I approached Friday very differently in the morning than what I'd planned earlier in the week. I decided to spend some extra time in the Exhibitor Hall, taking advantage of the resources that were available. I started at the Bureau of Land Management booth. I had no idea so few people knew this resource was available. If you haven't had a chance to look at their site, you can check it out here. I'd stopped by the booth before, but wanted to get the certified copy of my ancestor's land patent they were providing:
I then visited both the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society and the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society to get pointers on how to start researching two of my brick walls. My fourth stop was the charm: The Southern California Genealogical Society. I'm a member, and it was such a pleasure to get to meet Paula Hinkel in person. But, that wasn't the real pay-off (sorry Paula but I know you understand). As I was explaining to Paula my difficulty with locating the Probate/Trust documents for my Stellas, she strongly urged me to talk with Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist. Of course, who should appear but none other than...Judy Russell! Paula introduced us (although Judy and I met each other on social media.) Judy was kind enough to take a few minutes to listen to my dilemma and quickly recommended a course of action. No session could have given me the clue I needed to move forward the way that Judy did. I'm crossing my fingers that there's some form of payoff.
I was so excited that I decided to head back to my room and ran into a few new genea-friends. They were interested in grabbing some lunch before the 2 pm session, so the three of us walked up to the Dash-in (my new favorite place to get a meal in Ft. Wayne)! I love the opportunity to talk with researchers from areas other than my own, mainly because their research happens in places I'm not familiar with (yet). In this case, one researcher lives and researches in a State I hope to be able to start researching in in the not too distant future; I just want to get the closer lines done before I start on the ones that go back a lot farther.
We made it back to the Convention Center with a few minutes to spare. I finally ran into the incredibly talented Kathleen Brandt of A3 Genealogy. If you don't know Kathleen but her name is familiar, it's because she performed the research for much of the Chris O'Donnell segment for Who Do You Think You Are, including uncovering the family sword in the Smithsonian. I can only aspire to the quality and level of research skills she has and she's a fascinating person as well. She decided to join me in Judy Russell's session "Roadblocks, Red Lights and Detours: Records Access Issues." This subject is near and dear to my heart, and Judy is a phenomenal speaker. You've gotta love a Zombie Apocalypse reference, seriously. Heh. Best take-away from this session was that we need to reach out to and invite our legislators to our genealogy society meetings so that they are more invested and have a better understanding of our concerns with regard to information access. Hallelujah to that!
After getting such a charge out of Judy's session, I decided to go back to my room, switch my bags and head over to the Library. Friday night was the Evening at the Library event, and I was a little concerned that it would be as busy as it was on Wednesday. It was busy, but I have to admit that at least there wasn't a line to get a seat. I found a nice location, plugged into one of the few working plugs (my power-strip was a much sought-after commodity) and started to work. I was joined by a few genea-friends who were getting as burned out as I was. There really is a limit to how much new information one brain can absorb. I kept thinking back to my college days feeling like I was cramming for a final exam...LOL.
At a little after 6 I went downstairs to the appointed spot the ProGen group was meeting for our group photo. I still can't believe that I made it through the program and am now an alum! Where did the time go? Unfortunately, there were a lot of attendees who were missing from the group; but we managed a decent picture (I think). And then it was back to the books.
I took a break to go down to get some of the promised 'light desserts'. I have to say, the brownies, cookies, sweets breads (not to be confused with sweetbreads...we had THAT conversation) and little fruit cookie/tarts were exactly what the doctor would have ordered. Oh, and I ran into some of the Indiana ladies and a librarian local to my area. We had a lovely chat and it was nice to have the break.
On the way back up to the Genealogy Center, I had the pleasure of seeing some of the people who had come dressed in Civil War era clothing participating in the 'dancing' portion of the evening. Oh, wait...look who's in there! None other than the (apparently) incredibly multi-talented Amy Johnson Crow. She definitely knows how to cut a rug!!
I went back upstairs and continued to research until I was pretty bleary-eyed. When I saw it was 11:30 and was fairly sure I'd read the same sentence about 10 times, I knew it was time to pack it in.
I somehow managed to get myself up and out of my room in time to meet the usual suspects for Dr. Tom Jones' "Creating Family Histories for Future Generations." One of the first points he made really resonated with me: harvest what future generations can't. I tell everyone who will listen that we MUST ACT, as genealogists, to protect primary documentation that is at risk. Whether it's a repository that's in danger of closing, a piece of legislation that may close access to records or an elderly neighbor who we know has primary material and no one willing to take it, as historians, researchers and family storytellers, it's our responsibility to act to protect the information we can when we can. (OK, getting off my soapbox...back to Dr. Jones) He spoke about learning and improving our skills and sharing what we learn. He also discussed the acronymn B-E-A-D: Accuracy, Biography, Documentation and Explanation. He states, "Accuracy is invisible." It's so true.
