Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New England Regional Genealogical Conference

A very well organized conference and registering was very straight forward. We had received the syllabus in advance as an *.pdf file on our email. This is a very nice addition as you can fine tune your attendance at particular sessions. Our Hotel was quite fascinating. The rooms were in a triangle around an open central area (10 stories high). It was quite interesting to look down on the registration area on the 2nd floor from the 9th floor!

The sessions were held in two different hotels across the road from each other. Since I only attended the opening session, one lecture and the banquet  in the second hotel it didn't affect me particularly. Most of my sessions were all in one particular area and a number of them in the same room (a smaller one as my sessions attracted fewer participants :) ). Since I have absolutely no American ancestors, my plan was to attend the French/French Canadian and Irish sessions for both my husband and our son-in-law's family lines. I actually have American cousins though as two of my grandmother's sisters married Americans and lived their entire adult lives in the United States. 

The Opening Session was given by Joshua Taylor, Director of Education at NEHGS. He gave a rousing talk which was greatly enjoyed by the 800 people who attended this conference. Perhaps they were not all there but the large ballroom was very full. He looked at Facebook, Wiki, Geneabloggers, Family Search Wiki and Who Do You Think You Are. He emphasized what you can already see at the Conferences - not everyone is grey haired! There were a lot of young people at this conference. They were sitting there with their Ipads going to the sites that he mentioned and tweeting to those who did not have the good fortune to be in the lecture. He also mentioned that the new face of genealogy is people researching just the ancestors that interested them and ignoring the rest.  It was a stimulating discussion. Facebook is the new face of genealogy he said and for sure my cousin (several times over) Thomas Routledge has spearheaded the Routledge family into the future with his Facebook Routledge group and his webpage. I think almost everyone in the group is under 30 and we are going to have a reunion in 2013 in Cumberland which is fantastic but all done on Facebook. I am rather hoping that other "older" descendants of the Routledge family will hear about it and attend since we plan to go.

For my first session I chose Graphoanalysis for Genealogy by Irene Lambert. Actual title: Genealogy Document Examination: Identifying the Writer of Your Family Papers. This was like an image into yourself actually as we learned how the slant of the writing, the size of the writing, the spacing of the writing could determine the character of the individual. As a basically introverted conservative person I discovered that it was all in my handwriting for everyone to see! This room was small and not overly full but the group was quite fascinated by her lecture and examples.

My second session was on French Canadian Pathways by Patty Vigeant Locke and proved to be quite interesting and again a smallish group. Not quite as applicable as I thought it might be because it, of course, concentrated on French Canadians/Acadians moving down into the United States, but it was most interesting and informative. There was a Grand Trunk Railway Map from 1885 that I found very interesting. The St Albans trunkline was established in 1845 and the flow of French Canadians south was quite sizeable. I met quite a few people who traced their ancestry back to 17th and 18th century Quebec.

The third session of the day I chose DNA for Genealogy by Jay Sage. The notes had already told me that this would be a beginner session but none of the other sessions interested me that much so I decided to attend the DNA lecture. Good discussion on DNA and surname studies especially. I think most of the attendees (it was again a small session) were keen to get started on testing their DNA that hadn't done so already. This session was predominantly male which I didn't notice until I stood up to leave as I always sit at the front so that I can see the slides.

In the evening, there were some special interest groups offered and my husband headed off to Connecticut Research in the other hotel (he was back and forth quite a bit!) and I stayed for French Canadian Research. We ate French Canadian food - it was very nice. Lots of discussion on French Canadian recipes and other details. I would have said that most of the people were 2nd or 3rd generation down from their French Canadian ancestors but they have not lost the culture which is great. Most of them have/had parents who spoke French as their first language.

The next day we had a full slate of sessions (5) plus one whole hour of free time in the market place (with a 1.5 hour lunch break that one could also use in the Market Place). Fortunately we did attend the Market Place as this was the only day that Family Societies had a table at the Conference. There was a Foote Family Association (my husband's ancestor). We learned there is to be a Foote Family Reunion in Niagara Falls NY which sounds very interesting. The Foote family has now published a couple of the lines coming down from the emigrant family (Nathaniel Foote and Elizabeth Deming and their seven children) who emigrated to the New England Colonies in the 1630s and were at Wethersfield Connecticut. They have published two of the children thus far (Elizabeth who married Josiah Churchill and Mary who married John Stoddard) and are starting to put Nathaniel together and this is my husband's ancestor. Nathaniel Foote married Elizabeth Smith  (daughter of Lieutenant Bert. Samuel Smith).

