The conference of the Federation of Genealogy Societies is being held this year in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center is located next door to the convention center, and many participants spent as much time as they could in that amazing library, between sessions or during the extended hours. This post is about the conference.
The Bloggers Dinner was held on Tuesday night, sponsored by Family Search. Blogger Jenny Lanctot checked people in and had the blogger beads. Paul Nauta of FamilySearch had a lot of new initiatives to talk about – new story collecting resources, expanding their camera teams to digitize records around the world, the Family Search Family Tree, the growth of the winter RootsTech conference, and new partnerships to expand their services. The new Director of the Family History Library, Diane Loosle, was introduced and talked a bit about her exciting plans for the library, including collaborative research areas around the library. As usual, FamilySearch wanted to thank the many indexers who keep the production of online indexed records going. Paul closed his remarks with a brief video about the value of indexing which I think everyone might enjoy, called “Indexing is Vital.” A little play on words there.
On Wednesday night I attended the FGS Opening Social at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Although the line was long, I was fortunate to meet genealogist Angela Walton-Raji while waiting, and she was really nice about chatting about a couple of genealogy problems I had. I asked her about her session on Civil War Matrons and Nurses and how to find them, it was a fascinating story.
I would encourage anyone with an interest in any session to purchase the recording (either on CD or download). Judy G. Russell’s blog post gives you more details.
I enjoyed the exhibits and bought a few books. Sharing a room really improved the conference budget and allowed for that.
Due to my long hours at the library I only attended a few sessions, but I completely enjoyed them:
- Judy G. Russell, The Who, What, Why, When Where of American Divorce. Judy reviewed the long history of divorce in the United States and the shift from divorces by legislative decree to “judicial” divorces handled in the courts. Early on, a divorce might have produced a separation, with no permission for the parties to remarry. Records should be sought with legislative or judicial records. And the full records should be sought in either case, and can offer enormous details. Newspaper ads or stories may also point to a divorce. Knowing the law in the location you are researching would be helpful; at various points people sometimes moved temporarily to enable then to take advantage of more lenient divorce laws.
- Elizabeth Shown Mills, Trousers, Beds, Tacks & Housekeeping Bills: Problem-Solving with “Trivial Details”. Always a superb speaker with excellent advice to offer, the point here was such an important one: use OTHER details, not just documents that mention your ancestor, to put the story together. For instance, the example of the “Beds” was about a list of buyers of an estate inventory, and her contention that the widow, son and daughter were the purchasers of the beds … thus revealing the previously unknown family members.
- Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, Lost Children: Orphans, Half-Orphans, Vagrants, Dependents, Surrendered, Adopted. Jeanne is an expert on this subject and explained about the history of orphanages, adoption, and child custody. I really enjoyed this session. My husband spent some time in an orphanage.
- Elizabeth Shown Mills, Finding Fathers: Bridging the Generation Gap. Again, this session had such an important genealogical message: Look for the clues you need outside of documents that actually name your ancestor. ASSEMBLE the string of evidence from known facts, such as from court documents. One example was finding a nephew of the person she was researching, then finding the father of that nephew, then finding a third and then a fourth brother of the person – and finally the fourth brother had a father’s name recorded in a document. So now we know the father of the person we were researching. When you can move from index-checking to this type of analysis, you know you have really increased the quality of your genealogical research.
I purchased a number of lectures on MP3 audio (to be sent to me) and I would encourage others to do that as well, through these instructions on Judy Russell’s blog.
Conferences are inspiring because of the content but even more so because of the relationships and conversations that form over lunches, dinners, and drinks. It is wonderful to have conversations about genealogy 24/7.
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