Classes/Workshops


Family history month for the avid genealogist is a great reminder that we have to keep learning and there are workshops aplenty to keep us busy. Looking for some around you? Michigan researchers keep an eye on the Michigan Genealogical Council’s Community Calendar. You might also check out ConferenceKeeper.net.

Roadtripping through Michigan 2012Last weekend I tripped down to my home away from home for Western Michigan Genealogical Society‘s Annual Seminar Got Ancestors?! in Grand Rapids, Michigan and had a lot of fun… playing right into their theme for the year, “Are You Having Fun Yet?!”

This year’s featured speaker was genealogy ninja and technology curator, Thomas McEntee (of High-Definition Genealogy, GeneaBloggers.com, Hack Genealogy, among others). He offered five presentations—sessions on changing technology, cluster research, an introduction to blogging, a great look at the concept of mind mapping, and 10 ways to jumpstart your genealogy. I came away with a great list of new-to-me sites to play with—both for organizing my research and connecting with fellow researchers, more blogs than I will ever be able to keep track of (but I want to read them all!), and strategies for organizing a research problem and identifying the possible resources that may help you in solving it. And, as always, it was fabulous to see all my WMGS friends and hang out for a couple of days. It was definitely worth the trip!

Don’t forget to put the next seminar on your calendar—October 10-11, 2014! WMGS will be celebrating 60 years with a seminar featuring Dick Eastman!

Happy hunting,

Jess

Saturday was a bit more of a blur as the conference started to take a toll. It might have been a bit more clear if I had not hung out so late at the Genealogy Center or if the Michigan Breakfast hadn’t started well before 7 am. But it was a lovely morning chatting with fellow Michigan genealogists and friends. We had a quick 1812 Pension update and challenge from Curt Witcher and a state of the Archives of Michigan update from Kris Rzepczynski.

I had to pack up my stuff after breakfast but I still made it back to the Convention Center in time to sneak into the last presentation by Elizabeth Shown Mills (S-401 Finding Fathers). In it she used a particularly memorable case study where she was able to prove the paternity of a man based on following out his siblings through probate, petitions, etc. without ever finding a record specifically connecting him to his father.

I attended “Creating Family Histories for Future Generations,” presented by Thomas W. Jones (S-412) which began be encouraging people to work with the records of the day—oral history, identify your own pictures, and collect DNA—the irreplaceable legacy. But it also stressed training, practicing reading and writing, and creating family histories with BEAD—Biography, Explanation, Accuracy and Documentation.

“Truth or Fiction? Unraveling a Family Yarn” (S-418) was another interesting case study presented by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. She was a great speaker with a fun tale to work through that reminded me of my strange family tales and their veracity.

And finally, I made it to “Staying out of copyright trouble” by Judy G. Russell (S-433) which was a fun and frustrating take on copyright law. Not Judy, she was fabulous, but copyright is an interesting and maddening topic. I came out of this with a lot of good resources to work with and a great refresher on topics I vaguely remember from grad school. It was a fun session to end on.

I had a wonderful time at FGS 2013 visiting with friends, overloading on information, and even managing a little research. Thanks to the FGS board, conference crew and volunteers. Thanks also to the exhibitors, local societies, institutions and libraries, and an outgoing and generous host city. It’s been a fabulous week and I can’t wait to do it again… well, after I catch up on my sleep.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Friday’s post got too long for me to try and catch up so I’ll shoot for a wrap up post in the next couple of days.

Friday was a LONG day! Again, I was fairly methodology heavy, catching another presentation each of Elizabeth Shown Mills and Thomas W. Jones. Mills presented an interesting range of case studies to impress upon us the importance of “trivial” information in documents, for example the minute details in an estate sale that someone didn’t deem important or slaves names that get left out of transcriptions or compilations. She stressed going back to original probate packets or collections to make sure every slip had been accounted for and challenged us to think critically about what the documents said and didn’t say.

Jones presented on documentation. As he noted, this can be a boring topic, but I very much appreciated his detail and again, common sense approach to doing citations. In many ways this is all straight out of undergrad and grad school for me but those days are a little farther behind me every time I blink so getting this refresher and lesson was fabulous.

