June 7-10, 2012
By Dennis L. Maness, MLS
In the regular classes Friday afternoon Robert Raymond talked about Evidence Evaluation; he stated that “Not all information is created equal. We must take several factors into account to judge its quality.” “Evidence is something that furnishes proof,…information that is relevant to the problem and information that we conclude—after careful evaluation—supports or contradicts the statement we would like to make, or are about to make, about an ancestor.”
Steve Morse brought us up to date on the latest thing in DNA—Autosomal testing. And speaking of Steve and his One-Step page, I had lunch with Joel Weintraub, co-creator of the Census part of Steve’s site. He talked about how he and Steve are already working on tools for the 1950 census!
I visited both the Family Tree DNA table and the 23 and Me table to find out more about their autosomal DNA tests but I think $300 is just out of my league right now. Maybe when the cost goes down. I’m still in line for the $99 Ancestry.com test.
In his talk on “Lost in the Unknown: The Delicacy of Probing Family Secrets” Steve Luxenberg discussed problems when we’re doing those all-important oral interviews. How do you navigate the emotional pitfalls that surround the secrecy? How do you avoid alienating family members who might rather leave well enough alone? Which interviewing styles tend to work, and which tend to go awry?
At a breakfast on Saturday morning, Curt Witcher talked about “And the Rocket’s Red Glare: Online Resources for War of 1812 Research”. Although I’ve always liked it, Wikipedia has been looked down upon by many (most?) librarians but Curt actually recommended the Wikipedia War of 1812 article! It has more than 153 citations and many dozens of references at the end—a treasure trove for genealogists looking into their ancestors lives and service in this, the 200th Anniversary of the war.
Kory Meyerink held a class on “An Overview of Advanced Research Methods”. (I do wish speakers could think of more exciting titles, but I digress.) This was a fascinating look at how “advanced researchers use the same sources as all genealogists, they just use them differently. They must first change their thinking about how to approach research problems, learning how to deal with sources in new and different ways.”
I wanted to hear F. Warren Bittner talk about “Beat the Children With a Fresh Birch Stick So the Animals Don’t Get Worms: Reading for Historical Context” but the room was full! (See my remark about talk titles above.)
Instead of Bittner’s talk I got into D. Joshua Taylor’s “A Broader Context; Using JSTOR for Family History.” I may write about JSTOR in a future Digging For Roots Online column.
I heard Geoff Rasmussen talk about an “Insider’s Guide to Legacy Family Tree: Tips and Tricks.” And even though I’ve used Legacy for more than 10 years I still learned more about what I can do with it!
That night we attended the banquet “How Psychic Roots became an "Unsolved Mystery?" with Hank Z Jones, FASG. Hank shared “his adventures behind the NBC-TV dramatization of his ground-breaking bestseller (now in its 6th printing) and related even more amazing serendipitous experiences contributed by genealogists worldwide for his new sequel More Psychic Roots.”
On Sunday I started the day at a breakfast where Rhonda McClure talked about “The Strange and Unexpected - Dealing with Research Surprises", a “light-hearted look at some of the unexpected surprises that fall out of the family tree when you least expect them.”
I then went to a F. Warren Bittner talk (remember the “Beat the Children…” talk earlier?) with the admittedly non-exciting title “Complex Evidence: What Is It? How Does It Work? Why Does It Matter?” and found him to be a fascinating speaker who discussed Genealogical Proof Standard in a way which even I could understand with excellent examples from his own research.
Lisa B. Lee gave an interesting talk on “Speling Dusn’t Cownt and Why Wild Cards Are the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”. But for once I actually knew as much about the subject as the speaker did! And was even able to disagree with her (silently, of course) about some of the things she said. But still she was a good speaker.
Perhaps one of the highlights of this conference was sitting and chatting in the evening, outside the classes, with genealogy superstars like Megan Smolenyak2, The Ancestry Insider, Ron Arons, Lisa Louise Cooke, Elyse Doerflinger, Thomas MacEntee, Steve Morse, and Randy Seaver (while my wife was in the hotel swimming pool with his wife Linda). They treated me just like a real fellow genealogist!
This was just a small sample of the kinds of subjects covered at a genealogy conference. If you’ve never been to a one I hope you will get the pleasure of experiencing one yourself someday.