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Archive for the ‘conferences’ Category

This week I attended GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.  I registered in late winter and managed to get into the “Law School for Genealogists” class led by Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL and Richard “Rick” G. Sayre, CG, CGL.   The institute was held at LaRoche College, and I stayed, along with many other attendees, in the dorms, and ate meals in the cafeteria.  Others took classes on genetic genealogy and a variety of other topics.

My dorm room was a large triple - there was also a microwave, mini frig, and bathroom to myself.

My dorm room was a large triple – I had the room (as well as microwave, mini frig, and bathroom) to myself.  Since I was driving, I was able to bring a couple things. I was glad I brought the quilt, lamp and extra pillows from home.

Day 1

I arrived on Sunday and moved into the dorm.  I knew several people who planned to attend, but that’s not a necessity – genealogists are friendly.  Some people shared dorm rooms and even those staying at local motels were welcome to pay by the meal to eat conveniently in the cafeteria.  The schedule on Sunday was to check in, get settled, and have dinner in the cafeteria.  This was followed by a welcome session and some door prizes.

I was in for a surprise at GRIP, though, because after the class lists came out, I heard from a young woman named Sara that she was my husband’s third cousin and would be there, and in the same class, and she was looking forward to meeting me.  I had to look back at my email to remember that my husband and I had corresponded with Sara several years ago, and she was obviously an accomplished genealogist who had done some excellent work on my husband’s difficult family tree.  I was very happy to be able to meet her.

Our classroom during a break.

Our classroom early in the morning.

Day 2

Monday morning, my first class was at 8:15.  I enjoyed the talks and quickly realized this was a pretty intense learning experience – for people who truly want to learn more about methods and resources for family history research, these institutes are excellent.

And I discovered there was homework each night.

A takeaway from day one:  get an old copy of Black’s law dictionary and look up each new term you encounter in probate, deeds, etc.  A late 1800’s copy should be available for free download from Google Books.  No point in buying a new one; the old terminology was removed a couple decades ago.

The lunch line, with the table area in the background.

The lunch line, with the table area in the background.

Day 3

By Tuesday I was getting used to things.  Judy Russell is a superb and experienced teacher; she is a clear speaker and very interesting.  I was far less familiar with the material being covered by Rick Sayre, about federal laws and how to find documents related to the federal government, but the wheels were turning as he got me wondering about all sorts of records I’ve never looked for.  Clearly, there are many research projects ahead for me.

Tip for the day:  Try this website: “A Century of Lawmaking” for index entries to government records that you may need to further track down and obtain.

Using my Galaxy Note tablet, I could keep the screen open for writing notes, plus another window for the pdf app to look at the syllabus.  My friend Minda McAully showed me how to open the syllabus in Acrobat Reader so I could also highlight, write on it, etc.  She's brilliant!

Using my Galaxy Note tablet, I could keep the screen open for writing notes (with the stylus), plus another window for the pdf app to look at the syllabus. My friend Linda McCauley showed me how to open the syllabus in Acrobat Reader so I could also highlight, write on it, etc. She’s brilliant!

Day 4

On Wednesday we were treated to two sessions with Marian L . Smith, who leads the Historic Research Branch at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (Department of Homeland Security).  Marian has immense knowledge of immigration and naturalization records and she gave us excellent advice about what records might exist in what era, and about the laws (and purposes) behind the various questions, forms, and records.  Since naturalization procedures were only moved to the federal government in the 1890’s, prior records – like the 1840’s records I am seeking – could be in any state, county or local court of record.  As I listened to Marian I realized I could definitely obtain, at some point, my grandparents’ naturalization records from when they came from Nova Scotia in the early 1900’s.

My takeaway from Wednesday was to pay the $20 for a Genealogy Program Index Search to obtain the correct record numbers for an ancestor processed after 1893 (but not ship manifest records, or records from port locations).  Then I could pursue getting the actual records.

That night I ate dinner with a friend from the DNA class and asked her about some questions I had about testing.  That’s almost the best thing about being here – the mealtime conversations about genealogy.

