(Copyright (c) 2011, Cynthia Shenette) Wow. All I can say is, wow. By the time I finished up at the conference on Saturday I was exhausted, inspired, and overwhelmed. All at the same time but in a good kind of way. NERGC was all I hoped for and more. I attended the opening session with D. Joshua Taylor, plus thirteen hour-long sessions on a variety of topics. Now that's a lot of genealogy!
I attended three sessions on Polish genealogy, a session on French-Canadian genealogy, and one on Native American genealogy. I also had the distinct pleasure of sitting and chatting with Lucie LeBlanc Consentino during one session on Thursday and hearing her speak on Acadian genealogy and history on Saturday. I met Lucie briefly at the "Ancestors Roadshow" at the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists Conference last November when she helped me with my Acadian research. She is lovely to talk with in person and an incredibly knowledgeable speaker. Let's just say after listening to Lucie, I feel like I could write a book about what I don't know about Acadian genealogy and history.
I also connected with one of the Native American researchers and received an offer of assistance regarding some Native American research that I've been interested in but have had difficulty pursuing for some time now. A Polish researcher helped me out by offering a solid lead. He suggested I write to the Polish military museum in Warsaw about identifying some Polish or Russian military medals in a photo of my grandfather's brother Wincenty Szerejko. If we can identify the medals it might lead to additional information on Wincenty.
I attended sessions on genealogy information in school records, poverty records, and records from the Civilian Conservation Corps. My dad spent some time in the CCCs before going into the military. I'm now interested to try to do a bit of research on my dad's time working on a dam back in the 1930s. The talk on the CCCs reminded me that I have my dad's scrapbook from the CCCs, so I may do a blog post with photos from my dad's scrapbook in the upcoming weeks. The sessions on school records and poverty records were insightful and valuable for assisting me with my ongoing research on the Naramore family. I also attended a talk on researching collateral lines as a way of gaining information on a direct line ancestor. This is something I already do, but it was interesting to hear the speaker's success story and relate her experience to my own.
John Philip Colletta spoke about the Erie Canal and the peopling of upstate New York. My husband's family still live on the old family homestead in the Mohawk River Valley where his ancestors settled in the late 1700s. I see remnants of the Erie Canal all along the roadways whenever we visit the area. It was interesting to hear how the construction and life along the Erie Canal may have impacted my husband's and in turn my son's ancestors living along the canal during the golden age of canal transportation. Maybe this year we will finally take that Erie Canal cruise that keep talking about.
Colleen Fitzpatrick's talk, "Genealogy and the Six Degrees of Separation: How to Find Anyone in the World," was an inspiration. Her talk was fascinating as she explained how she fearlessly goes about finding people and solving mysteries all over the world. I had a few minutes to chat with Colleen between sessions which was truly an honor. She inspired me to take action on a volunteer project she mentioned during her talk. I may or may not have luck with the project, but one way or another I will report back at some point on the success or lack there of on my search.
It was a pleasure meeting some of the other geneabloggers for the first time in person. I met Heather Rojo and her husband, Lucie LeBlanc Consentino of course, and Midge Frazel and her husband. It was also pleasure to finally run in to Marian Pierre-Louis at the very end of the conference. Marian was on the planning committee for the conference. Everything seemed to run so smoothly. I can only imagine the amount of work Marian and all of the other folks on the committee put into the conference to make it a success for the 800 people who attended.
My conference experience would not have been complete without a shopping trip to the exhibit hall. Yep. I dropped a bundle. Don't tell my husband. I purchased the following books written by speakers whose sessions I attended: The Journey Takers, by Leslie Albrecht Huber; Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research, by Jonathan D. Shea; and Forensic Genealogy and The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone, by Colleen Fitzpatrick. I also purchased a copy of New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians, by Diane Rapaport. My final purchase was a very pretty fan chart which will look lovely in my den...once I clean my den. I was tempted, but did NOT buy the seriously cute tree earrings or the bumper-stickers that read, "I Break for Cemeteries" and "Genealogists Don't Grow Old, They Just Lose Their Census." I really didn't need yet another pair of earrings, and the bumper stickers would have set my husband over the edge.
I'd like to offer one tip of my own to future conference-goers. When I registered for the conference I initially did not intend to stay over at the conference hotel. I live within a reasonable commuting distance, however as the conference approached I thought it might be nice to stay at least one night. Of course I decided to do this four days before the start of the conference. In the pre-conference buzz somewhere, I had heard that all of the rooms at both hotels had been filled up for a while. On the Sunday before the conference I was lucky and managed to find a room at one of the conference hotels on Priceline for $40.00 less than the conference rate! While this was great, I would not recommend waiting until the last minute if you need to guarantee yourself a room for the entire length of a conference. You take a chance that you might not get a room. In my particular case I was able to take the risk, because I planned on commuting anyway. I had a back-up plan. I stayed only one night, Thursday, to avoid the worst of the weekday commute and so I could be at Colleen's 8:30 session on Friday bright and early.
Overall, it was a great conference and an inspiring three days. It was also nice to know that I was missed at home. My family was very happy to see me again after it was over. They all missed me--my husband, my son, and the dog. Not necessarily in that order. Right now, I have a lot to think about, review, digest, and follow up on. I learned so much, but given the collective knowledge of everyone at the conference it also makes me think about all that I still don't know. Let's just say, I'd call it a good start. Anyway, I'm already thinking ahead to the next NERGC in 2013, and I can't wait...
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Presenter Interview: Colleen Fitzpatrick, Forensic Genealogist
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Books of Interest: The Life of Billy Yank