Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NGS2014~Day 4

      Day 4 arrived so quickly!

     My first class of the day was Using and Evaluating Family Lore: She Married a Distant Cousin in Virginia given by J.H. "Jay" Fonkert.
    In this lecture, we were told to be careful about family lore. Where the story came from and who told it is very important to determine whether the story is true or has elements of truth in it.
     I love this quote from Jay:
                             "Family Lore is like DNA: It can mutate!"
Q&A Time with Jay Fonkert after the session
Piicture used with permission
©Cheri Hudson Passey
    We all have family stories that have changed and shifted over the years. Details may be taken out on purpose or else enhanced to make them more exciting.
    Jay said that our job is to determine the reliability of each piece of the story and compare it to other sources to find out if our family lore is true or not.
  We went through a case study where we discovered that while close, the family story was not quite accurate. This was discovered by analyzing sources and coming to a conclusion about the evidence.

     My 9:30 session was Rich, Poor and all the Rest: Why Class Matters to Genealogists given by Stefani Evans.
    By looking at our ancestors lives, their religion, jobs, schools attended and neighborhoods lived in, we can get a sense of their status in the community.  Stefani explained that class matters because it can help us to understand some of the choices our ancestors made. Knowing if our ancestors were upper, middle or lower class might help us to locate them based on where people of the same ethnic, political. religious or work skills could be found.We can also use this information to help us figure out which of same named ancestors is ours.
     Another great source of information would be the shopkeepers records from our ancestor's place of residence. Where did they shop and what did they buy? Answers to these questions could give us a great deal of information regarding lifestyle.
     A great lecture that made me realize that class does matter when it comes to researching.

     Time for lunch and the New England Historical and Genealogical Society Luncheon.
     The speaker for this event was David Allen Lambert whose topic was: After Appomattox, Researching your Confederate Veterans in Post-Civil War America.
    Mr. Lambert is passionate about Civil War research and showed us many examples of records that can be found on line at each of the Confederate State Archives as well as paid search sites such as and We were also encouraged to look into Reunions of the various Military Units that our ancestors may have been a part of. Often there are pictures and newspaper reports of the meetings.
    This was an enjoyable talk about finding information about our ancestors service in "The War of Northern Aggression"!
Getting served my dessert at the NEHGS Luncheon
Photo Credit: J.Paul Hawthorn

    Next up, a fantastic lecture from Barbara Vines Little. Her lecture was called: The Importance of Context in Record Analysis.  Before the lecture began, she spent quite a while speaking with and taking questions from the audience. Barbara was very willing to share personal stories of her research and listen to other's stories as well as giving practical advice to some.
  The lecture began with being reminded that documents usually do not stand alone. In most cases another type of document has to be made to go along with the first. Examples of this were the records made due to a marriage. There's a bond, a license, newspaper announcement, Bible record, etc. We need to ask "What other records were created because of this one?".
Barbara Vines Little
Before Lecture
Photo Credit: J.Paul Hawthorn   
     Another thing we need to do, she said, is when analyzing a record we need to find out what are the laws were that caused the record to be made. If we don't know, then that lack of knowledge could mean that we will miss important clues.  We need to know who created a record and why to be able to more fully understand what it is telling us.
   What did I take away from the class? That everything in a document is important and to look at all the possibilities. Know what words mean and don't assume anything!

     Before I knew it, the time had arrived for the last session not only of the day, but of the conference.
   In a Rut? 7 Ways to Jump- Start Your Research by Elizabeth Shown Mills seemed like a great way to end my NGS2014 Conference experience. 
Elizabeth Shown Mills
Photo Credit: Scott Stewart Photography, LLC
Used with permission

     When Elizabeth started out by saying "Hope is not a strategy", I knew this was going to be a great lecture! 
     The 7 ways to get out of our rut dealt with looking at research in the way other professionals do their jobs. For example, think like a farmer: rotate crops- genealogists need to rotate projects that we are working on.  
     Other advice was to see if there is something in our research that is out of the ordinary. Find out why that is so and don't rely on second hand information or be influenced by someone else's judgment. We were told to analyze our successes and that of others. She also said it was important to treasure and learn form our failures.
     A worksheet was in the handout. There are questions to find out what kind of researcher we are and then it asks: "Am I a Critical Thinker?".
     Then there were some great quotes that were titled "Parting Shots" 
      Here are two that I really like:
 "It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with a problem longer"
-Albert Einstein

"Brick walls usually have their weak spots, but they may be visible only from the neighbor's yard.
-Elizabeth Shown Mills

     What a wonderful way to end the conference. So much now to process and put into practice from all 4 days. 

     Thanks to all the presenters who enabled me to learn so much and to the staff and volunteers at NGS2014 for making this such a great experience!


  1. Cheri, it was wonderful to meet you at the conference! I am going over my notes & syllabus. There's a lot to put into action. Wish we had had more time together but I'm sure our paths will cross again.

    1. Colleen, I am sorry that you had to leave early! It was so good getting to meet you too! Hope all is well with your family. Hopefully, we will be able to meet again soon!