missouri

My favorite city for genealogical research is St. Louis. As the home of my ancestors for over 150 years, St Louis is full of treasures. I will bring you a wealth of knowledge in your search for ancestors in St. Louis.

Natchitoches, Louisiana

My husband’s family has taken me to in-depth study of the Natchitoches, Louisiana area from the time when it was the border between French held and Spanish held territory, to the Carolinas, where Bamberg county was named for a relative, and to New York and Holland Land Purchase research.

Early Boston Settlers

Another line led to research in Puritan Boston in the 1630s, to a brother-in-law of both Rev. John Cotton and Rev . Richard Mather. He was numbered among the early Baptists in spite of his relations. Lutheran church planters and New Light Baptists in the Appalachians, LDS pioneers and Catholics, church records yield some of the most interesting insights into their lives.

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