In my last post, I covered my general experience at the New York State Family History Conference. This time I will be writing about highlights from the classes and talks I attended.
Friday was opened by a “plenary session” (which I had to look up: it’s the big meeting that everyone goes to). Joshua Taylor, President of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, officially welcomed everyone to the conference. He gave out two awards: the “Empire State Service Award” to Jennifer Liber Raines and the “Professional Service Award” to Susan R. Miller, for all her hard work at the conference.
Joshua then announced a new project that NYG&B was spearheading: the New York Land Records Project. This project involves the indexing of New York state land records on FamilySearch, a huge undertaking considering New York’s historic population. Click here for more information if you want to get involved!
We were then introduced to the session’s main speaker, David Nicholson, head of Living DNA. David introduced the team members who came with him: Katie Welka from Canada, and Diahan Southard, who cartwheeled her way up the aisle! David spoke of Living DNA’s hopes to make DNA analysis more intuitive and more interactive. Some of their future tools are still in development, but look pretty exciting and accurate! Keep your eyes on this company!
Knowing how MyHeritage is usually on the cutting edge of technology developments in genealogy, I signed up for their Saturday luncheon talk, “Genealogical Records in the Path of Destruction & Neglect – Past, Present & Future” by Mike Mansfield. Mr. Mansfield basically reviewed the well-known devastating losses (i.e. the 1890 Census) over the course of history, as well as data losses due to changes in languages, culture and technology. He made the very valid conclusion that each of us should be sure to document our own records and family history and to share it with others.
Unlocking Roman Catholic Records on Findmypast – Jen Baldwin
There are lots of new records coming online onto Findmypast. Jen is working hard with diocese all over the country to get records online.
- Catholic records from Ireland are free with a free account.
- If you’re a member of the NYG&B, Findmypast North American records are free!
A Tour of Upstate New York Genealogical Research Repositories: Some Gems – Jane E. Wilcox
- This was a sampling of museums, libraries, historians, and special collections, most of which Jane had visited herself.
- A good online repository: New York Heritage
Genealogy and Maps – Philip Sutton
- Philip is from the New York Public Library. The Map Division is in Room 117 at the main library, but there is a LOT online!
- Philip demonstrated NYPL’s Map Warper, which is a really cool tool!
Using Geo-Tech Tools to Answer New York Research Questions – Frederick Wertz
- Frederick showed us some common and uncommon map tools: Google Earth Pro, Arcgis.com (a paid site), GNIS.
- Be familiar with the historical area before you research the map.
- Research trip tip: note repositories on your online map software.
Converting a Bunch of Information into a Credible Conclusion – Thomas W. Jones
- Thomas’ main point was creating an “assemblage” of information, which you analyze and correlate to come to conclusion. (Especially good when facts aren’t specifically spelled out.)
Writ in Stone: Cemeteries and Genealogy – Judy G. Russell
Besides FindaGrave and BillionGraves, there are many great resources online: the WPA Grave Index on FamilySearch, genealogy societies, US GenWeb, African American Cemeteries online, US Department of Veterans Affairs, American Battle Monuments Commission, Cyndi’s List.
- Don’t just accept the data you see on a stone; there can be mistakes. “You can’t use white-out on a tombstone.”
DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard – Blaine T. Bettinger
- Blaine made the relationship between these two concepts so much easier than it sounds.
- DNA provides direct evidence of a genetic relationship and indirect evidence of a genealogical relationship.
- If DNA is not available for whatever reason, consider it a “burnt courthouse”.
New York Records and Resources at FamilySearch – Cherie Bush
The biggest message: use the Catalog!
- A great jumping-off point for immigration is the Ellis Island/Castle Garden blog post.
Outstanding Long Island Research Repositories and Resources – Terry Koch-Bostic
- Honestly, there were so many resources; I
took 4 pages of notes!
- Terry said that the best resource to start with was the NYG&B Gazetteer.
Documentation: The What, Why, Where and How – Thomas W. Jones
- Documentation is not just the product, but the process as well.
- The essence of documentation is: the who, what, where in, where is, and when.
Uncharted Waters: Diving into the Holdings of the New York State Archives – Jane E. Wilcox
- It’s important to know that that the New York State Archives & Library had a devastating fire in 1911, though some records and some partial records were saved.
- The NYS Archives seems to be organized much like NARA: each record set has a series number.
- Use the finding aids.
By the end of the conference, I was spent! But it was so worth it. The next NYSFHC will be September 10-12, 2020 in Albany. Will you be there?