|View of Providence from Prospect Park|
I chose to take a break from attending sessions (and the weather was beautiful), so my third day started with a walk up College Hill which was near my hotel and the Convention Center. At right is a photo I took from Prospect Park towards downtown Providence.
Following are descriptions of the sessions I attended on this third and last day of NERGC 2015.
Navigating A Billion+ Hidden Records on FamilySearch with Robert Raymond was my first session of the day.
Using an example from his own family research, he showed how to use what he referred to as "hidden collections" on FamilySearch.org to find the will of his ancestor who lived and died in the 19th century. He used many screen shots from FamilySearch to show how to navigate this free website. He covered indexes, original records versus transcriptions, and what to look for once a researcher is exploring a particular collection. (i.e. be sure to click on "learn more" when looking at the information page for a collection.)
Also using his example, he reminded us that when we find a will, we need to follow the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) to ensure that we have found the right person. (Same name doesn't always equal same person!) Because using the index within these "hidden" collections is so important, Robert spent quite a bit of time sharing examples of the variety of indexes that can be found in these online collections, as well as how to navigate through the images rather than clicking "next" and viewing every image.
This was a very useful session for any user of the FamilySearch.org website.
Roadblocks, Red Lights and Detours: Records Access for Genealogists with Judy Russell was the luncheon topic. She spoke about the limits on vital records that our government often tries to impose, without evaluating the consequences. She shared several examples of restrictive laws that have recently been implemented in various states.
For example, in some locations, you cannot have access to a record unless you are the subject of that record. (Think about that...for a death record…)
She encouraged the attendees to be familiar with RPAC (the Records and Preservation Access Committee) where you can learn about the status of pending legislation and where you should provide information when you find out about proposed limits to records in your home state.
There was also mention of the Preserve the Pensions Fund. Click here to find out more and to donate.
Rhode Island's East Bay: a Case Study in Border and Identity Shifts with Nathaniel Lane Taylor
In 1862 the border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts was changed to its current border. This border had been highly disputed for hundreds of years, starting during the time of the Plymouth Colony, between 1620 and 1691. Nathaniel shared several maps of Rhode Island's East Bay to demonstrate the history of the English settlement of the area and changes in the disputed border over time. As he shared the maps, he shared his extensive knowledge of Plymouth Bay Colony and early Rhode Island.
Around 1747 there was a border shift causing most of the town of Barrington to move from Massachusetts to Rhode Island. A small part went back to Rehoboth; another part returned to Swansea.
For anyone researching ancestors in the part of Plymouth Colony that borders Rhode Island, this was a fabulous and informative talk!
At this point, I have to insert the fact that I was somewhat distracted during this session.
At the conference, there were all kinds of door prizes available to attendees. While I was in this session (with another geneablogger, Midge Frazel of Granite In My Blood), first she, and then I received a text message notifying us that we had won one of Dear Myrtle's Door Prizes!
Mine was a Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 headset:
Thank you to the one-and-only Dear Myrtle, who hosts wonderful Google Hangouts, which I can now be more active in, because of the ability to use a proper headset! Do check out her website and blog and check out all that she offers the genealogy community!
After all that excitement, I proceeded to my next session.
Using Tax Records in Genealogy with Carol Prescott McCoy
Carol, an engaging speaker, whom I had previously heard speak about Maine towns and their records, showed us how tax records can help in genealogy by providing clues about our ancestors that enrich our understanding of them, such as where they lived and what land and other property they owned. She then went on to explain where to find tax records, usually at libraries, historical societies, and local Town Halls.
She highlighted several examples of some of the historic tax records that we might find, which include military taxes, road assessments, estate and property taxes and Poll taxes. One reminder: these lists can be quite varied in their layout, and what they include. Using tax records in conjunction with other records (probate, census, land) can help fill in some holes that the other records are leaving.
The talk, with all its examples of tax records, as well as a specific example of trying to place a person in a specific location at a specific time, was a great introduction to a new (to me) resource for researching my ancestors.
Using Free Third-Party Tools to Analyze Your Autosomal DNA with Blaine Bettinger
Blaine Bettinger is one of the well-known genetic genealogists (at TheGeneticGenealogist.com) and a very good speaker who can explain DNA testing and analysis quite well. (Just don't expect me to explain it even half as well, although I'm working on understanding it.)
This was a more advanced lecture where he went through some of the online third party tools that can be used to analyze DNA results. These include:
David Pike's Utilities
His first suggestion was to download your raw data and keep in on your own hard drive, just so you don't have to always rely on being able to access it on one of the sites (i.e. AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, or 23andMe). Most of his talk was about using the utilities on GEDmatch, though he did spend some time explaining what the other online third party tools can do.
I know I need to spend a lot more time understanding all the intricacies of DNA, as well as reaching out to my matches online (and reaching out to family members to encourage them to test).
All-in-all, I had a great time and I look forward to NERGC 2017 in Springfield, Massachusetts.