Saturday, April 23, 2011

New England Regional Genealogical Conference 2011

New England Regional Genealogical Conference 2011

From April 7th to the 9th we attended the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC). This conference is held every two years somewhere in New England. This year it was held in Springfield, Massachusetts. There were about 800 registered for the conference and it seemed to be well organized. The sessions were held in two different hotels across the road from each other. This meant there could be lots of walking between sessions. The marketplace itself was quite small and compact.

We received the syllabus in advance as a PDF file on our email but as part of the registration we also asked for one print copy and one copy on CD. Our Hotel was interesting in that the rooms were in a triangle around an open central area (12 stories high). It was a bit scary to look down on the registration area on the 2nd floor from the 9th floor!

The Opening Session was given by D. Joshua Taylor, Director of Education at NEHGS, and was titled Exploring New Paths to Your Roots: Genealogy`s Next Generation. He gave a fat moving talk which was greatly enjoyed by the many of the 800 people who attended this conference. He looked at Facebook, Wiki, Geneabloggers, Family Search Wiki and Who Do You Think You Are. He emphasized what you can already see at the Conferences - not everyone is grey haired! There were a lot of young people at this conference. They were sitting there with their Ipads going to the sites that he mentioned and tweeting to those who did not have the good fortune to be in the lecture. He also mentioned that the new face of genealogy is people researching just the ancestors that interested them and ignoring the rest. Research will use global resources, and will be undefined by age, gender or nationality, with digital end products.

For my first session on Thursday I chose a talk by Scott Andrew Bartley, Tracking A moving Target: Sources to Identify Your Ancestors and Where they Lived. This was a case study in which he talked about the usual sources that one would use to research an ancestor. He also talked about direct vs. indirect proofs and primary vs. secondary proofs. He also talked about widening the search to sibling, children and their descendants, because one does not know where the one piece of evidence one needs to break down a brick wall will be found. A good basic talk.

My second session was a talk by Richard L Kimball, Pathways Between New England and Nova Scotia. This was of more interest as he talked about the history and the various waves of settlers coming to Nova Scotia. Natives, Acadian, Foreign Protestants, New England Planters, Scots/Irish, United Empire Loyalists and Hessian Soldiers. Land and sea travel were of utmost importance and motivations were discussed.

The third session was a talk by Craig Roberts Scott, The Impact of Bounty Land on Migration Within and Out of New England. This speaker was quite interesting as he had a 15 or 20 minute question period before his talk. He fielded diverse questions and always provided an answer. Very opinionated!. It was during this per-talk session that he mentioned about using a source such as The Burpee Seed Catalogue to determine where your farming family might have settled after leaving their home. The seed catalogue of course provides information on planting zones.
He pointed out that across history governments have awarded bounty lands to soldiers for service rendered. This land is usually granted outside of their own state or country. US sources can be found in State and Federal archives.

The marketplace or they say the exhibit hall opened at 6 p.m.. We were fortunate to attend as there were a number of family associations who were there that evening but not for the remainder of the conference.

In the evening, there were some special interest groups offered and I headed off a Connecticut Research session. They did talk about Connecticut sources such as the Connecticut State Library, the Connecticut Society of Genealogists (which I joined), the Connecticut Historical Society (needs to be investigated), town histories, the Barbour Collection and the Hale tombstone collection and a state wide index of probates as well as other items. All of interest for finding my New England ancestors. A Foote Family Association was there and I talked to them briefly and will probably join the association. My ancestor here is Nathaniel Foote who married Elizabeth Deming. They immigrated to the New England Colonies in the 1630s and were at Wethersfield Connecticut.

Friday was a full day. Between the morning and afternoon sessions we had about 2 1/2 hours to visit marketplace and have lunch. We had not purchased lunches and this provided a bit of a challenge but we managed.

My first session of the day was a talk by Colleen Fitzpatrick, Genealogy & the Six Degrees of Separation. Her specialty is forensic genealogy or how to find people. While the topic is of interest and she mentioned many sources that she uses, the talk itself was about cases where she found various people. She also said that while there used to be on the average six steps required to find a person, with new technology available the number of steps has now been reduced to three.