Just before the next session there was an ongoing question and answer period (Paul Milner did this before every one of his lectures and it was an interesting period to be present at), one of the other attendees had a document with an unusual Quebec address which I need to check out now that I am home. I now need to find her card although I have not yet located the place of interest! I gave her my email though and eventually, if I cannot find the card and do find the place, I hope she writes to me.

But I digress and my first session was by Paul Milner and the lecture was Irish Emigrants to North America: Before, During and After the Famine. Although this lecture was slanted towards the United States Irish Emigration I learned that the initial Irish emigration to the United States was through Canada but as a result of the American Ship Companies building boats especially designed for transporting people the Irish people switched to the American boats and American ports. The reasons for migration were, I thought already known to me, but he did bring a number of items to the table that I had not realized before.

My second session looked at Major Ethnic Migration to Connecticut (1635-1935) by Richard G Tomlinson. I have heard this speaker before and decided on this lecture because of that and no other lecture particularly appealed to me. Principally the part of this lecture that most interested me with regard to my husband's ancestors was over in the first five minutes (all of his Connecticut ancestors arrived before 1650!). I did learn that the Connecticut Society for Genealogists holds thousands of family charts which my husband will likely find interesting (he joined the society as well but not because I told him about the family charts - this is an interesting society and their publication is packed with interesting reports). Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor were settled from Massachusetts in the 1630s and Saybrook from London itself but my husband had already gleaned that from his studies.

Then followed our Market Place time and my husband joined two societies which should prove to be interesting for his research. I bought yet more books and I now have a stack of about 25 books to read. I also acquired a map of Quebec which will prove to be most helpful with our son-in-law's families and I may find the place mentioned above that had been queried by the attendee.

My third session of the day was in some ways a bit of a disappointment on the one hand but quite fascinating on the other. The title Researching Your Ancestors in Medieval France by Raymond Cassidy was in a room without a computer projector so he was forced to use overheads and he apologized for doing so. They were not too bad however. I had thought it would be geared towards emigration but was instead looking to see if you have royal lines in your ancestry. I ended up learning more than I realized I would about royal lines and now need to look at the Amiot and Miville lines in our son-in-law's ancestry because of the lecture. Also included are d'Amours, Le Marchand, De Longueval, Gueret dit Dumont. I have ended up with a number of sites to check out. I haven't progressed back to France with any of his lines other than the names of parents given in the marriage registers in Quebec. I generally stopped tracing as soon as I reached the parents of the emigrants if given. I thought I would leave that for our son-in-law and daughter to trace when they make trips to France in the future but we shall see. I may do more work on that after all.

My fourth session of the day was absolutely a gem. The Iconography on New England Gravestone - Donna Walcovy, PhD. She gave an absolutely excellent lecture and I learned so much about the meaning of the many images on the early gravestones of New England. She mentioned that on into the 1700s the iconography changed to representing the person buried rather than the sorrow of death which was an interesting concept and I find now that looking in graveyards I am noticing that more and more. A not to be missed lecture if you are ever able to hear this person speak.

My fifth session of the day was supposed to be Western Massachusetts Migration with my husband. I understood now why the migration westward was often through Dutchess County but this lecture clearly pointed out the reason for going south or west into New York State. I know my husband found this to be a very interesting lecture and I gained quite a bit of knowledge on the history of the time.

We had decided to only do one banquet so we had a quiet evening looking at the next day's lectures. Meals could occasionally be a challenge but actually was not a problem. If one restaurant was closed there was usually another close by that we could order a meal.

There was a very good selection of lectures under seven main headings: Skills and Methodology, English and Irish Research, Ethnic Genealogy, New England Research, Records and Sources, DNA and Technology and Treasures on Saturday. Friday's track was Skills and Methodology, Working with Records, Ethnic Genealogy, New England Research, Records and Sources, and Immigration and Migration. Thursday's track was Immigration and Migration, Ethnic Genealogy, Records and Sources, New England Research, Thinking outside the box, and Stretching your Research Skills. There were a number of excellent Workshops and had I know the cemetery workshop would be so interesting I would have attended as it was the same person who gave the lecture on Friday.