For the midday and afternoon sessions I jumped over to the African American research track attending presentations by G. David Dilts, Tim Pinnick, Angela Y Walton-Raji, and J. Mark Lowe. Dilts’ presentation (F-322 Overcoming Brick Walls in African American Research) was effectively one on methodology offering ideas to improve attitudes and open one’s mind in approaching brickwalls, as well as offering some common problems and possible solutions.

Pinnick’s session (F-333 And the Church Said Amen) on tracking down records from African American churches was as animated and enthusiastic as the title suggested and somewhere in there he did get an, “Amen!” from the class even after telling us that the existing records weren’t quite what we were hoping for.

Walton-Raji’s session was great survey of Black benevolent societies most of which I knew nothing about beforehand. When I saw her session listing it immediately brought to mind a symbol on my Great-Grandfather’s headstone I had never looked in to. And between her and Pinnick’s sessions in particular, I have a whole new set of records to try and track down.

Finally, I attended J. Mark Lowe’s session (F-350 Following Slaves and Slaveholders…) which offered a great case study emphasizing the need to know the areas you’re researching in and know their laws relevant to your ancestors. This will help you figure out what records might exist to aid you in your research. All were great speakers, but Lowe gets points for making Pinnick hand me a fake $1000 bill in an effort to illustrate that you need to follow the money or assets (whatever they may be).

From there I went straight to the library event in support of the War 1812 Pension Project. I attended the opening remarks and quilt raffle, mingled for a few minutes near the desserts, and then made a beeline for the Genealogy Center to get in some last research for the week. I planned to leave at a reasonable hour (as I had to get it up in the morning) but I had a successful enough time that I didn’t walk back until 11:30 pm.

But now I am just tired…

Happy hunting!

Jess

I’m running a day behind. Here’s what should have posted yesterday… if I hadn’t chosen sleep over you all. Sorry!

Thursday was another day of volunteering and sessions. I started the day on the conference registration table. So, I missed the keynote. But I had a fun time with my booth mate and greeting people.

I then spent the afternoon really focused on methodology sessions.  I attended detailed presentations by Thomas W. Jones (T-202 Planning and Executing Efficient and Effective Research) and Elizabeth Shown Mills (T-213 Smiths and Joneses)—both of which really got to the heart of how to effectively and efficiently research. Really looking at records—what they say and what they don’t. Comparing records—for accuracy, reliability, and with an eye to who created the document and when. I followed those up with a session by Conference Chair Paula Stuart-Warren on creating research reports for yourself which really stressed getting down the details of what you searched, why you looked at the record, and what you found or didn’t find.

Tucked in the middle of those, I attended a fabulous presentation by Laura Prescott on finding materials at university libraries and archives (T-221 Treasures of the Ivory Tower). I’ve come across fabulous collections in the past more haphazardly—for example through footnotes (like Peter John Alison’s memoir). I went into the session looking for ways to more strategically locate materials. Prescott offered a lot of ideas and food for thought, plus she’s just a great and enthusiastic speaker. She also had my quote of the day in discussing FOBs or “Flashes of the Obvious.” It seemed to be the theme of the day… straightforward and common sense presentations that were inspiring and eye-opening.

I did take a turn through the Exhibit Hall during the Showcase. I’m pretty sure I didn’t win a door prize—you can’t always hear in the hall. Then I headed out to dinner with a large group of Michigan genealogists… who couldn’t get their headcount straight. We dined and hung out at O’Reilly’s on Jefferson until Karaoke began. That seemed to be a quick way to get everyone to head back to their hotels. Then again, Springsteen should not sound like that—not that I claim to be any more able to sing his work.

More conference highlights soon, until then…

Happy hunting,

Jess

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, INFor learning purposes and to simply help out, I decided to volunteer for the conference this year which has been interesting so far. As I noted Tuesday, I made it in to town in time to attend the Volunteer orientation where conference officers and representatives from the FGS Board members gave us pointers, encouragement, and thanks upfront.

