Top 5 Ways to Recognize an NGS Conferencee #NGS2017GEN

I love people, dead or alive. People watching is even more fun. So, here are my observations on the recent NGS Conference in Raleigh. The top 5 ways to recognizing someone who attended:

  1. One shoulder is higher than the other. We walk a little lopsided, not because we’re injured or frail. It’s the books. One of a kinds or limited printings that aren’t digitized online. We love them and buy a lot of them. They’re heavy. Hence the lopsided.
  2. We’re a strange mix of history nuts and tech nerds. Give us a one-of-a-kind, handwritten in cursive, 100 year old document and we’re in heaven. For weeks, we’ll be in heaven. We also love new technologies and will pay any Hadoop programmer a $1M for quick DNA match scraping tool that auto-connects cousin matches with tree similarities. Can I get an “Amen?”
  3. We are forward-thinking. We love history, but we know better than most the mistakes of the past. We love historical research, but we don’t want to live there.
  4. We have heroes. I personally would love a t-shirt with Judy G. Russell’s face on it. Maybe an Andy Warhol-inspired head shot of her. I’d wear it to the library. I’d wear it to bed. I’d wear it to church.
  5. You can trust us. Promise. But… we love a good secret. Dog with a bone. Bloodhound on the scent. CNN on a Trump scandal. We’re better keeping the secrets and discovering them.

How do you recognize a genealogist?


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NGS Conference – Day 3-4 #NGS2017GEN

I had a plan. In the middle of it, I changed it. Friday morning I decided that my brain was in danger of exploding, so I headed to a fun lecture to just relax and enjoy. And my head exploded anyway.

I had planned to hit up the well-known speakers and thought-generators. I did and they were great as expected. Let me tell you about the unexpected.

Lisa Louise Cooke, of Genealogy Gems, spoke about using a mash up of Google Earth Pro and genealogist’s favorite map collector, Dave Rumsey. Can I tell you how much I appreciate a woman who knows her tech? It was might have been the only lecture that I gave an all 5-star review. (I don’t hand them out often not because speakers aren’t doing a great job, but because all 5 stars aren’t helpful.) I also loved that whomever was running her powerpoint for her, was step by step alongside her fluidly thru the session. Great job being so well-rehearsed and prepped – much appreciated! This was the only session when I immediately went online afterward. Get the audio on this one. Or subscribe to her site and track down the tutorial. It was jaw-dropping.

My favorite track for the conference: African American.

For my own research, Tim Pinnick‘s session on “Reconstruction 101 for African Americans” gave great resources for my great, grandfather, James Morrissey, a Radical Republican representative to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, but also gave a detailed history of the Reconstruction Era. Andre Kearns also did a great job recounting how he’s combined DNA and paper research to trace his family’s history in remarkable ways. Both of these sessions were also recorded.

I had hoped to make some new connections with other genealogists.  But, I’ve made some new friends in addition. The conference exceeds expectations!


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NGS Conference, Day 2, #NGS2017GEN

I attended some great sessions today. There’s a lot to process and a lot that I could say. I have my own filter for this information though. The session content filters through my own experiences and intellect and personality and passions. So, let me tell you what I heard today and how I’m processing it. There’s a thought thread here, I promise.

One speaker commented on her mother, who’s an adoptee. How, although raised in a loving adoptive family, she never could complete her medical history forms. How her mother was adamant about medical check ups and mammograms. How finding out her maternal haplogroup gave a sense of identity for the first time. Her mother had no biological past before DNA testing helped her uncover it.

Another speaker was an expert on a particular set of records that were created immediately after the U.S. Civil War in the South. She challenged the audience to begin thinking of the word, “slave,” as plural. Not “slaves,” as plural. Because even without the “S” at the end, the word still implies a large group of people.

The BCG Luncheon speaker was a homerun for me, though. The speaker, an African-American, dared to whisper that genealogy can be an agent of social change. She gave examples of how our African-American community, historically, as been left out of our narratives. Her example of a state’s World War I memorial that only recently added it’s African-American soldiers was most stunning.

I sat by a librarian from Virginia Beach at the luncheon. She expressed frustration that she couldn’t find a newspaper article about a family member’s death. In the early 1900s he was murdered in his home in Richmond. She’s looked online and at the Library of Virginia, but couldn’t find any notice of it. My new friend is African American, you see. Richmond newspapers during that time frame, probably wouldn’t have reported his murder because he was black.

Ultimately the speaker called the genealogical community to include African-Americans in their research case studies and in their lectures. Don’t simply note that the your ancestor’s owned slaves. Record those enslaved ancestor’s names, ages, locations, bills of sale, or other transfers of ownership. Uncover their identities and experiences in order to bring those stories into the light.

What must it be like to not have a story?

What must it be like to have your story ignored?

As a native and lifelong resident of Richmond, Virginia, these ideas are powerful in the light of my hometown’s history. They light a fire in my own heart. Because genealogy (either paper or DNA) is a force to uncover what has been hidden. Because we cannot change in ourselves that which we don’t acknowledge.

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NGS Conference – Day 1 #NGS2017GEN

Today was the start of the National Genealogical’s Society’s Annual Conference.

Good news or bad news first?

They are tricky things, conferences. So many moving parts! Not everything can be absolutely perfect. Such was the opening session. Technical difficulties, poor transitions from one speaker to the next, speakers who shouldn’t be speakers…  Sorry NGS, but it was a dud. Even the main speakers message (a worthy one!) was overshadowed by a video with sound problems. The video’s production was painfully amateurish. But, maybe my expectations were too high?

The in-house conference center food vendors closed up shop shortly after lunch. For those of us who need an afternoon caffeine hit, it was deadly. There were at least a half dozen others longingly looking for coffee for the few minutes I stood at the counter.

On the other hand. Volunteers are friendly and helpful.

The conference app is awesome, though I’ve had trouble uploading to multiple devices. I caulk that up to user error.

The conference location choice has been tricky, as it appears that there haven’t been enough hotels close to the conference center. Veteran attendees tell me that the hotels near the conference center sold out in minutes. My hotel is … maybe I’ll leave that review for TripAdvisor.

The exhibit hall was busy and crowded. A good thing! And attendees were polite and courteous. Genealogists are some of the nicest people that I know! So navigating the masses was about as easy as possible. Conference goal #2 failed before lunch. I’m not sad.

Speakers. Genealogy giants speak at this conference. I saw two of them today, and they delivered. Start to finish, they were top notch. Content, slides, delivery, humor, engagement: out of park! I did attend 3 sessions though. Great content and slides for the third, but the speaker’s dynamic, while professional and polished, was not approachable. I have a great deal of notes, and plan acting on the new ideas I’ve learned from all three speakers when I get back home.

There is a “pig pickin'” scheduled tonight that I won’t be attending. See my goals for the conference from my previous post. I’m quietly hanging out in my room with my sore feet up, and a glass of wine getting warm as I type. That’s my signal to end for now. Warm wine = bad.

Looking forward to tomorrow. Particularly the lunch session by LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson titled, “Condemnation of Memory: Recalling that African American Genealogy is American Genealogy.”


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