My first session on Saturday was Finding Your English Ancestors: The Big Four by Paul Milner once again. This was a largish session and quite full. He of course talked about Civil Registration, Parish Registers (Diocesean Records), Probate and Census. Principally I listened as he didn't actually tell me anything I didn't know except for probate indexes coming online on various Wikis. I knew of some but from the lecture I need to investigate this more thoroughly for some of the counties that I am interested in.

My second session of the day was a fascinating session Come to Ireland to Find your Irish Ancestors by Eileen M. O Duill. Eileen was born an American but lives full time in Ireland with her Irish husband and children. Lots of good ideas for visiting Ireland which I had never actually planned to do until just lately I have been thinking about it. The lecture was very timely as she gave quite a bit of discussion on visiting the Archives which I would now like to do. You may only purchase five records per day though and that was a good item to know.

Again we had market place time and then lunch for a 2.5 hour break which moves by very quickly. This time I visited the Tiara booth and purchased a couple of interesting items there. We also visited other book stalls and bought more books so that as usual when we pass by customs at the border we again have to tell them that we once again spent money on books except this time they did not ask how we spent the money other than to know if we had cigarettes or alcohol.

I went then to my only lecture in the other hotel and it was packed by the time everyone arrived - I decided to arrive early and hear the question and answer session by Paul Milner who was once again the speaker. Finding Your 17th Century Ancestors was his topic and he asked how many of us had attended his lecture earlier in the day and a substantial number had done so. We got quickly down to work and he brought up a few collections that I was not that fluent in so that I ended up with just a little over a page of items to check out although mostly clandestine marriage records (for my ancestors that I can not locate anywhere else! and I have just a couple). I want to investigate the Compton Census - I have heard of this before but had not yet investigated it.

This was a day of same speakers as my next session was back to the lady who had spoken earlier on Irish Ancestors. This time the lecture was entitled Irish Birth, Marriage and Death Records for the Beginner. There was some repeat but I enjoyed the refresher and checking back to make sure I had correctly interpreted what she had said. Again an excellent lecture.

My last lecture of the day and conference was perhaps the one lecture that I had especially wanted to attend. How Autosomal DNA Testing is Changing Genealogy. I have completed my Family Finder Results and once again either all of my ancestor's descendants do not exist, or they have been spirited away by aliens or perhaps they have just not tested. I do not have any matches closer than 4th cousin or greater and assuredly none of these people are my fourth cousins; they are all greater than fourth cousins. I had been wondering about the mapping though as my mapping indicated I was 89% Western European and 11% Eastern European. The 11% Eastern is very interesting as all of my ancestors are from England way back into the 1600s and mid 1700s except for one line which I can not be absolutely sure about - my maternal grandmother's line and my mtDNA. My best matches on the coding region are from Ossettia which is Eastern Europe but my grandmother's mother was born in England and by family lore her family too was English and my best matches on the control region of my mtDNA are from Argyll Scotland and County Antrim Ireland. It was food for thought and I greatly enjoyed this last lecture of the day and conference.

That evening we did go to the Banquet where John Philip Colletta, PhD spoke on Hacks and Hookers and Putting Up Pickles: Snares of Yesteryear's English. I did not make notes but his talk was enjoyed by all present. I thought I would remember many of the items that he referred to but they have disappeared into my memory banks somewhere not to be recalled at the moment. The banquet was excellent and we learned that we were to be treated to breakfast in the morning.

The breakfast was quite pleasant and we then headed off to the remainder of our trip which involved staying at the Deerfield Inn overnight and visiting the graveyard there where Nathaniel Foote is buried (and likely many others but only his stone remains). Ed's ancestors were carried off in the Raid of 1704 to Montreal and were repatriated back to Boston and Deerfield a couple of years later. This was the first time that we had stayed in Deerfield not far from where the Foote and Burt homes stood.

The remainder of our trip involved going to the Connecticut State Archives, a number of local graveyards (all found by GPS and actual graveyard sites marked by GPS now), The Horace Greely Home, Chappaqua, NY and a workshop by the New York Genealogical Biographical Society at Elmsford, NY. All of this done readily with the use of a GPS - a must tool for genealogists.

John Reid reminded me that I had not fulfilled my promise of writing up the New England Regional Genealogical Conference last evening at the OGS Ottawa Meeting. It was true it had passed my mind and I thank him for the remembrance. I trust that anyone who has read this far has found it interesting and informative.

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