And this is the point that I have to admit that I don't remember what I did between that session and the afternoon session. Heh. I may have gotten my Friday and Saturday lunches mixed up; oh, no I didn't! However, I DID go BACK to the Dash-In, this time with the Hamilton County Genealogical Society folks (omigosh, I can't believe I didn't remember that right away...lol...I'm STILL tired). Not too tired to (now) remember the fabulous gourmet grilled cheese and soup I had for lunch, nor the terrific time I had talking with the group. They're working so hard to get their Society polished up for the 21st Century, especially as they mark their 40th anniversary this year. Way to go, and keep up the great work you're doing for those of us who have deep roots in the southwestern portion of Ohio!
At 2 pm I went to my second session by Dr. Jones: "Organizing Evidence to Overcome Record Shortages." I sat with a new geneacquaintence who, at the end of the session, looked at me and said, "I have NO idea what he just said." I laughed, and pointed at the brand new book she had in her lap and said, "He just gave you a synopsis of the Genealogical Proof Standard." I have to admit, hesitantly, that I was a bit disappointed in this afternoon session. In the syllabus the session was labelled as 'Intermediate/Advanced', but I felt like he'd covered the exact same territory in the morning session, just in a different frame. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the session, just that I wished he'd more directly discussed record shortages and the types of alternate records to be used in their place.
At 3:30 I knew exactly where I was going: Michael Lacopo's "Mennonite Research: The Forgotten Swiss Germans." I so enjoyed Michael's first session that I decided even though I don't have ancestor Mennonites that I might be able to glean some new insight into my possible Swiss ancestors. Boy, was I in for the surprise of my genealogical week. As Michael detailed the history of the Mennonite sect, I came to understand how challenging researching them can be. The tenets they live under are: adult baptism, no oath taking and pacifism. So, nothing to capture a birth date, no military documentation and nothing where an oath would be taken such as naturalization and voter registration. Huh.
Wait for it ...
The room burst into laughter at this slide, neatly positioned at about the middle of Michael's presentation. Again, he's a great presenter, and knew that at that time of the day, on the last day of the Conference, there were going to be a lot of weary people. There were also a lot of 'cat people' in the audience; I asked to take a picture so I could put it on Social Media. Unfortunately it's a bit fuzzy; the kittehs are named Menno, Ulrich and Conrad, after the founders of the Mennonites. Awesome.
Michael then described the 'typical' migration path of a Mennonite from Switzerland. As he had in his first session, he stressed that very often Mennonites were enumerated or described as "German" rather than Swiss. He then stated that the migratory path was something like this: Switzerland --> Berks, PA --> Ohio. On the screen, he showed a map of Ohio with a number of counties shaded, indicating they were often the places Mennonites settled. My eyes jumped to the center of the State and two of the shaded Counties leapt off the screen: Fairfield and Licking. Oh. My. Word.
For those who would like a refresher, check out this image of Tobias Bigler, and note where he was from and where he went. Yup. And, what's more, it would make COMPLETE sense that I've been unable to find any records for him, other than a few probate records with his name in them from Union County. Whether or not the family was Mennonite, I have to be open to the possibility and now know the resources that I can use to begin this research. Way to go, Mr. Lacopo!
After the session, as I was standing with a geneacquaintance, one of the Certified Genealogists who had been a presenter bumped into us. This CG, who I respect immensely and had really only met peripherally, looked at me and said, "I like what you write. Keep up the good work." (OK. I'm not sure that's exactly what was said because I was too stunned. But it was close to that. Really.)
For a very long time I've worked directly for someone who doesn't monitor my work as an Archivist. I know that she trusts that, as a professional, if I have a question or need anything from her that I'll ask. The flip side of that is that I cannot remember the last time that she told me that I did a good job or acknowledged me in a positive way, so coming from a CG, well...it just meant the world to me that they'd take that moment to acknowledge my writing. It certainly had the desired effect, as you can tell by this overly lengthy post! LOL
The night, and Conference, closed out for me with a dinner with the usual suspects and some new genea-friends. If I had not been open to going to the Conference alone, open to meeting new people despite my prior experience, and open to new ideas and avenues to be better in all aspects of genealogical research and being a professional in any business, I would not be the happy woman I am at this moment.
And, believe it or not, that is NOT the end of my week. But that's a tale for a future post...