Throughout the conference I’ll do a stint as Room Monitor—that was Wednesday, at Registration (way too early) this morning, and in the Exhibit Hall on Friday. My thoughts were that this would give me more insight into FGS, plus I visit here enough that I thought I could actually be helpful, and I’m just crazy enough that I kind of like doing stuff like this—shhhh… don’t tell!

And as a plus I was posted in some of the sessions I would have gone to anyway such as Cyndi Ingle Howell’s plenary on society websites. This was a great common sense presentation and dead on for all the conversations I’ve had as a webmaster or contributor for various organizations.

I also loved Amy Johnson Crow’s presentation “Finding and Keeping Volunteers” (W-103). She offered lots of great common sense advice… that not enough institutions, let alone Societies, use. This included the notion that if you’re going to ask if people are interested in volunteering, you need to get back to them in a timely manner. Or the novel concept that we need to be more specific—job description, title, who they report to, etc. not just say, “We need volunteers. Call me.”

I also monitored for Donna Moughty’s presentation, “Printed vs Online Publishing for Societies” (W-110) which I might not have chosen based on the syllabus but I enjoyed nonetheless. She introduced a number of print-on-demand, and other online services that I would be interested in looking into. She also seconded a number of Cyndi’s comments regarding websites in the plenary.

Once my volunteer stint was through I had lunch and headed back over to ACPL’s Genealogy Center. It was packed and had nowhere near enough plugs for the variety of devices being used. It reminded me of this (for those interested in the secrets of librarians and libraries, this is a great resource). So, I worked for as long as my battery lasted on my Martin family (from Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas) and then headed down to the Dunkin Donuts for a drink and to run database searches while my computer recharged—there are a fair share of seats near outlets and the Wi-Fi reaches down there.

I closed the day attending the opening social at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. I chatted with a number of nifty folks and took a tour around the gardens before calling it quits. I will freely admit that while I have it relatively easy, as I’m here largely on my own and not for my organization, I’m still a bit exhausted already. But I’m definitely looking forward to the next few days!

Happy hunting!

Jess

I am not at work!!! Please let me savor that first glorious part of my day!

I am also now in Fort Wayne, Indiana and ready for the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ 2013 Conference. I came in to town this morning barely in time for a Volunteer Orientation, got checked in early, and spent the afternoon chasing down leads on my Great-Aunt’s lines at ACPL’s Genealogy Center.

I happily hit on a few great compiled genealogies (with citations and annotations) on both the Baggett and Bone families who settled in Bond Co., Illinois. I also had a few possible hits on her Snow line, another Bond Co, Illinois family. The Genealogy Center was hopping this afternoon but they’re certainly prepared with extra work tables, volunteers helping direct traffic, and, I’m fairly certain, copy machine repair on speed dial… the machines were getting a workout.

It’s been such a bizarre month that I never had time to even mention that I’d be here, and on a couple of occasions I had the passing thought that I’d have to cancel… but I am so glad I made the trip! A conference like this is enlightening, entertaining, and a great chance to meet up with fellow researchers.

I am looking forward to everything! Volunteering, attending sessions, and sneaking over to the Genealogy Center whenever I have time.

Happy hunting!

Jess

I didn’t want to let it go too long without saying that the second day of the Abram’s Family History Seminar was great! I attended two presentations by Dr. Thomas W. Jones (who I gushed about here). He presented “The Jones Jinx”—a case study on narrowing down ancestors with common names—which I’m still pulling great research ideas out of even though I’ve heard it before. Dr. Jones also presented on Probate Records—which I haven’t spent nearly enough time on. It was totally worth having someone walk through the steps and terminology of probate with examples of how this can help you in your research.

I also attended Dick Doherty’s “Cost Effective Research: Accessing Irish Records from North America” which gave me a nice list of records to find and tips on using them. I’m hoping to use them while further researching the Massy family as well as my Byrne/Cunningham/Dowdall lines which I’ve unfortunately been ignoring for the past few years.

And Karen Krugman’s session on sourcing offered interesting tips on sourcing for yourself—so that you can put your hands on an information source quickly should you need it again. She made a good point about the level of need for different researchers but also noted that while she had never intended to write a book she now has and that’s meant going back and having to track down source material from before she was adequately sourcing her research.

