The last day of the 2013 Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in Cincinnati was a shorter one for me, as I started late (did I mention I’m not a morning person?) and had to leave early. Still, I managed to get in three great presentations and lunch with a group of fellow bloggers and friends. The sessions I enjoyed on Saturday, April 27 were:
Forensic Genealogy: CSI Meets Roots (S08), by Colleen Fitzpatrick—I’ve seen Colleen speak before, and she never fails to amaze me. Her whole way of looking at things is so eye-opening. She analyzed several photographs for tiny clues which allowed her to identify and date them, showed how she created a database to determine why deaths were occurring in an 1851 community, and then explained a simple and useful model for interpreting DNA results. All in one lecture. As a former rocket scientist, Colleen brings a scientific outlook to her research questions, using the tools of biology, mathematics, and probability in addition to the social sciences tools of geography, history, and culture. It’s a powerful combination, and one I’d like to try to apply with some of my stickier research problems. If this sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend Colleen’s books, Forensic Genealogy and The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone. If you’re going to be at either the NGS or FGS Conference, look for them at Maia’s Books in the exhibit hall.
A Reasonably Exhaustive 3-D Search: Four Fawkner Wives (S20), by Jay Fonkert—Jay presented a fascinating case study of how he correlated the triple points of time, geography, and associates to track a family back in time from state to state to uncover the four marriages of an ancestor. I really enjoyed seeing his methodology in action. His lecture reminded me that some of the best clues can come from unlikely places, such as a single phrase in the testimony of a witness, and that solving a complex case requires researching multiple generations of a family. Sometimes you have to go forward in order to move back. Jay’s findings on this case were published in an article in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly in September 2011. This lecture complemented the article well, showing the research process behind it—how he approached and answered each successive question along the way to reach his conclusions. I left feeling like I’d heard “the rest of the story”—and it was a great one. I’d like to see more in-depth methodology studies like this at conferences.
Documents to Narrative: Writing to Engage Your Reader (S23), by Warren Bittner—My conference experience ended on a high note with this inspiring presentation on good writing techniques. Warren gave us seven key points to keep in mind when writing a family history story, and walked us through the writing process, from the first sentence through editing and re-writing. He provided plenty of examples to illustrate his points. It’s always good to get an infusion of energy, advice, and practical tips on good writing, especially as it applies to genealogy. Warren’s lecture provided that in abundance.
In case you missed them, I also wrote about my experiences in “OGS 2013 Conference: Day One” and “OGS 2013 Conference: Day Two.” Another highlight of my weekend was receiving an Honorable Mention award for an article I submitted to the annual OGS Writing Contest. The article, “Turning Forests into Farms: The George Clark Family of Licking and Delaware Counties, Ohio,” will be published in the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly later this year. The contest this year only had a first place winner and honorable mentions (no second or third place), which is different from previous years. I was honored by the recognition and am delighted to know the article will be published.
As I drove away from the conference after bidding friends goodbye, my only regrets were that I couldn’t go to all the sessions I wanted to, and that I didn’t spend more time in the exhibit hall. Oh, and that I didn't take more pictures (but the flowering trees on the way home were gorgeous!). Time and scheduling conflicts are the biggest challenges at any good conference, and this one was no exception. For example, during the time period I went to Jay Fonkert’s presentation, I could just have easily attended sessions presented by Tom Jones, George Morgan, Lisa Alzo, or Thomas MacEntee. And I’m sorry I had to make the choice, because I would have loved to hear them all. That’s why I’m glad Jamb, Inc. recorded most of the lectures. I like listening to them in the car on long drives, or when I’m working on a particular topic. (And no, I don’t have any affiliation with them whatsoever—just saying what works for me.)