The season premiere of Who Do You Think You Are? was enjoyed by the crowd Wednesday night.  There were many aspects of the show that related to knowledge of the law for the time and places mentioned.

Some of the crowd enjoying the season opener of Who Do You Think You Are?

Some of the crowd enjoying the season opener of Who Do You Think You Are?

Day 5

On Thursday, the content was focused on laws about women, children, marriage and divorce.  There were also sessions on military pensions and Claims Committees.  I am on a mission to find supporting papers for my ggg-grandfather’s 1878 claim for reparations after the Civil War.  I feel like I have some more things to try now.

Takeaway from this day:  when using those faulty OCR-produced index services on the internet (in other words, indexing NOT produced by humans) try to use as many services as possible (like maybe Ancestry.com, Fold3 and Family Search) since they will all have different index entries.

My books from the Maia's Books exhibit.  She is willing to ship them, also.

My books from the Maia’s Books exhibit. She is willing to ship them, also.

Day 6

On Friday, I finalized my book purchases from Maia’s books, we had our last sessions, received certificates and prepared to depart.  Our teachers sent us a set of electronic documents they had gathered just for us, which I look forward to exploring more at home.

The major point of this week: find the law that will help you understand more about the document you’re reading, and also the reverse of that: continue to learn more about laws that might have impacted our ancestors, and produced record sets we’re not even  thinking of.  The whole process this week was one of reading the informative articles in the syllabus (over 100 pages), listening to and occasionally participating in the lectures, and following that up with homework each night, and, when I return home, with a lot of research I would like to do using my new knowledge and skills, plus the extra documents to go through.

There were interesting talks each night for the whole group, and I heard wonderful things about each one, but didn’t attend them.  I had some quiet evenings with friends or just doing homework.

In closing

I can heartily endorse this program.   The company was wonderful, the classes truly excellent, things ran smoothly and I know that’s not easy, and I am going home with a list a mile long of things I should be trying and ideas for specific problems. Nothing is perfect, and staying in a dorm is never a dream vacation, but overall I have no complaints. I have had more genealogy conversations here (along the lines of Did you try this?  Did you look here?  What about … ?) than probably any other venue I have ever been in.

I am grateful to my teachers Judy Russell, Rick Sayre, and Marian Smith.  I learned this week that there are laws (or occasionally some other motivation) behind records and we need to understand those purposes, look up national and local laws, and think through what was allowed and legal for the time and place that our ancestors lived.  Knowing the law can give us data and genealogical information that never appears in any index.  If person A did x in a certain year, and x could only be done by people of a certain age, that gives you a piece of data you may not find anywhere else.  And legal records are absolutely filled with direct evidence too, for instance when certain facts had to be documented for, say, a pension application.  Did our ancestors ever lie?  Well sure, but that’s just part of the fun.

You can see the 2015 program here.  I had a great week and I look forward to similar events in the future.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/07/25/grip-2014/

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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 new Direcotr of the Family History Library, Diane Loosle

The new Director of the Family History Library, Diane Loosle

Bloggers Dinner

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.

Opening Social

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.

FamilySearch was introducing a story-keeping program in the Vendor Hall.

FamilySearch was introducing a story-keeping program in the Vendor Hall.

Sessions

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.
Barb's Branches was selling ancestry-related jewelry in the Vendor Hall

Barb’s Branches was selling ancestry-related jewelry in the Vendor Hall

  • 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.
There was an auction of a DNA test, an Ancestry World Membership, a Dell computer, and a 2014 FGS registration package

There was an auction of a DNA test, an Ancestry World Membership, a Dell computer, and a 2014 FGS registration package to benefit the War of 1812 pension record project

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.

In summary

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.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/08/25/fgs-conference-2013/

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NERGC is held every two years in various locations around New England. This time the location was Manchester, New Hampshire.

Thursday
I arrived early Thursday morning to have breakfast with some Facebook friends. That was really nice and I met a woman from Concord Mass and someone from Nova Scotia, as well as Facebook friend Jennifer Zinck. They had some French Canadian roots. I don’t have that but I do have lots of Nova Scotia connections.

