31 January 2015

Genealogy conferences and other in-person educational opportunities

When I first started researching my family history, I read Val D. Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy from cover to cover—after I realized I needed to cite my sources. I still read how-to genealogy books, magazines, and scholarly journals because it’s important to have the skills to access, use, analyze, and document records. But I also try to supplement my learning with classes and conferences. Plus, it’s great to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who not only understand your passion for genealogy, but support and help you with your research.

National Conferences and Institutes

Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy (SLIG) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hosted by the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA). One week in January. 

APG's Professional Management Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hosted by the Association of Professional Genealogists. January.

FGS National Conference held in various locations every year. Hosted by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. February.  

RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hosted by FamilySearch. February. 

Forensic Genealogy Institute (FGI) in Dallas, Texas. Hosted by the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy. Three days in March.

The NGS Family History Conference held in different locations every year. Hosted by the National Genealogical Society. May.

Carl Sandburg Institute of Genealogy (CSIG) in Galesburg, Illinois. May.

Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Hosted by the Board for Certification of GenealogistsOne week in June. 

Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two programs, each is one week long, in June and July.

National Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed) in Washington, D.C. For experienced genealogists only, hands-on federal records research. Previously known as National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR). One week in July. 

Midwestern African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) in St. Louis, Missouri. July.

BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy in Provo, Utah. Hosted by FamilySearch and ICAPGen. July.

British Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hosted by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. October.

Although the conferences are reasonably priced, travel, hotel, and meal expenses can add up quickly. However, the conference locations are surrounded by libraries, archives, and other genealogically valuable repositories. 

Note: Dates and locations may change. See web sites for details.

Advanced Education

The University of Washington has a nine-month certificate program held in Seattle. 

Brigham Young University offers a Bachelor's degree in family history in Provo, Utah.

Local Conferences

Although not exactly on the same scale as the national conferences, there are plenty of educational opportunities in the Boston area.

Every two years, the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium Inc. (NERGC) hosts a multi-day conference with an exhibit hall, society fair, special interest groups meetings, librarians’ and teachers’ day, technology day, and Ancestors Road Show. 

The Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) has an annual one-day seminar in July. MGC is an umbrella organization for genealogists, historical researchers, and people concerned with records preservation and access.

Sponsored by the Hingham Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the New England Family History Conference is a free annual event for learning new research and organizational techniques and networking.

Look for local, state, and regional events posted on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter calendar and on NGS's events calendar

Lectures, Workshops, and Special Events

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has many educational opportunities, from one-hour orientation classes and workshops on a variety of topics to intensive Come Home to New England week-long events and research trips.

The Essex Society of Genealogists (ESOG) and the five regions of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists (MSOG) hold monthly meetings, often with a lecture on a particular topic. Ethnic and religious genealogy societies, such as The Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA) and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB), provide educational opportunities and networking meetings as well.

The National Archives, Northeast Region, located in Waltham, and the Massachusetts Archives at Morrissey Point offer free genealogy and history workshops.

Local public libraries, historical societies, genealogy interest groups, and adult education departments offer classes, workshops, and meetings. My local historical society hosts talks, walks, and tours of its historic house. 

So, if you spend a day, a week, or a semester pursuing your genealogical education, you’ll discover new resources, new technological advances and techniques, new research methods and strategies, and so much more. Maybe with your new-found knowledge, you'll break through a brick wall research problem. Or you'll meet your second cousin once removed who owns the family Bible.

updated 12/30/2015

29 January 2015

Henry Stiles’ rule #3: Genealogy scams

Clippings from the Townley estate scams
In A Hand-Book of Practical Suggestions for the Use of Students in Genealogy (1899), Henry R. Stiles reminds us that good research may displace firmly held family beliefs. His top three mythbusters: the emigration of the three brothers; the connection to royal bloodlines; and “that somewhere in Great Britain, and in the British Lion’s keeping, there was an immense fortune awaiting its American heirs” (page 15). 

Undoubtedly, get-rich-quick schemes have been around for centuries. In the 19th century in particular, some gullible Americans believed that by proving their lineage, they would receive an English estate worth gazillions. Ignoring the statute of limitations and the burden of back taxes, clearly there was much legal wrangling to do before they could claim their prize, and that’s where the flimflam man came in.

In the case of the Townley estate, it all started with a letter to the editor to multiple newspapers in the Northeast. Rumors of an inheritance had flourished for 20 years but in the summer of 1845, 200 people who claimed to be members of the family congregated at the court house in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. They read old family records and collected money to send a person to England to investigate the claim. While in England, the investigator kept asking for more information and more money. At some point, the N.J. committee ran out of funds.

However, new claimants continued to fill the pockets of these estate agents. At least two of them were caught. In 1894, James Frazier Jacques and Howell Thomas were convicted in England for obtaining $80,000 under false pretenses and forging documents in another case of Americans in pursuit of the mythical Townley millions.

If your family was caught up in a genealogy scam, be on the lookout for newspaper reports and possible court cases. You may find ledger books, committee meeting notes, correspondence, genealogies, and other materials backing up their claim in archives or in personal collections. Check out local libraries, historical and genealogical societies, WorldCat, and eBay. Also, collect the names of all the other cousins making the same claim. It may turn out that they are related too.

“To the Editor of the Newark Daily Advertiser [from Annapolis, Md.],” Newark Daily Advertiser, 29 Aug. 1845, GenealogyBank.com.

“We shall claim to come in for a share in the Baronial estate of the Townley family,” Newark Daily Advertiser, 10 Oct. 1845, page 2, GenealogyBank.com.

 “Both Convicted. Col. Jacques and Howell Thomas Sentenced for Townley Estate Frauds,” Wheeling Register [Wheeling, WV], 1 Dec. 1894, page 4, GenealogyBank.com.

Thanks to the Genealogy Roadshow on PBS (season 2, episode 3, 2015) for inspiration for this post.

08 January 2015

Volunteer with Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

Started in 1999, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) is a web-based volunteer organization that provides a wealth of services, from photographing graves to retrieving vital records, finding obituaries, researching in libraries and much more. Volunteers never charge for their time, just for expenses (photocopying or record fees, postage, parking fees, etc.). Each volunteer has committed to making at least one RAOGK a month.

In October 2011, a catastrophic computer failure took down the RAOGK web site. The following month, founder Bridgett Schneider (1946-2011) died. As stated in her obituary, Bridgett had "thousands of genealogy friends around the world." Her dedication, and that of her husband Doc, inspire many of us to volunteer or perform random acts to our fellow genealogists, one at a time.

In March 2012, RAOGK was reborn as a wiki site. It included sections divided by state and country, detailing what volunteers are available to research and the rules of making requests. Volunteers are listed by state and then by county, starting with "all." People who cover more than one county have their entries added more than once.

In January 2015, Dick Eastman posted on EOGN that one of his newsletter readers told him RAOGK was back online, as a web site. I'm not sure what will happen to the wiki site, if the two will be merged or if they are separate.

You can help this award-winning site grow again, by volunteering. What's your niche? Do you research at the state archives regularly? Visit the local history and genealogy room at a major library or historical society every month? Check out deeds in the county courthouse? Visit the National Archives? Or maybe you need an excuse to go? Do you collect history books or have a specific area of expertise? Do you visit your local town hall, public library, historical society, and/or cemeteries in the area—or would if it helped someone else's research? Then sign up as a RAOGK volunteer!

(original post 23 April 2012)