Friday, May 13, 2011

NGS Conference - First Round of Classes

While was down last night, we were out on the town having some good ole backcountry seafood at this little place right on the water called "The Wreck." [Photo above from L-R: Cathy Elias, Ginger Smith, Rob Elias taken outside of "The Wreck" seafood restaurant in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, May 12, 2011. Photo copyright Ginger R. Smith, 2011].

Let me just start off by saying that I’m really enjoying the conference. One thing that has held me back from attending these conferences in the past is the fear that my capabilities and interests would lie beyond the expertise of the classes and speakers. However, this has clearly not been the case. The classes are informative and challenging and I often found myself struggling just to keep up with the examples provided. I have loved the case studies provided by Elizabeth Shown Mills and John Colletta and I feel that these have been instrumental in bridging the gap between the beginner and intermediate genealogists and family historians.

Before I get into the lectures I attended, let me recap some of the fun stuff I did:

Raffles and Certificate Courses:

Yesterday, I entered a raffle to win a scholarship for the Boston University Certificate genealogy course. This is a good thing because the bigger of the two courses is around $2500!!! A scholarship would be great! And I could complete the coursework from home in my pajamas! – even better! In order to enter the raffle, I had to take my card to four different booths – the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), National Genealogical Society (NGS), New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), and the Boston University – and get it stamped, then return it to the Boston University Booth. While I was at the NGS booth, I learned about the Home Study course that they offer. It is a self paced course you take from a CD and costs under $500.00.

More Friends:

I met up with two other members of my local genealogical society (the Durham-Orange Genealogical Society of North Carolina). I also met some folks at the North Carolina Genealogical Soceity. They asked me if I was a member, but I couldn’t remember! I guess I need to keep better tract of what I am a member of and preferably join them at the same time, so I can keep tract of when I need to pay my dues more easily.

Classes - Day 1:

The classes I took on the first day were pretty low key as I was trying to acclimate myself to the convention center floor plan, exhibition hall, and time schedule of classes. I attended the following lectures:

      1)      The Library of Congress: Pursuing Your Family History in the National Library by James P. Sweany: I hope to write more about this later as I put some of the things I learned into practice. You know me, I don’t believe what I’m told unless I can actually get it to work! Much of his presentation highlighted what users could do from the website and what they could do without having to physically visit the Library. For example, the LOC will loan out many of their microfilms to your local library;  They have online Civil War Photographs (Glass Negatives) in their Prints and Photographs Collection, Maps, Building surveys, bibliographies, and local history and genealogy resources by state. One under used resource is the Chronicling America Collection. You can search the blue box, however, the newspaper options are scarce. If you search for a newspaper in the directory (green box on the right), you can pull up all of the newspapers for a certain time period for a certain area, and then find a list of all of the library holdings for that newspaper. It will even tell you the previous and subsequent names of that newspaper! This is a great resource. Be sure to check out all of the digital collections! Even if you don’t find a photograph of your ancestor in them, you might find a photograph of the city or town in which he or she lived providing valuable historical context.
2)      Teasing the Silent Woman by Barbara Vines Little: In this lecture, Little reminds us that women were not conceived of as individuals, but as people in relation to other people, events, or situations. A woman was “the wife of” someone or “the daughter of” someone. She urged the genealogist to look at her family background in relation to the community, information that can often be found on the census, ie, economic status, education, religion, military, & employment. When a woman married, she suggested we look at whether she moved up or down in social and economic status; did she live closer to her family or his family? Did she live with her children? All of this information can help to build a clearer picture of your female ancestor’s life.
3)      Solving Genealogical Problems by Isolating Errors in Records by Henry B. Hoff: Hoff gave a ton of examples in this lecture, but did not offer many clues about how to resolve them. He did remind us that the familial terms of “Brother-in-law” could mean step-brother, “cousin” could mean anything, and “Uncle” could be a non-blood relative but closest friend.
      4)      Ground Transportation and Routes in Early Colonial Carolina by Thomas R. Magnuson: This was my favorite lecture of the day. I didn’t realize it at first, but Tom is from Hillsborough, NC, the next town over from where I currently live. He also organizes the “First Sunday Hikes” in which he takes groups of people out to certain areas, gives them a guided walking tour and teaches them about the land, or in some cases, the neighborhoods. I know about this event because we announce it each month in our local genealogical society newsletter. Tom is very knowledgeable about the physical terrain of the land as well as the documents surrounding it such as deeds and plats. His non- profit company offers group training in protecting these “assets” through Stewartship. Please feel free to contact him via his website for more information. His website is

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