Reg Desk at NERGC

Reg Desk at NERGC

NERGC relies on volunteer help so I did my bit at the reg desk for a while on Thursday.  Then I attended a session sponsored by the Massachusetts Genealogical Council, “Access to Records for Genealogists: An Open Forum”.  Recent confusion about SSDI (Social Security Death Index) access was presented as an improv skit, and panelists answered many questions after that.  The point was stressed that methods of identity theft are constantly shifting and changing, and in fact the biggest danger recently has been theft through details copied illegally from medical records.  Branches of the federal government should be responsible to check the SSDI (and not be fooled) and ultimately, identity theft of living people is far more common and damaging.   Massachusetts remains one of only a few completely open vital-records states, and this group works to keep things that way.  From time to time, supportive genealogists may be called upon to contact their legislators on certain issues. After the session, I asked some questions I had about access to family medical records, and it was the most helpful discussion I’ve had on the subject, and I was given a contact in Rhode Island which I will follow up.

The exhibits opened at 6 p.m., and I enjoyed some special pricing on used books.  I found several books I have wanted for a while, plus two old books on Fitchburg, Massachusetts I’ve never seen before.

Maia's Books in the exhibit area

Maia’s Books in the exhibit area

Friday

On Friday morning I attended a session by Craig R Scott on “Researching Your French and Indian War Ancestors in New England”.  Craig is an entertaining speaker.  I don’t know of any ancestors of mine who participated in that war, but I now have a better idea of the chronology and geography of this complicated war, as well as an overview of the literature available.  I have heard Craig speak before, and he likes to help the audience understand the issues behind the conflicts, for instance, in this case, by showing us contemporaneous maps of eastern North America, one by the French, one by the colonial British settlers.  It was pretty obvious from the maps that the two sides had very different views of the territory. The books I plan to find next time I’m in a genealogy library are the set “In Search of the “Forlorn Hope”: a Comprehensive Guide to Locating British Regiments and Their Records (1640-WWI)” by John M. Kitzmiller II.  Apparently the book contains some FHL microfilm numbers to help you find the original records you need. I will also look at the compiled red Massachusetts Officers and Soldiers books.

The busy registration area

The busy registration area

I was able to have lunch with fellow Rhode Islander Barbara, and Jennifer Zinck.  Jennifer was generous enough to answer a lot of questions I had about DNA testing.  One piece of advice, which I hadn’t really considered before, was to use testing on the earliest DNA possible, for instance, my mom and dad. If I ever get started on that, I now have some specific recommendations to explore.  Thanks, Jennifer!

Next, Jolene Mullen presented “Town Meeting Records of Connecticut and Rhode Island during the American Revolution”.  Jolene has made a study of these local records for the period of the Revolutionary War and had a lot of insight to offer on how to find the records and what information they may reveal.  It was a reminder of the wealth of information held in early town records, which I have heard before, and I think any difficult problem from these early New England towns could benefit from a reading of several years of town council records.

“Digging Up the Dirt on Your Farmer” by Lori Thornton came next, in which she reviewed a wide range of record sources for agricultural settings.  One resource that Lori mentioned, available in some libraries, is the Evans Early American Imprints.  Other sources mentioned included special census schedules, tax lists, patents, and sources for newspapers, particularly newspapers aimed at the farming community like “The Farmer’s Wife”.

Meanwhile, back in the exhibits, I purchased the first 11 volumes of the periodical “The Mayflower Descendant” for $11.  I visited the findmy past.com booth where I was able to search for records (in my case, from Surrey, England) on the laptop they had set up.  I also got a coupon for 40 credits which I can use at home to do some further searching, and decide about subscribing.

I loved this booth in the exhibits:

The Gravestone Girls make casts of actual gravestone art. Each piece comes with the details of the actual marker.

The Gravestone Girls make casts of actual gravestone art. Each piece comes with the details of the actual marker.

I think there would be many uses for these pieces, which were beautiful.

I think there would be many uses for these pieces, which were beautiful.

The day ended with dinner with two genealogists followed by a bloggers’ Special Interest Group meeting.  Many bloggers attended – some of whom I met for the first time.  Heather Rojo was very involved in planning the event, assisted by several long-time bloggers including Midge Frazel.  Some people new to blogging also showed up, with questions.  It was a very interesting session.

