My second day started with Creating Maine Towns: The Process and the Records with Carol Prescott McCoy.
Carol loves Maine and it showed during her presentation about Maine town records and all of the interesting things that can be found in them, including historical events (earthquakes), first settlers (and their families), and town laws (where not to cut wood), among many other things.
Many towns were created from other towns so be aware of these divisions and the many name changes that happened.
Between 1689-1713, there were only three permanent settlements that were continually inhabited: York, Kittery and Wells. 1713 was when there was more of an effort to increase settlement in Maine.
Carol covered the variety of typical town officers, which included tithingmen, hog reeves, and fence viewers. There were also Highway Surveyors, who had to make sure the town's roads were passable (think spring mud season).
She also explained where a researcher has to go to find these records (i.e. specific Maine towns). After listening to Carol, I want to go visit Litchfield, Buckfield, Norridgewock, Calais and Lee, Maine (among others) to explore their town records and see what goodies I can find on my Maine ancestors!
The next session I attended was Don't Forget The Ladies: A Genealogist's Guide to Women and the Law with Judy G. Russell
Of course, I couldn't pass up hearing Judy speak again. She started this talk by explaining that the law that was brought to New England from "Old" England, Common Law, was set up by men and for men. Early American laws regarding marriage, divorce, custody of children, contracts, inheritance, criminal law (e.g. fornication), property acts, citizenship, naturalization, and voting rights, were much more favorable to men than to women. She shared many specific examples of what we would now call "sexist" laws.
Judy then went on to tell us about finding the legal records of women, showing what can be found. For example, divorce records, probate and estate records, land records and other court records can tell a researcher a great deal about women. Again, there can be differences based on the rights of women in different states.
There are also some sad stories to be found. One of the examples she shared was that of a coroner's report on a woman's suicide that turns out to have happened about a week after her son's drowning death. Judy noted that researchers should read more than just the one record.
Summary: If you ever get a chance to hear Judy speak, just go.
After lunch with genealogists, I heard Western Frontier Settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colony 1635-1710 with Dwight E. Fitch.
This was a presentation about the early Massachusetts settlements along the Connecticut River valley and the effects of the conflicts on the settlers of these communities by using the family of Dwight's ancestor Henry Burt as an example. The time period covered was 1635-1710, and although he mentioned few specific family names, he did mention my ancestor Samuel Chapin, one of the founders of Springfield (where NERGC will be held in 2017).
Dwight spent quite a bit of time covering the various wars and conflicts during this period. Although I knew that this was considered frontier at the time, I had forgotten how many conflicts there were during this early period in western Massachusetts and how they affected the immigrant Europeans who were trying to settle there.
I have colonial ancestors on both my mother's side and my father's side that go back to the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts, so I found it helpful to hear more about the history of this region.
Make Those Skeletons Dance: Exploring Your Family's Dark Side with Lisa A. Alzo.
Okay, the title pulled me into this session! (And I had heard Lisa a couple of years ago, so I knew she was good.) Lisa noted that this is a fun talk for her to give as well as an informative one. It was about how to discover, process, and write about these "black sheep" ancestors.
She said to be sure to keep looking for sources and additional information to confirm those family stories. Sometimes it will be years before you'll find something that you're looking for to confirm or disprove the details of the dirt in family stories.
Some suggestions that Lisa gave included: when doing cemetery research, don't stop at the photo of the gravestone, be sure to call the cemetery office and get any burial information that they can provide. (I had luck with this strategy in Chicago here.) Coroner's reports and newspapers also can be a wealth of information.
Lisa also gave advice on how to handle sensitive information, which I do keep in mind as I share family stories on my blogs.
Playing Hide-and-Seek with Ancestors in City Directories with Laura G. Prescott
Although I have attended lectures about finding ancestors in city directories before, I do love city directories and wanted to hear Laura speak.
Laura went into detail about what researchers should be looking for in a city directory, from the introduction, which might include a history of the town, the abbreviations used, to the advertisements that can often be found throughout the the directory. She encouraged researchers to browse the city directories we find. Sometimes they include an "official death register" somewhere in the city directory, which can be a treasure.
Referring to an earlier lecture she had given about the use of timelines, Laura strongly encouraged us to use a spreadsheet or table to keep track of where we find an ancestor over time, keeping track of what the source was (Census, directory, vital record), the address, and the occupation of the ancestor.
She shared some big websites where we can find city directories online: Fold3.com and Ancestry.com and provided several tips and tricks on searching the city directories on these websites. She also noted that CyndisList.com is a good resource for finding other online city directories.
Readers of my blog will know that I enjoy sharing what I find in city directories. I will continue to spend time researching my ancestors in city directories; this helps to fill in the blanks in my ancestors' lives.
I attended the evening banquet, where there was more opportunity to "talk genealogy" with friends, new and old, and to hear Josh Taylor speak about Family History in Popular Culture, where he shared all the places where you will find reference to genealogy. This includes online (think Walt Disney's Donald Duck family tree), in TV shows, in movies, and at ancestry.com where you can find family trees that include Harry Potter's family, and Homer Simpson's family. The audience enjoyed this talk!
Update: Read my review of NERGC Day 3.