10 May 2013

NGS: Day 2

I took it a little easier today, knowing that my lunch hour would be spent at the Board for Certification of Genealogists' Luncheon with Judy Russell's presentation. I ate a light breakfast and headed to another Thomas W. Jones presentation:

"Maximizing Your Use of Evidence"

by Thomas W. Jones  

Jones considers evidence to be similar to pieces of a puzzle. Pieces may be missing. Some may be damaged. We must find, evaluate and use the pieces in our analyses. We must definitely continue the learning process.

Thomas W. Jones (courtesy of NGS)
Evidence is different from information. We acquire information from sources. Information becomes evidence when a researcher uses it. Without a research question, evidence doesn't exist.

Evidence is an answer (which may be correct or wrong) to a research question, it is not a conclusion. We must test evidence to evaluate its credibility.

"How to Find Your Relative on the Internet Without Really Searching"

by Daniel Horowitz, My Heritage.com 

Daniel described the Record Matches and Smart Matches features on the My Heritage website. These are available once one's tree is on My Heritage. The features are available to free and paid accounts, but full features are only available to paid subscribers.

Record Matches takes information from one's Family Tree and compares it with the more than four billion records on the website. It runs automatically anytime one changes information on one's tree. To review the actual records, one must have a paid data subscription (during the conference there is a 25% discount available).

In the near future, My Heritage will include record extract information that one may copy to one's tree.

Smart Matching compares one's tree with the 1.3 billion profiles on both Geni and My Heritage (27 million family trees). The application continuously compares trees and will also look for matches for names in foreign characters and 40 languages. Premium accounts allow one to contact authors of matched trees.   


During the next presentation period I chose to explore the conference exhibits hall. Except for a cursory visit, I'd not previously had the opportunity to take in the offerings. In addition to the usual suspects such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, My Heritage and Find My Past, there are quite a few smaller concerns, local and regional genealogy societies and several book sellers.

I spent some time talking with Tammy Hepps of Treelines. Those of you who followed the activities at RootsTech may recall that Tammy (and Treelines) was the winner of this year's RootsTech Developers' software competition. Treelines provides a way to present the stories one collects during one's research and present it for family (read: non-genealogist) consumption in a graphically, consumer-friendly and pleasing manner. 

I also chatted with the renown tap dancer and genealogist Ron Arons, author of The Jews of Sing-Sing and WANTED! U.S. Criminal Records. Ron's booth carries an assortment of black sheep paraphernalia for those of us (isn't it all of us?!?) who have black sheep ancestors. Ron is not presenting at NGS this year, but will be lecturing at the International Association of JewishGenealogical Societies Conference in Boston in August.

My visit with Ron was a great prelude to my luncheon session. I sat with Rick and Pamela Boyer Sayre and had an interesting discussion about federal land, land patents and current Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy toward acquiring inholdings. This is a topic close to my heart because one of my previous jobs in the my FS and BLM career was as a realty specialist handling federal land sales, exchanges and acquisitions. Rick is an expert on BLM homestead patent records and was to deliver a talk on the subject after lunch.

BCG Luncheon: "Blackguards and Black Sheep: The Lighter Side of the Law"

by Judy G. Russell

Judy G. Russell (courtesy of NGS)
I certainly cannot do justice to Judy's delivery, so I will not attempt to relate some of the amusing stories and punchlines she shared from the legal record. The legal record and life in the past are, apparently, not always as staid and dry as we might imagine. Some of the people Judy talked about are right up there on a scale of stupidity with the well-known Darwin awards.

"Information Overload? Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management and Analysis"

by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Elizabeth Shown Mills (courtesy of NGS)
If one embraces the Mills' FAN club, then one may be faced with a great deal of information to gather and organize. [1] Mills' talk sought to provide help us with evidence analysis methods to enhance our critical thinking, see the big picture and find the holes in our analyses.

Mills noted that most currently available computer programs are geared toward recording information about individuals on our tree. There is often no location where we can bring together everything we find and everything we did with respect to FAN research.

Mills advocates renewed emphasis on both the research report and research notes to flesh-out the research process and results. In her presentation she detailed the components of those tools and their use in analysis.

"Overcoming Spelling Problems & Unlocking the Power of Names"

by David Ouimette

Names identification and overcoming spelling problems are one of the central problems in Jewish genealogy. So, it was refreshing to know that we are not alone. David Ouimette's research interests are in Ireland, France and Poland. Yet many of the issues he described appear to be universal.

He described names as the most powerful means of identifying ancestors and noted that they may reveal ethnic ancestry, place of origin, religion, birth day, mother's maiden name and grandparents names. Names usually change gradually, but one may see dramatic changes within one generation. Fixed spelling is a recent notion.

He identified naming traditions as important for understanding and identifying relations and demonstrated use of geographic distribution of surnames to help determine village of origin.   
1. FAN is the acronym for Family/Friends, Acquaintences and Neighbors. Our genealogical tasks in the FAN club are to study individuals, families and communities - to study people in context.


  1. Emily, thank you so much for your thorough review of the sessions you attended. For those of us who could not attend the conference, it's certainly helpful when deciding which sessions to purchase on CD. So far, I think you've hit all the ones I was contemplating purchasing, and your reviews make me want to hear them even more now. So thanks for costing me more money :)

  2. Jenny,
    Thank you for your comment. I am glad you have found my posts useful. Sorry reading my posts has cost you. ;-)


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