The Federation of Genealogical Societies conference for 2015 took place last week in Salt Lake City, Utah, alongside the Rootstech Conference. I arrived on Sunday so I could get several days in at the Family History Library. I never registered for Rootstech because I knew I couldn’t fit in time at the library and TWO conferences. I was really looking forward to checking out the Exhibits for new and improved products.
As it turns out, I barely went to sessions, partly because a foot problem made it easier to stay in the library and partly because it was a little overwhelming to navigate the conference crowds (over 20,000 Rootstech attendees during the first few days, I heard). I heard wonderful things about many sessions both at FGS and RootsTech. The keynote speakers and special events were widely talked about. So I spent most of the week at the library although it was nice to see genea-friends at other times.
I visited the Exhibits several times. There were many companies represented, and I enjoyed looking around. Not as many books as I would have liked, and I only bought two, plus some copies of Going In-Depth, the new genealogy magazine.
There were several vendors that I enjoyed talking to:
- I guess I am some kind of microfilm geek because I had a long talk with the ScanPro 3000 vendor. The 3000 allows you to scan MULTIPLE pages with one command (swoon), allows for upload to the cloud, and interacts enough with OCR technology to allow you to do some searching on the screen. I was impressed and I hope these become widely used in libraries. They are a step ahead, for sure, but still maintain the easy to use menus and buttons genealogists are used to.
- This busy booth, GenealogyWallCharts.com, allowed guests to access their family tree and have a beautiful chart printed on the spot, ready to take home. I was impressed.
- I was also impressed that Family Tree DNA set up a large booth and had many employees sit with many, many customers over the course of the conference fielding questions and comments. DNA testing is confusing, and I thought this was the perfect approach.
I had prepared for months ahead of time by building a workbook of research plans for the Family History Library. I concentrated mostly on capturing microfilm records. I would say before the conference the library was just about at capacity, though not so far beyond capacity that it was impossible to get things done. Once the conference started, traffic in the library slowed way down.
With workbook in hand, I approached the library early Monday morning and waited in line. Worried about crowds, I found a microfilm machine I liked on the second floor and settled in. Over the course of five days, I managed to complete my entire workbook.
I have to say my experience with the workbook (and the amount of thinking and planning needed to prepare it) served me very well at the library, keeping me focused and productive.
I examined the following over the course of five days and recorded about 650 images:
- The (Rhode Island) Andrews genealogy prepared in 1915
- Manuscripts of work on the early Rhode Island Sweet families
- Probate records for Joseph Arnold, d.1819, and other Joseph Arnolds
- Early Rhode Island court record index pages for various names
- Probate, cemetery, vital, and property records from Coventry, Rhode Island, looking for Phillip Andrews
- Bristol County, Mass probate records for two people
- The several versions of an index for Christening records from Southwark, England, looking for my 4th gr-grandfather James Lawrence
- Marriage records from St. Mary’s, Lambeth, England, for James and Elizabeth Lawrence
- Pictou County, Nova Scotia Estate files, looking for Robert Murdock
- Early Westerly, Rhode Island town, land and probate records, looking for the original Lamphere and Tefft lands
- A map of George Lamphere’s property division among his children, circa 1731
- Later Westerly probate records, looking for Tefft or Minor
- Preston, Connecticut church records, looking for Minors
- Two early Norwich, Conn. city directories, looking for Lampheres and Andrews
- Tuscaloosa, Ala. property records, looking for Russell Lamphere or his partner, Wm B. Murrell. Also probate for Murrell
- Norwich District probate (Conn.) for Elisha Minor of Preston
- Norwich, Conn. property records looking for Andrews and Lampheres
- A rare Cranston, R.I. city directory from 1895, looking for occupants of a house on Blackmore Street where I know calling hours were held in 1898
- Hampden County, Mass. court records
- Kings County, Nova Scotia Court of Probate records looking for early Coldwells, Martins and Grahams
- Early Wrentham, Mass. land grants
- Early Sudbury, Mass records related to the Browns
- any compiled genealogy work on the Sudbury Browns
- Northbridge, Mass town council records from 1867
- about a dozen books related to these same issues
I will be working for the rest of the winter on the documents that I found, and recording the unsuccessful searches, too.
The most important thing that happened
Amidst the hoopla and excitement that week, I was reminded of what is really important about family history. I never really started this journey to locate cousins, but as every genealogist knows, it does happen sometimes. After my dad’s DNA test a few months ago, I was contacted by a second cousin. She and I share great grandparents, Torquil and Sarah (MacLean) MacLean of Englishtown, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Torquil and Sarah had five daughters followed by six sons. Their children scattered all over Canada and the U.S., and so their grandchildren and great grandchildren never had a chance to know each other.
My second cousin, Jo-Anne, lives in Orem, Utah. So when I told her I would be in town during Rootstech, she said that she and her husband would be happy to meet me. I went to lunch with Jo-Anne and Brent on Friday. Jo-Anne is an only child, the daughter of two only children. She has no cousins, and essentially no living relatives outside of her own children and grandchildren, and her husband’s large family.
It was just so great to meet her. She and her husband couldn’t be nicer, and I enjoyed my time with them so much. Jo-Anne brought some old pictures and allowed me to scan them with my Flip-Pal portable scanner. We looked at all the pictures and talked about the memories they brought up, of things we have been told over the years.
When Jo-Anne turned to the page with the photographs of Torquil and Sarah MacLean that I have seen all my life, I had a feeling I seldom experience in genealogy. Put DNA aside, put records aside, when she showed me those photos, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that we were family. Her copies were superior to ours – her family had originals and our photos, I recall, were copies made in the 1960’s and given to my father. But both families treasured those photos for many years.
Torquil and Sarah lost some children during their lifetimes, particularly Sarah, who had one son left out of six by the time of her death in 1940. It was this rather tragic story that influenced my grandmother, after the untimely death of her husband, to NOT return to Nova Scotia, where dangerous occupations were the norm at the time. She wanted her children to be safe and live long, productive lives (which they absolutely continue to do). But I don’t think Torquil and Sarah would really want to be remembered that way. If their great grandchildren befriend each other, I think that would be a much more fitting legacy.
Jo-Anne has already brought a lot of happiness to my family by unearthing a picture of my grandparents, Jack MacLean and Josie MacLeod, apparently just prior to their marriage. No other such picture of them exists; I am making copies and mailing them to my father and his siblings.
I have started a MacLean web page where I will do my best to arrange the stories and pictures (or links to such things) that come my way from Torquil and Sarah’s descendants.
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