Yeah, sad to say that I finished my visit to the FGS 2011 conference today. The conference will continue tomorrow, but I’ve got another meeting in another state to get to tomorrow morning. So this will be my last update from the show. But, it won’t be the last post with information and resources gained from attending the show. As to how you scare a genealogist, read on…
The conference seemed much busier with more attendees today than the last two days. This is probably due to all of the class sessions that are geared more toward amateur researchers (and even those who consider themselves of an intermediate skill level, like I think of my own research) as well as the fact that today is Friday and it is much easier for people to take a long weekend instead of a full week off work. Most of the sessions I attended were quite full and the hallway between the rooms was much more crowded today.
So, my day started with the session “Irish emigration to North America; before, during and after the famine” by Paul Milner. This was a fun way to start the day. The presenter was lively and entertaining and had some interesting material to discuss. My only distractions were the bobbleheads in the audience around me who were nodding to almost every statement the presenter made. With so many of my lines pointing back to Ireland at some point, I used the presentation as an excuse to pick up another book from the show floor later in the day. I also got to thinking a little more about the Lamb and Thornton connections that I mentioned a while ago for a Mystery Monday post (first post, and followup). I know that both families were living in the same building in New York City in 1850 and 1860 from their entries in the U.S. census. So far, I’d been thinking that they had sailed from the isles to New York, but the presenter this morning suggested that a large number of emigrants in the 1820s and 1830s first stopped in Canada’s eastern provinces before crossing the border to enter the U.S. So, now I might just spend some time looking for them in a couple Canadian resources too.
The next session was “Navigating the 1890 gap; research with state census records” by Kris Rzepczynski (and I’m so glad that none of my surname lines have such a high consonant to vowel ratio). This session really seemed more like it was aimed at the beginning researcher. He discussed a number of state and local censuses that are available and mentioned that a large portion of the 1890 Union Veterans census schedule is still available, particularly for state names that begin with K through W. However, it seemed like he was overemphasizing that finding a census record for our families in 1890 was the ultimate goal of our research. I don’t think that should be the case. Yeah, we may need to know where our families were in 1890, but studiously filling in the holes and finding just a census record every ten years misses the point of gathering research data. Another session I attended later seemed better suited to what I believe should be the goal of researching, but this presenter did show a few resources that were new to many of the attendees. One important note he mentioned that caught my ear related to the 1890 “police census” of New York City. He said that the Michigan library is working on making the entire 1890 police census available for free through the Seeking Michigan website. Since my funds are limited, I look forward to seeing this project and exploring the rest of that site in the future.
As I mentioned yesterday, I purchased a family membership to the Wisconsin Historical Society. That was the primary impetus for me to attend the next session, “Wisconsin: history and resources for genealogists” by Dr. David McDonald. I was expecting to hear more about what resources are available in Madison for research, but found the Wisconsin history recap quite interesting. Since I had grown up in California, I didn’t get Wisconsin history in school beyond knowing the name of the current state capital (or is it “capitol”? That’s something else that I didn’t get in school since my childhood home wasn’t in a state capit[a|o]l). I’ll certainly be reading more about local history now. The presenter listed a few websites managed by church historical societies that may be able to help with some emigration evidence and how the various church systems are set up such as: The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Wisconsin Conference United Methodist Church, Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ and the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.
After lunch, I attended “Using ‘correlation’ to reveal facts that no record states” by Dr. Tom Jones. This session led to the last book purchase that I made on the FGS show floor today (see below). I went into this session thinking I’d learn more about source material analysis, but quickly found I was wrong. One of the first points he noted was that correlation is the study of multiple independent sources while analysis is performed on only one source. He showed how the correlation method closely follows the genealogical proof standard (GPS). The correlation process consists of four main steps: 1. collect the evidence; 2. document the sources; 3. assess the independence of the sources; and 4. begin to correlate the facts given in the sources. He compared the process to working on a jigsaw puzzle. Most jigsaw puzzle solvers will put all of the pieces on the table (similar to collecting the evidence), sort the pieces (similar to beginning the correlation) and then work on putting together pieces in small subassemblies and then assembling those into the full puzzle (doing the correlation). Continuing with this analogy, beginning genealogists would have each piece of a jigsaw puzzle in a different location, then take one piece and laboriously compare it to every other piece one at a time until one of its neighboring pieces is found, then pick up the next single piece and repeat the process with every other piece one at a time. That’s what we called a “brute force” solution in computer programming terms. The presenter went through several examples of evidence collections and research questions to show how the correlation process can be used to come to good and substantiated conclusions about information that isn’t explicitly stated within those sources. The examples were included in the conference syllabus, which I will read through later when I have more time.
The next session I attended was “Tracing Scots-Irish ancestors” by Dean Hunter. Much of this session repeated information that I learned in the first session of the day about Irish emigration. But there were a few websites noted during the presentation that deserve some more exploration when I have time: Presbyterian Historical Society, Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, Ulster American Folk Park, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and Ancestry Ireland.
Since it was 4:30 when that session let out, my next stop was back to the FGS show floor, which was due to close at 5:00. There was still one more book that I wanted to pick up before leaving for the day.
My goal was to get Tracing Your Irish Ancestors since it had been mentioned in the first session today as a good reference. So, I got it and looked around the vendor’s booth to see if there was another title that I could use now, and the BCG Standards Manual jumped out as a good book since it was referenced in the session about source and data correlation. The two items shown on the left in this photo, Federal Forms and Searching American Military Records, were freebies from the book vendor where I purchased the other two titles.
I had originally planned to attend one more session, which would have been “Lessons from a snoop; collaterals and associates” by Debra Mieszala, but as I left the show floor I noticed the Genspirations session signup board had a session for genealogy bloggers starting in a couple minutes. Yeah, I went to that instead. The room was mainly occupied by many of the bloggers who were at yesterday’s Genabloggers social, but this time I got to talk to everyone else rather than just the people at my table. This session, however, was more about the tech issues of blogging genealogy. There were a few ideas that were shared, and a few things for me to try here on this blog. I’ll be rolling out a couple of the ideas here in the months to come as I have time to implement them.
But what about “scaring the bejeebus out of a genealogist” I hear you ask? That’s what happened next. When the blogger session wrapped up, I made my way back to the parking lot so I could go get my dinner and work on this post. I couldn’t remember if I had parked on level 2 or 3 of the parking garage. So, I went to level 2 and pulled out my car key to push the remote unlock button. I didn’t see any headlights come on where I expected the car to be, so I looked around and pressed the lock and unlock buttons a couple more times. Finally, I figured that I must have parked on level 3 instead so I pushed the red button at the bottom that says PANIC to honk the horn, which is what the button did when we test drove the car last month. You guessed it, the PANIC button made the alarm go off on the level above me and I chuckled a little to myself as I imagined someone standing near my car when the alarm sounded. So yeah, I turned off the alarm and got to my car without any problems.
Finally, when I got back to my hotel room and checked my email, I got a note that I had won today’s drawing from the FGS show floor for a lifetime subscription to AncestorSync. I had heard about the service earlier this year on the May 20 episode of Genabloggers Radio. Now I’ll have to write more about the service myself as I use it in my research. Not tonight though; right now it’s time for me to sign off so I can be ready to leave early tomorrow for my next meeting and then to head home.