Mark your calendars: The National Genealogical Society (U.S) has announced that next year’s Family History Conference will be at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and Marriott Hotel in Richmond, Virginia from May 7 -10.
The theme for the 2014 conference is “Virginia: The First Frontier,” so you can expect to see plenty of “Old Dominion” records and history. But conference planners promise more than 150 lectures that will include “migration into, within, and out of the region down the Great Wagon Road, over the Appalachian Mountains, and across the south to Texas and beyond.” Plan to learn about the “history, records, repositories, and ethnic and religious groups in Virginia and the neighboring states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The program will also feature broader genealogical categories including military and other federal records, the law as it relates to genealogy, methodology, analysis, and problem solving. There will also be an emphasis on the use of technology (GenTech) in genealogical research including genetics, mobile devices, and apps.”
If you plan to go, get your hotel reservation in early–reservations are already being accepted, though actual conference registration doesn’t open until December 1. Check out hotel information and sign up for the NGS Conference Blog so you can keep up-to-date on news and announcements.
For the month of April, Fold3 is offering free access to its Confederate Civil War collections of more than 19 million records. Many of these are from the National Archives’ War Department Collection of Confederate Records: Confederate Compiled Service Records, Confederate citizens’ files and Confederate Casualty Reports. Whether you’re looking for specific Confederate Civil War soldiers or you’re just interested in history, these records are fascinating!
For example, there are compiled service records for “Galvanized Yankees,” or Confederate prisoners-of-war who obtained a release by enlisting in the Union army. Many of these files have the soldier’s declaration of “Volunteer Enlistment” and an oath of allegiance to the United States. You have to wonder what each man was thinking and feeling as he signed these papers. How did his Union enlistment go? How did his family and community react? If he survived the war, how was his life afterward affected by that choice? There are stories behind every record–and Civil War records are some of the most compelling.
You’ll also find other interesting records in this collection, many created post-war: the Confederate Amnesty Papers, Confederate Navy Subject File, papers relating to the Civil War Subversion Investigations, and files of the Southern Claims Commission.
Beware: Personal Opinions are coming your way in this article!
In my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox I emphasize how to use Google to determine what is already available and free online before investing your limited time and money in offline family history searching. Smart genealogists allocate their resources wisely, getting the most bang for their buck. And collaboration between individual genealogists allows us to accomplish even more.
It looks like the U.S. Federal Government could learn a thing or two from savvy genealogists. The Washington Times is reporting that Congress’s auditor has discovered that our tax payer money given to the federal government isn’t being spent very wisely. (Imagine that!) Agencies fail to collaborate and share information, creating redundancy and overspending.
One example from the article: the Commerce Department “has been charging other government agencies millions of dollars for reports that the other agencies could just as easily have gotten online, for free – often with a Google search.”
This news makes it even harder to swallow the news that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is suffering reduced hours of service due to budgetary issues.
The Bottom Line:
Google Twice, Pay Once (and only if you have to!)
This spring we’ve got some great conferences coming up in the U.S., like #RootsTech2013 in Salt Lake and the National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas, as well as events in Fairfax (VA), Wausau (WI), Manchester (NH), Cincinnati (OH), the Houston area, and Southern California. So here’s my question, just for fun: where do you sit when you go to conferences?
Studies of college classrooms show that students who sit toward the front of the room and catch the teacher’s eye are more likely to pay attention, which can translate into a better learning experience. Now, that caught my eye, because a better learning experience is what we all want out of conferences.
The report goes on to say that students who sit in front and make eye contact establish a better rapport with teachers and are more likely to be more engaged in the learning process. Of course, a conference isn’t the same as a college class. The instructor isn’t grading you. But presenters are human too, and they appreciate an engaged audience. In any sort of presentation, there is always an energy that flows back and forth between audience and presenter. Both you and the instructor will benefit from rapport and engagement.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of your experience:
- Arrive at the lecture as early as possible so you can get a seat where you’ll be able to see and hear everything clearly.
- Read the class syllabus ahead of time so you’ll be familiar with the material going into the presentation.
- Print out the syllabus (or have it handy on your iPad or tablet) so you don’t waste time writing down ideas and links that have already been written for you.
- Keep your attention on the speaker, but jot down any additional ideas the speaker shares that aren’t in the syllabus–as well as any ideas you hope to apply to your own research.
Here’s a final tip that comes from the study report on where you sit. One interviewee for this article says that, “In lecture, students’ attention tends to bottom out about 30 minutes into class, which is just when faculty are getting to the most important information.” She goes on to say that sitting closer to the instructor will help you stay focused during that critical time. The takeaway: 30 minutes into any lecture, if your attention starts to wander, challenge yourself to write down the key concept you learned up to that point, and one key question you hope will be answered. And then re-focus on listening intently for the answer.
Check out my upcoming live presentations. See you in class!