Highlights from the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

I have just returned home from the National Genealogical Society’s 2011 Family History Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. Having left behind the sunny, warm and humid South Carolina coast, the cool rain and fog of the Blue Ridge Mountains provide the perfect environment in which to look back on the conference and share with you some of the highlights.

  1. Do you have possessions that link to surnames other than those you research? Pictures of friends or members of previous generations of your family? Pictures of events (church, athletic, school, etc.) in which the individuals are identified? Documents, antiques or other artifacts relating to a specific surname? Even more importantly, are you interested in finding such items that relate to your family? If so, then JustaJoy.com provides a wonderful service. JustaJoy.com is an “indexed artifact matching service for families searing for original, authentic items that belonged to their ancestors.” While searches by surname are possible without a membership, a low $20.00 per year will allow you not only to deal directly with an individual or antiques dealer with an item of interest, but will also allow you to post your own items either to sell or provide (perhaps just for postage) to individual looking for family heirlooms. There are no buyer’s premiums, commissions, or finder’s fees, and as of this week, there are no fees for adding new items to the list of offerings. Pictures, documents, advertising pieces, Bibles, etc. are available, although many of my searchers yielded college and university year book copies. Most listings include an image showing an object’s details and there is no cost to print documents or pictures offered on the site. I was able to find such items as an original four-page issue of the Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle, dated 11 December 1817, listing names and brief information on ads, shipping and international news, marriages, and deaths; a page from the 1929 “Report of the Commission on Massachusetts’ Part in the World War – the Gold Star Record of Massachusetts,” listing servicemen from Essex County who died or were killed during the First World War; an 1825 Mills’ Atlas facsimile map of families in Fairfield District, South Carolina, and other interesting items. When you register as a member, you are able to list up to twenty of interest. As items are added with links to these surnames, you will receive an email alert. There are currently over 40,000 items on the site. JustaJoy.com provides a valuable service in reuniting documents, photographs and artifacts with families for whom they have particular significance.
  2. FamilySearch.org staff explained many of the features of its newly-formatted site. I learned a great deal from a brief demo of their filtering capabilities. My search was for Valentine Rowell in South Carolina (I included no dates). On the results screen, the shaded section to the left of the screen provided the option to filter the results by collection (birth, marriage and death; census and lists; and military); as well as by birth place, birth year, death place, death year, residence place, other place, other year, and gender. Filtering in a specific category identifies how many entries there are in each, so that you have a clear idea of the number of entries you will be analyzing. Arrows indicate when further filtering is available. For example, the sub-category of “Canada, USA and Mexico,” can be further filtered down to a state in the United States If you have not visited FamilySearch.org recently, it will be worth your while to revisit your research and use the new filtering options.

In addition to enhancements to its search options, FamilySearch.org is adding free access to “hundreds of millions” of records from the American Civil War era, including the Civil War Pension Index; South Carolina, Civil War Confederate Service Records, 1861-1865; pensions for Arkansas, and Louisiana; Union Provost Marshal Files of Papers Relating to Individual Citizens, 1861-1866; Vermont Enrolled Militia, 1861-1867; and U. S. Navy Widow’s Certificates, 1861-1910; and Civil War Federal Soldiers’ Widows Claims. Collections are being added continually and the project provides a wonderful opportunity to register as a FamilySearch.org indexer, if you are not already volunteering in the effort to make these (and other) records accessible to researchers. More information is available at FamilySearch.org/CivilWar. Enlist today!

  1. MagiCensus is a new product (at least to me) that provides the ability to compare “information from many censuses to derive new information or to build probably cases.” The software, downloadable after payment of a modest annual fee, can be used with your favorite family tree software via GEDCOM, or it can be used as your sole family tree software. The feature that I found most useful is one that creates a spread sheet (either from your GEDCOM, or by direct entry) that tracks families through multiple years of the census. From my brief view of the product, this feature seems to provide a powerful alternative to the traditional hard copy census history forms. An analytical tool, it denotes family members who are linked to a specific census record with a matching age; individuals linked to a census record with an age discrepancy; and those individuals for whom no census records are linked or for whom there would be no census record based on age. The software supports all U. S. federal censuses (1790-1930) in addition to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and Denmark.

MagiCensus contains a report wizard to customize reports, creating hypertext pages that can be published on the web or in printed formats. Reports include wall charts, census tracker report, pedigree charts, family group sheets, narrative reports (Register or Henry format), timelines, and census tables. The census tracking spreadsheet will prove useful in planning your research trip or in writing a client or research trip summary report.

  1. Sons & Daughters of World War II Veterans is a lineage society “to honor and preserve the legacy of America’s World War II veterans.” The society offers an opportunity to “create a public database of military records from individual World War II veterans [that is] accessible to future historians, authors and students of the war…” Categories of membership include lineal, collateral, memorial (friend, but no claim of family relationship), and charter (for persons who donate $100.00 beyond the one-time membership fee of $125.00 prior to 31 December 2020). Supplemental memberships are available for a $25.00 fee when submitted in conjunction with the primary applicant. Further information can be found on the society’s website.
  2. One of the hottest items in the Genealogical.com booth at this year’s conference was Lloyd de Witt Bockstruck’s newest book, Revolutionary War Pensions Awarded by State Governments 1775-1874, the General and Federal Governments Prior to 1814, and by Private Acts of Congress to 1905. At 1,066 pages, this significant publication brings together, for the first time, all the data from federal and state sources used to reconstruct Revolutionary War pension records. It is a must for all public library collections and for the personal collections of Revolutionary War research specialists.
  3. The Saturday general session featured Glenn F. McConnell, President Pro Tempore of the South Carolina State Senate and Chairman of the Hunley Commission. North Charleston, South Carolina, is home to the preservation and conservation efforts in support of the H. L. Hunley. I was delighted to find this presentation on the program as the Hunley can be toured only on Saturdays and Sundays (and I was unable to visit on those days). Senator McConnell provided an engaging and informative look at the history of the Civil War submarine, its location, the process of bringing it to the surface, and its subsequent and ongoing conservation and preservation, including an introduction to the members of the crew through facial reconstruction technology. These efforts truly bring science and history together. More information on the Hunley can be found at the Friends of the Hunley web site, and in Tom Chaffin’s The H. L. Hunley: the Secret Hope of the Confederacy (Hill and Wang, 2008) and Brian Hick’s and Schuyler Kropf’s Raising the Hunley: the Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine (Presidio Press, 2003).
  4. Upcoming conferences: You may want to place the following future events on your calendar:
    1. Federation of Genealogical Society Conference, Springfield, Illinois, 7-10 September 2011.
    2. Rootstech: Advancing Family History Through Technology, Second annual conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2-4 February 2012.
    3. National Genealogical Society Family History Conference 2012: Cincinnati Ohio, 9-12 May 2012.
    4. Federation of Genealogical Society Conference, Birmingham, Alabama, 29 August-1 September, 2012.
    5. National Genealogical Society Family History Conference 2013: Las Vegas, Nevada, 8-11 May 2013.

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