17 May 2012

NGS Conference 2012 - Day 2

Although this was the second day of the conference, it was our first full day and what a day it was!  My head was swimming with so much information and I was itching to put it all to use.  But with two more days of the conference to go, there was no way to start applying all this wonderful knowledge...it had to wait until I got home.

My first session on Thursday, May 10, was "Gateway to the West: Researching in Ohio" presented by Diane VanSkiver Gagel. Some highlights I learned were: (1) indentures can be from counties other than where they were working; (2) Ohio cannot deny records because they have an open record policy; (3) you can take your own digital equipment to the Recorder's Office to copy records; (4) inactive voter registrations are good for locating naturalization records; (5) tax records will give you a yearly census of land owners; (6) soldiers did not have to file discharge papers--it was voluntary; (7) probate court was established in 1850; and (8) the State Auditor's website has a free e-book "The Official Ohio Lands Book" available on their website.

Next was "Indexes! Indexes! Indexes! How to Find the People Who Don't Seem to be There" presented by Elizabeth Shown Mills. First, I have to say that Ms. Mills is a wonderful speaker and if you haven't seen her in person, you're missing out! She discussed some basic principals, such as, an index is not a record and for every problem there is a solution--if you understand the problem. She also stressed to slow down! When looking at indexes, you must be diligent in reading and interpreting what has been misread or mistyped. There are nine basic problems when using indexes which include erratic spelling, dialects, record destruction, clerical laziness and human error. Ms. Mills also listed specific strategies when using indexes such as: slow down (can't say it too many times), study indexes for composition and arrangement, and if a surname if unknown look for clusters of given names. She ended the session discussing some common errors and substitutions.

"Navigating the NARA Branches" by Julie Miller was next. NARA's website is www.archives.gov. NARA administers the regional archives which houses collections that are historically significant and permanent and are free and open to the public. The types of records available are: microfilm, files, electronic, maps, photographs, and drawings. When you are preparing for your visit, you need to make a plan which includes: (1) what you looking for; (2) what type of record is it; (3) where was it recorded; (4) when was it created (generally); and (5) where are the records located. The website has a a guide to assist you in research at the National Archives.  The guide is available in a three volume set or you can visit the website which gets updated more often and is searchable. Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

The fourth session of the day was "Red Herrings and a Stroke of the Dead Palsy: Analyzing and Correlating Evidence" presented by Stefani Evans. This was a BCG Skillbuilding Session about analysis and evidence.  Start with: (1) what I know; (2) what I want to know; and (3) develop a research plan to form your hypotheses.  Its easiest to make a table of the various information gleaned, isolate the units of information, analyze each item, and identify sources.  Always weigh the integrity of the source and identify the source type (original or derivative); information type (primary or secondary); and the type of evidence (direct or indirect).  Refer to BCG Standard 20 for more information.

The last session of the day was "Assumptions: A Genealogical Slippery Slope" by Claire Bettag.  The BCG Standard 28 presents three basic types of assumptions: fundamental, valid and unsound.  Do not presume information is accurate, regardless of appearances or, as Ms. Bettag put it, "assumptions allow the best in life to pass us by."  Some highlights I gleaned from this session were: sworn statements can be fraud; no one source is good - get as many sources as you can; look at all possibilities; negative evidence is no evidence at all; and evidence must directly answer the question asked.

Keep watching for the remaining two days.

Your friend,

View from our hotel

NGS Conference 2012 - Day 1

I attended my first national genealogy conference -- the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Conference from May 9-12, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  My friend and I were so excited to attend a national conference, especially since it was in our home state.  We were not disappointed!  At first, it was a little overwhelming because there were 8 to 10 sessions during each time slot to choose from and so much information to absorb.

I'd like to use this blog to write about the conference and the sessions I attended as a way for me to recap some of what I learned and to share it with you.  Since there were five sessions each day and the conference was four days long, I'll write blogs for each day.

The Vendor Hall

Wednesday was the first day of the conference and since we were driving, we missed the morning sessions.  The first session I attended was "Using Excel to Create Time Lines" by Robert Raymond. Mr. Raymond discussed using a vertical time line, the XY Scatter Graph, and Stacked Bar Charts.  The session was good, but since I'm already familiar with Excel, I didn't get too much out of the session. 

Next was "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: The Evidence Presented Clearly Shows..." by Barbara Vines Little. This session was a BCG skillbuilding lecture about writing proof summaries and arguments.  Very important -- never rely on a single record!  She discussed two styles of proof summaries (list and narrative), proof arguments, and writing the proof summary.  A proof statement allows you to summarize all the evidence and evaluate each item against previous assumptions.  Narrative allows you to explain both the record and the evidence.  Writing proof summaries requires that you know what you want to prove, that you have clear, definable proof, and that you present your summary in a clear, succinct and thorough document statement.  Ms. Vines Little also covered the BCG Evidence-Evaluation Standards (which is 19-34).

Hope this blog was helpful to you and you'll read my write-ups of the remaining days at NGS.

Your friend,