All in all, the two days were a success from my point of view.

Kudos to Kris R., the rest of the Archives of Michigan staff, and the Michigan Genealogical Council for a great seminar!

Happy hunting!

Jess

PS. Save the date for the MGC/MHF Seminar on Saturday, October 26th featuring Lou Szucs!  Info forthcoming at the MGC site in August.

I am a woman of my word… Last year I posted that if the Archives of Michigan hosted a Genealogy Lock-in I’d be there in a heartbeat… and I was.

Yesterday was day one of the annual Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar. I started the afternoon delivering what I  hope was a though-provoking and humorous session basically on mistakes I’ve made so other people wouldn’t have to. It was a fun and responsive group and I hope even the veteran researchers got something out of it.

After my session I dropped in on Lori Fox’s session on “Filling in the Blanks” which offered good advice about getting the stories behind the names and dates. I have a list of family stories I’m always meaning to get written down. Some of them make it into this blog, but others I haven’t written up and I know I should. I’m also one of those people that has felt that I have time to work on my part of the family story later. But we never know what will happen day to day. So I’m going to try and take Lori’s advice and get some of my stories down for my family.

And this evening I attended the Archives of Michigan’s first Genealogy Lock-In which went off great from my perspective. We had a pizza dinner down in the lounge where I got to connect with some of my fellow WMGS bus trippers and then I spent a lovely evening largely working on my Grove/Long families from Summit Co, Ohio surrounded by fun and amusing fellow researchers. I think the staff spent a lot of time running around but they were attentive and it never really felt like there were excessive backups in getting help. There probably were a few technical hitches (somehow there’s never enough plugs for all our gadgets) but it felt like a very successful evening. I hope they do it again!

And I hope everyone got some rest. We’re in for another day packed with information!

Happy hunting!

Jess

No matter how much progress I have made in my family research I continue to enjoy attending the annual Lansing History Center’s annual Family History Seminar. I find it useful for the variety of presentations and presenters—in fact I have knowingly repeated a couple of courses because I figure either I or the presenters are in a different place in our research and I’ll get something new out of it. I also find it interesting as a presenter to see what works for other instructors. And I always, always come away with new sites to play with, new ideas, and a refreshed outlook for my research.

This year’s seminar was no exception. On Saturday I attended presentations on Scottish research, Ontario border crossings, Irish research pre-1860, and one on ways to interest children in genealogy. The Scottish class gave me a long list of new sites to play with which I want to use to track down Harry Alison’s line. The border crossings class is one I’m pretty sure I’ve taken before but now I have more information about my Ontario family and I have a better feel for who I should be looking for in the records. The Irish research class was packed full of information and ideas that I still need to work through, but I think it will help me add some depth to our Massy and Byrne lines.

And finally the class on ideas for interesting younger generations in family history was reassuring in that it covered a lot of the ideas we’d played with at work when discussing youth genealogy programming. Also, it reinforced my ideas for “corrupting” my nephews and niece.

Add to all that, I had a lovely lunch at a table with a number of presenters and took an hour to do some research in the Family History Center where I took advantage of some of their premium databases—I’ve got to get down there to research more often.

It was a great experience and I would highly recommend it almost regardless of your research level. Hope to see you next year!

Happy hunting,

Jess

This is just a quick note to say that I had a lovely time yesterday at the Michigan Genealogical Council and Archives of Michigan Fall Seminar. These, along with the Abrams Genealogy Seminars in the summer, are always worth it and I would encourage any Michigan area researcher to attend. This time I enjoyed both presentations by featured speaker, Shirley Gage Hodges. I’ve also added the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor back on to my roadtrip list again, because I’d forgotten how much they have and how little I have gotten through in past trips… thanks to Archivist Karen Jania. And most importantly, I had a great time talking research with friends!

Now, everyone mark your calendars, the annual Abrams Genealogy Seminar on July 12th and 13th, 2013 will feature Thomas W. Jones, whom I gushed about here after seeing the first of four fabulous presentations at FGS in 2011. I hope to see you there!

Happy hunting,

Jess

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