Marian Pierre-Louis and Heather Rojo before the blogging event

Marian Pierre-Louis and Heather Rojo before the blogging event

Saturday

On Saturday I was interested in the session “Immigration Records at the National Archives” presented by Jean Nudd. This was an area I am not very familiar with and since there are few records for Canadian immigration, I really only have one person I will be hunting for. I took many notes about resources to pursue.

Queries board in the Registration area

Queries board in the Registration area

I checked the Queries board one more time before leaving.  I would like to have attended the Saturday lunch, sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Association for Professional Genealogists which features tables on focused genealogical topics, for discussion, but I hadn’t been aware of it in advance, and didn’t purchase a ticket.

I think some of my discussions in between sessions and events were just as enlightening as the events themselves.  It was great to meet so many genealogists for the first time, and to catch up many genealogists I already know.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/04/18/at-the-nergc-conference/

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FGS 2012, Last Day

Today was my last day at the conference, although a few festivities will keep going until brunch on Sunday. I attended only one session.

J. Mark Lowe presented “Finding Your Civil War Ancestors.” I was surprised when he began with census records. If you believe your ancestor served in the war, he detailed strategies for compiling a record of the service.  He pointed out that there are a lot of incorrect or incomplete reports out there.   Next he looked through Civil War Soldiers and Sailors. Then he looked at pension records. Ancestry.com and Fold3.com contain similar but not identical index card sets for this.  Ancestry.com has some NARA lists of hospital deaths, prisoners of war, etc. He went quickly through many helpful resources. Like many presenters he recommended NUCMC or WorldCat for locating obscure documentation, and also a Civil War collection at LSU. I found his style to be very accessible and helpful.

The trip to the airport was fun because I met a representative from GRIP, the weeklong summer Institute located in Pittsburgh. We chatted about the program and I hope to make it one of these years.

My impressions of my first conference are that it was a wonderful experience and something that I will do again from time to time when I can. I met so many of my social “network” and so many bloggers. I learned a lot. I sent 22 pounds of books home and I look forward to reviewing the syllabus and to the arrival of the three sessions I purchased on mp3.  I am grateful for the many bloggers who welcomed me and became friends.  I can’t thank you enough.

 

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FGS 2012, Day Three

Thursday was Day Three at the Federation of Genealogy Societies 2012 conference in Birmingham, AL.

I began the day with an 8:00 session by Craig Scott called “Researching Your War of 1812 Ancestors.” Craig is a wonderful presenter, incredibly knowledgeable and interesting. I learned a lot about military records and the war itself. For those not attending Craig mentioned a Family Chronicle magazine publication with a similar title. Also he said military searches would benefit by consulting the NARA holdings on microfilm. Check out Archives.gov and the NARA finding aids. It’s very clear that Craig’s research benefits from his familiarity with the story of the war itself, something that few Americans can claim.

Allen County Public Library exhibit – FGS 2013 will be very close to the library!

Next was Dean Hunter presenting “Doing English Research in a Computer World.” I was interested because I have not yet tackled the problem of my gg-grandmother Catherine Youngs who arrived from Surrey around 1843, family unknown. Immediately I could see there are sites I wasn’t aware of. Sites covered included FindMyPast.co.uk (now covered by a newer FindMyPast.com product), FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, FreeBMD.org.uk, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, www.genuki.org.uk.

20120831-133007.jpg

The Fun Stuff booth in the exhibits

The third session was “Smiths and Joneses: How to Cope with Families of Common Names” with Elizabeth Shown Mills. I won’t attempt to summarize here since her work involves many important principles. Visit her web site to get some inspiration at www.EvidenceExplained.com.  She is planning to put up a QuickLesson 11 which contains an example used in the class.

Find My Past booth

At lunchtime I was attending the NARA luncheon. The topic was the 1940 census. I had not really noticed the topic in advance and was not looking forward to a droning PowerPoint going through the census column by column.  So I was rather delighted with the presentation from NARA archivist Constance Potter. She chatted knowledgeably about interesting stories that can be found in the census, the purposes and strategies behind the questions, and encouraged us to take a good look around at this 1940 snapshot of America.

