16 August 2015

Northwest Genealogy Conference 2015

I wasn't going to go to the Northwest Genealogy Conference this year. It is a 3 day event, I have kids that need looking after, life happens... But when my father said he wanted to go too, and my mom would babysit, how could I say no. And I'm so glad I did. Each days keynote speakers where great, I learned a lot of interesting things, and I got to geek-out with my dad over our family history.

The day 1 main speaker was Angela Packer McGhie. Her first talk was about research plans. She showed us how to write and use them, and introduced the Genealogical Proof Standard. My first break-out class was from Elissa Powell about using the census, and finding clues to lead us to other resources to explore. Then we had another talk by Angela McGhie about Federal Land Records. This is something I haven't delved into too much, but I certainly will look into it further because I know several of my ancestors had federal land grants.
After lunch we heard Angela McGhie talk about using local historic newspapers. She gave several good sources for finding them, and the things you can find in them. For the afternoon break-out I went to Cyndi Ingle's class on mapping online. It's good to know there are great resources to find historic maps, and software to map locations and migrations. The final talk of the day by Angela McGhie was all about the FamilySearch Wiki. There is lots of information on that wiki and good links to find even more.

Day 2 was focused on DNA. CeCe Moore was the main speaker. She started off the day talking about the basics of using genetics in genealogy. A surprisingly large number of people at the conference had already done dna testing, so this helped them figure out what some of that information meant. My first breakout class was from Cyndi Ingle about foreign language tools. I have used many of the tools she talked about while researching my Belgian roots, but she also showed us a few I hadn't heard of. CeCe Moore then spoke about Ethnicity Estimates in DNA reports and how accurate they are and are not.
After lunch she talked about autosomal DNA and chromosome mapping. It was very interesting to learn just how much you can really find out about how you inherited different traits. Then I listened to Steven Morrison talk about the more ancient genetic roots of people in the British Isles. And we finished the day with CeCe Moore talking about various work she's done with the TV show Finding Your Roots. A lot more goes on behind the scenes than you may ever see on TV.

Day 3 was all about Courthouse research. We heard from Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, about what to expect and do for your first trip to the courthouse. I've never actually set foot in a courthouse, so this was interesting to me. Then I heard Cari Taplin talk about using county histories to enrich your research. And we learned to take everything with a grain of salt, because they were often written by the person highlighted, and paid to be in the book. Then Judy Russell talked about probate and will records when there is and isn't a will.
After lunch Judy Russell again talked to us about how to use court records in your research, even if the people aren't in your family. They can give great insight into the lives of people in the area, the cost of living, and give extra clues to family relations (and be really funny at times). Then I listened to Jill Morelli talk about house histories, and how to find out who owned the house in the past and what improvements may have been made (in more recent past). And we ended the conference with Jean Wilcox Hibben talking about evaluating your sources. Often times sources conflict and how do you know which to believe, you can evaluate the source, the reasons behind it and who reported it, and figure out possible reasons people may have changed birth or name information for example.

One thing I like about this conference, other than it's close proximity to where I live, is that they give us all the handouts/syllabuses for all the classes, whether we go to them or not. This really helps ease the pain of not being able to go to all the classes we may want to. I still have lots of stuff to read and process from what I learned over the weekend. But first I have to figure out which dna test I want to take and which courthouse record needs looking for :)