The second session was a talk by David Quimette, Discovering Old-World Origins from US Records. This talk had great content where he talked about what pushed people to leave home and what promises their new home offered. He covered all of the main research sources.
He also put forward the Ten Rules of Immigrant Research:
- Expand the circle of people you research
- Correlate evidence and explain discrepancies
- Use timelines to correlate evidence and find gaps
- Consult published genealogies and local libraries
- Question assumptions and family legends
- Expand circle of records you consult
- Draw conclusions gleaned from multiple records
- Draw upon local and ethnic sources
- Anticipate and manage spelling issues
- Use maps and gazetteers to see where they lived.

A real genealogist can always find another record!

My third session of the day was a talk by John Philip Colletta, Erie Canal Genealogy: The Peopling of Upstate New York and the Midwest. While John is usually an interesting speaker, this was not one of his better talks. However he did mention records which are available that document the canal workers and the business and the commercial travellers and the immigrants who used the canal. The canal did provide a ready path for people moving west.

My fourth session of the day after visiting marketplace and having lunch was a talk by Nora Galvin, Where Have All the People Gone? Migration Out of Connecticut before 1850. This talk had good content. She talked about what motivated people to leave (religion, politics, family, etc.), what prevented them from leaving (geographic, political), where could they go (barriers, wars HBC), how did they go (water and land), right to land (purchase, possession) etc.

The last or fifth session of the day was a talk by Michael J. Leclerc (NEHGS), Western Massachusetts Migration. This talk had good content. He talked about the settling of New England and the expansion to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Long Island and New York. Settlements were mostly along waterways. with the coming of roads and canals settlement expanded to new areas. After the Revolution land boundaries were settled and new lands were opened for settlement. He also discussed the usual records which can be consulted. His finishing remarks included:
- Look far and wide for resources you may not have looked for!
- No one roams alone!
- Look at connections!

Saturday lectures for me started with a talk by Mary Ann Boyle, Where Did They Go? Following the Paths of New Englanders Who Left New England. She is a commercial searcher and her talk was semi-interesting. She did talk about harvesting data by time, place and source. She emphasized using national databases and using new technologies such as e-mail, blogs, family associations and other innovative sources to find people. One of her techniques is to harvest data, that is collect everything on the subject and analyze the data. Widen a search to sibling, family, friends and neighbours. Use the traditional research sources as well as electronic databases and new technologies.

The second session of the day was a talk by Janis P. Duffy, Using Collateral Lines to Grow Your Family Tree. She talked about her FAN Club, that is consult Family, Associates and Neighbours. Mine documents for all information.

The third session of the day was a talk by Sandra MacLean Clunies, Where is Great-Grandma Hiding? Finding Forgotten Females. She covered the usual research sources and added studying the men in her life.

The fourth session was a talk by Cherry Fletcher Bamberg, Roads Back to Rhode Island. This talk had good content. She covered a lot of Rhode Island history, and things that determine where our ancestors settled such as geography, faith groups, wars etc. Many types of records are available such as town, county, colony, church, maritime and gravestones.

The last session of the day and conference for me was a talk by David Quimette, Digitizing the Records in the Granite Mountain. This was a general talk about how Family Search is systematically digitizing records from the Granite Mountain Records vault in Utah. He gave a brief history of the vault and the digitizing efforts worldwide.

Saturday evening we did go to the Banquet where John Philip Colletta, PhD spoke on Hacks and Hookers and Putting Up Pickles: Snares of Yesteryear's English. His talk was humorous and enjoyed by all present. The banquet was excellent and we learned that we were to be treated to breakfast in the morning.

Sunday morning breakfast was quite pleasant and included a visit by The Cat in the Hat from the Dr. Zeus museum in Springfield. We then headed off to the remainder of our trip which involved staying at the Deerfield Inn, Deerfield, Mass. overnight. My ancestors Benjamin Burt and Sarah Beldin lived there and were taken captive in the French and Indian raid of Feb. 29th, 1704 and marched to Quebec. They were returned to Mass. about two years later with my ancestor Seaborn Burt being born on the return trip.

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