Some nice people at the DAR booth in the exhibits

Next was Pamela Cooper presenting “Pensions of the Poor.” Pamela discussed some military pensions, early care of the poor and the gradual evolution of the idea of supporting mothers with dependent children: “Mothers’ Pensions.”  The biggest incentive for the state was the idea that work would distract single mothers, and children would be neglected and turn out badly. She also pointed out that the questions you see in the early 1900’s census (for women) about children born and children living were a way for the states to gauge, statistically, the situation of mothers prior to developing programs of support.  These programs began in many states in the early 1910s. They generally ended around 1935 when the federal Aid To Families With Dependent Children program began. Finding these state records can be difficult; see her web page for some known sets.

Book purchases so far. Maybe this is it?

The Extended Exhibit Hall Hours were tonight from 5 – 8.  Prizes were given out and it was a fun time.  sigh.  I didn’t win anything.

FGS President Pat Oxley offering some final prizes in the exhibits. Oh yes, those ARE cupcakes waiting to be served.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://wp.me/p1JmJS-Ln

Thank-You board offered by FamilySearch, signed by 1940 census Indexers.

The next post in this series is located here.

 

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I am at the Federation of Genealogy Societies 2012 conference. Yesterday was Day Two. I attended sessions and visited the exhibits.
The first session was with Thomas Jones, Finding “Unfindable” Ancestors. The room was huge, so I sat way up front where I would be able to see the speaker. As it turns out, I was sitting right behind him as he was waiting to begin, and we had a nice chat. I found his talk very interesting; he stressed the point that you need to go on the assumption your mystery will be solved, and in most cases, probably not by finding one record that proves everything. He pointed out many areas along the way where you may have made a false assumption, missed something because you felt it was unimportant, been misled by records, books or stories, neglected to assemble partial clues. Often, in-depth perusals of surrounding folks will be needed to solve a mystery.

The Exhibits opened at 9:45 and I looked through them a couple of times. There were organizations I’m very familiar with:

New England Historic Genealogical Society Booth – I purchased the new Winthrop Fleet book.

And some booths for organizations I’m not familiar with:

American Civil War Ancestors

I found vendors for a couple of new products that I’d like to try out and see if I can make a good report on.

My lunch featured a talk by Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Walkabouts and Chicken Men: Tales of the U.S. Census Taker.” She has previously worked as a census taker, and her talk featured highlights of her experiences and focused on the difficult work of the census taker over the centuries, and the challenges of that role, in a humorous way. I really enjoyed it, and met a nice genealogist at my table.

The next session was with Laura Prescott, on “Treasures Within The Ivory Tower, Finding Ancestors in Academic Archives.” Laura has had some good fortune finding details about her ancestors in academic archives, and gave an interesting overview of how to find the online catalogs and finding aids, how to approach the archives staff, and pointed out that there are many, many reasons why material might exist there even if your ancestors had no connection to the college. It is an interesting idea that I will definitely be pursuing. For those who would like to “try this from home”, go to a college site near where your ancestors were, or where later generations may have been, and look for library special collections or archives. It’s not as unusual as you might think to actually find a “genealogy” link within special collections, giving you an overview of the collection from a genealogist’s perspective.

The last session was by Amy Crow onTaking Great Tombstone Photos Without Breaking the Bank. She stressed the proper use of any camera – larger resolution sizes, control of the flash, a spare memory card, proper distance from the object being photographed, and zooming. She also had practical tips on the composition of the photographs themselves, including lighting. One audience member offered a tip that foil car windshield reflectors can make a handy light reflector in a cemetery.

The evening was spent at the Find My Past party; karaoke was involved, and hopefully details and film are not making the rounds of Facebook and YouTube.

The post you are reading is located at: http://wp.me/p1JmJS-KS

The next post in this series is located here.

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I am attending the Federation of Genealogy Societies Conference in Birmingham, Alabama this week.  Day One, Wednesday, was mostly devoted to society sessions and activities.  While interesting, I thought 2-1/2 days of genealogy sessions would be overwhelming enough, so I made other plans.

