12 May 2013

NGS: Day 4

By the fourth day most of us were starting to get tired. But before heading home, there was more to learn.

"Analyzing Deeds and Wills: I See What it Says, but What Does It Mean?"

by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Mills stated at the outset that incorrect interpretation of legal documents may lead to wrong conclusions and correct interpretation may lead to new clues and solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. 

In this talk, Mills walked the audience through several deeds and wills, both asking us to interpret the language and then pointing out interesting information that might be gleaned from the document. For this she drew from knowledge of language and customs in time and place, and provisions of law. She advised us that we will learn a great deal by reviewing case studies in peer-reviewed genealogy journals.

"Using Emigrant Guides for Genealogical Research"

by Julie Miller  

Emigrant Guides were (and are) books of instruction and advice for those planning to emigrate. They were published by individuals, ethnic organizations, governments encouraging new settlements, and businesses such as railroad companies, shipping lines, and labor recruiters. While they will rarely include individual names, they can provide insight into the hows and whys of emigrant journeys.

These may be located online and at libraries. One may find them in libraries via WorldCat or online in GoogleBooks, the Library of Congress, Family Search, the Internet Archive and other online repositories.

"Proof Arguments: How and Why?"

by F. Warren Bittner 

For Bittner, the goal of family history is to establish identity and to prove relationships. If we fail at this, then everything else we do is a waste of time and effort.

He proceded to discuss the components of the Genealogical Proof Standard and proof arguments (the capstone of GPS). He encouraged the study of excellent proof arguments in the major peer-reviewed journals such as NGS Quarterly, The American Genealogist (TAG), The Genealogist, New England Historical and Genealogical Society Register and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Record.

"From Blackstone to the Statutes at Large: How Knowing the Law Makes Us Better Genealogists"

by Judy G. Russell 

Like Elizabeth Shown Mills, Judy Russell holds that to understand records, one must understand law at the time and place those records were created. Our ancestors lives were controlled by the law, whether common law, civil, statutory or canonical. As genealogists we must follow the law of genealogy: the GPS.

Russell identified several key sources for understanding the meaning of records, such as Black's Law Dictionary. She also provided online sources for researching old laws, discussed the current trend toward record access restriction and access to cemeteries. 

"Breaking into Magazines: From Idea to Query to Success"

by Leslie Albrecht Huber

Unfortunately some talks must be scheduled at the end of the conference. Leslie Albrecht Huber's talk was not well-attended, but it was well-presented. She has a great deal of good advice based upon a solid record as a professional writer. 

The most difficult part of writing for magazines is breaking in. Huber provided a structured outline of activities, actions and advice that, while not guaranteed to get one's foot in the magazine office door, will at least have one speaking the same procedural language as the editors.

She suggested starting with a query letter and outlined its content. She suggested making the most of one's successes and failures to learn from the previous query. The key to success? Persistence.

I had a great time at the NGS Conference and was honored to be able to serve as an Official Blogger. While I've read about the GPS and tried to apply it in my research, it was terrific to be able to learn from some of the top teachers in this field. 

I highly recommend this national conference. The skillbuilding/methodology emphasis that I pursued in my selection of presentations was just what I needed - and I was not at all disappointed. It seems to me that local conferences tend to emphasize stories, techniques and record groups rather than methods. This is fine, but a well-rounded genealogist needs a foundation of sound methodology to reach proof.

I also met several of the top genealogy bloggers who I read frequently and appreciate greatly. They seem to be not only talented genealogists and writers, but also generous people.  

I am pleased that some of you, who may not have read my blog previously, gave me a portion of your valuable time. Thank you for your indulgence. I hope I met your expectations and whetted your appetite to attend a national conference.


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