Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NGS Conference In Review - Day 3

I swear!  Since returning home I have been inundated with general stupidity.  It's the end of the school year so it's time for the final award ceremony for Cub Scouts, a final PTA event, and then immediately after the kids get out of school...Cub Scout Day Camp.  I bet you'll never guess who's a key player in those.  Aaargh!

It looks like I just have to tread water until mid-June and then I may not feel like I'm sinking any longer.  Either way the conference did nothing but keep my motivation up to get out from under this volunteerism that keeps biting me in the behind.  So on that note, I'll continue with day 3 of the conference!

Jenn Woods, Alison Stacy, me and Ellie Woods (Jenn's daughter)
On Friday I spent the entire day between the BCG Skillbuilding track and the Methodology and Research classes, and I loved it!  I also got to meet Alison Stacy from Family Tree Magazine and the "Naked Cowboy's" dad (long story, which I will get to in another blog).  It was very excited to be able to finally meet the Family Tree Magazine staff.  I love the magazine, the podcasts, and it was great to be able to put faces with the names and voices! And, of course, I had to whip out the camera and ask for a Kodak moment!

8am - "Reporting the Facts:  Record as You Go" presented by Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL - a very big take-away from this class is that whether you are a genealogist doing your own research or a genealogist being paid to do someone else's, don't feel guilty about taking time to write your reports.  They are an essential part of your research and need to be completed in a timely manner (and "on the clock").  After all the reports are a very important part of what the client is getting!  The reports are going to help explain to your descendants what all these files you bothered saving actually say and how you came to your conclusions!  If you write as you conduct research the majority will be done apart from some tweaking.  The hardest part is to get in the habit of doing just that.  The class was more in depth than that and we were shown how to generate a Table of Contents, Index, Footnotes, etc to make our reports look more professional.  It may sound boring, but it wasn't and this class was excellent.

9:30am - "Helen F.M. Leary Distinguished Lecture - The Genealogical Proof Standard:  What It Is and What it Is Not" presented by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS - If you've been following the other bloggers that attended the NGS conference, I'm certainly that you heard that Tom Jones' lectures are a cannot miss...that is 100% true!  If you ever get to hear him present, don't pass it up!  As I mentioned, I took a class on what a "reasonably exhaustive search" is and that theme does not go away in many of these classes.  It can't.  It's essential.  If you are just looking at an abstract or a transcript of a document, you need to stop and find that original (or the closest thing to the original as possible).  Abstracts and transcripts can be WRONG!  Human error.  Seriously, we type or blogs and by the time we get to the end there are mistakes.  Well, if someone is making an abstract/transcription, they are subject to the same human error.  If they are making a lot of them, how soon do you think it would take before you're going blind on paperwork?  Cite your sources (another element that is pounded into us and needs to be) and make sure that your work is clear, concise, and cited so that someone else can repeat it and hopefully agree with your conclusions.  The standards are laid out quite nicely in the BCG Standards Manual.  It really is an essential book even if you aren't considering certification.  It helps you make sure that you've done all you can and that the conclusions you are coming to are the best and most accurate they can be!

11am - "Kinship Determination:  Are They Really My Ancestors?" presented by Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, CGL - I'm so glad this class wasn't given after lunch or someone would have had to douse me with water to wake me up.  I felt like I was back in the Army and felt like I should probably stand up and move to the back of the room so as to not fall asleep.  I didn't do it, but staying awake was hard.  To sum up...I took absolutely no notes in this class.  I was afraid I would drool on my notebook...

2:30pm - "Speaking from the Grave: Exploring Probate Files" presented by Sharon Tate Moody, CG - Confession time.  I never ordered a probate file.  I naively figured that since my ancestors were fairly poor that it wouldn't be worth my time.  Yes...I'm a dumbass!  It never even crossed my mind that if I ordered my 3rd great grandfather's probate file that it might name his siblings in America (that I believe, but cannot confirm, lived in Pittsburgh) or their children.  It has the potential of revealing so much information when you think that you are at a dead end.  The motivation I felt leaving this class is almost indescribable!  Just keep in mind that even if your ancestors died intestate (without a will), if they had property (and I'm not just talking about land) it had to be taken care of.  That's not to say that everyone had a probate file, but you will most likely found that in more cases than not, there is one, so why not check!  Ms. Moody recommends a legal dictionary/source book to use when researching and the older the better!  Remember, we care about those old outdated definitions and how things used to be done.  Also, when looking at an ancestor's probate, make sure you understand what the laws of the time and region were regarding inheritance.  It may explain some odd things you come across in the packet!

4pm - "Building Better Citations" presented by Alison Hare, CG - I know...classes on citations probably excite you about as much as writing citations, but that doesn't mean that we can ignore them.  It's important that we learn to do them, do them as we research, and do them right!  Footnotes are preferable because if someone is reading your research they should be able to check the citation at the bottom of the page and not be continuously flipping to the back.  It was noted that endnotes are fine for citing your own family's research.  Naturally, Evidence Explained (affiliate link) was mentioned as the source to have. If you don't own a copy, why don't you?  Elisabeth Shown Mills has put together an excellent guide that will show you how to cite almost every possible resource we as genealogists would come across.  Ms. Hare makes some excellent points including the fact that the more you cite, the easier it will become.  Yes, you will have to check the book until you get used to citations, but they will come to you eventually and "click".  You will understand how they flow and be able to write them out like a pro with practice.  In the meantime, don't be afraid to make mistakes!

Friday the 13th was actually a pretty good day at NGS!


  1. Been there as the over-committed volunteer - cookie mom and room mother on top of full-time job - yup, it's stupidity. But it will get better one day. And you are absolutely correct on Thomas Jones - so much to learn from his presentations!

  2. I have to totally ditto Greta's comment on both points! If I can't hear Thomas Jones speak in person, I'm ordering his recordings.