I hoped to go to the nearby Linn-Henley Research Building at the Birmingham Public Library and pursue some research on my ancestors that spent some time in Tuscaloosa before the Civil War.   I also hoped to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute if I could manage it.  In many ways, the Civil Rights Institute would be a very personal family history journey since my parents took part in several aspects of the civil rights movement.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

So I spent the morning at the Civil Rights Institute.  Once inside, no pictures are allowed.  I learned the story of the struggle for basic human rights that took place in the deep south over a period of 400 years, from slavery into its aftermath.  Birmingham was, famously and tragically, an extreme example of oppression and hatred based on race.  Government, controlled by whites after Reconstruction, made sure to use the law to legitimize the customs they preferred.   Basic rights of citizens, such as voting, were denied to many blacks in the south.  After World War II, what was unacceptable became unbearable.  Nowhere, perhaps, was the struggle more difficult or monumental than Birmingham.  It is no wonder that Birmingham was the focus of many efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King.

And Birmingham had its own powerful leaders in the fight, including Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. The struggle fought issue by issue, for voting, riding buses, eating in restaurants, getting government jobs, education … without the federal government stepping in at many times, and the efforts of attorney Thurgood Marshall to make that happen, success would have been in serious doubt.

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

As I learned more about the civil rights activities of the early 1960’s I felt a deep connection to the struggle that was playing out in the exhibit.  My mom had participated in several of those events.  My parents had a vision about the world and tried to live it (still do, in fact).  My memories of those years include, as a 5 or 6 year old, looking at the news on our black and white television with my brothers and sister “looking for mommy,” to see if we could see her in any of the large crowds.  As I stood in the museum I was that little girl again, looking for mom in the 20 foot image of the March on Washington, or the pictures of protesters in buses.

What I hadn’t expected was that as I was looking at images from 1963, I was also wondering about my family’s history of 1863 when some of my northern family spent about 20 years in Tuscaloosa.  I thought of my great great grandmother Emma Lamphere, who was a little girl during the civil war and experienced the hatred and violence of that era.  Could she ever have pictured her great granddaughter (my mom) returning to Alabama 100 years later to help to bring some peace and justice to those that (I suspect) Emma felt should be oppressed and marginalized?  Legacies are never as simple as we would like them to be.  I had to admit that I have connections to both sides of this dreadful fight.

I left the museum newly determined to learn more about the Tuscaloosa portion of my family history.  I passed the 16th Street Baptist Church, site of one of the many Birmingham bombings of places used for civil rights gatherings, and Kelly Ingram Park, where young protesters were treated brutally by Birmingham police in 1963.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, site of one of the many Birmingham bombings. Although many will remember that four Birmingham girls were killed that day, fewer know that two teenage boys were killed by gunfire on the same day, one by a policeman and one, randomly, by a white teenager who was sentenced to six months in prison. No one was brought to justice for the bombing until 40 years later.

I arrived at the Linn-Henley Research Building at the Birmingham Public Library around noon and spent the afternoon there.  If any FGS attendees were missing from the conference, they were surely here.  The rooms were filled with researchers.

Linn-Henley Research Building at the Birmingham Public Library

There were more Alabama resources there than I had ever seen.  Shelves and shelves of local histories, some of them privately published or reprints of university theses. There were several large sets of compiled indices that I had only heard of, never seen before.  I spent hours looking through them.  I turned up very little directly about my family, other than some evidence of Confederate Soldier service by two of my gg-grandmother’s brothers.  But I was able to photograph an entire hundred-page book containing three accounts of the 1865 experience of the city of Tuscaloosa, for examination later.  With little direct evidence to go on, I will start the real research with learning about Tuscaloosa.

The main reading room at the Linn-Henley Research Library

All in all, I wonder if my visit to the Civil Rights Institute didn’t teach me more about my family history than any library could.  That, and meeting up with my fellow bloggers, who I am now realizing can be reliably found in the hotel bar each night.  Those conversations were wonderful.

The post you are reading is located here:  http://wp.me/p1JmJS-KN

Now, on to conference sessions!  The next post in this series is found here.

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