Previously I wrote about my experiences the first two days I was in Fort Lauderdale for the NGS 2016 Family History Conference (see NGS 2016 Conference Photo Recap, Part 1). I continued to enjoy the conference programming, the Florida weather, and the camaraderie of fellow genealogists the remaining three days. Here are some of my favorite presentations from Thursday, May 5 through Saturday, May 7:
Chromosome Mapping Workshop with Angie Bush (T200)—It takes a real enthusiast to get me into a lecture hall at 8:00 am to do science and techie stuff for nearly three hours, but Angie has that magic touch. She started by explaining what chromosome mapping is, what criteria we should use, and how mapping can show genetic relationships. Then she gave us step-by-step instructions to make our own chromosome maps, using data from known cousins and Kitty Cooper’s Chromosome Mapping Tool. I used data from my mother-in-law and her first cousin, hoping to identify the DNA segments they share through their maternal grandparents. And guess what? I did it! By the end of the workshop I had a colorful chromosome map and a new confidence in my ability to use this tool on my own. How cool is that?
“Going Beyond the Bare Bones: Reconstructing Your Ancestors’ Lives,” by Tom Jones (T226)—Tom raised some excellent points in this lecture about weaving information from genealogical records together to develop an ancestor’s story. He talked about the importance of understanding records (such as probate, land, court, and military records) in the context of your ancestor’s life, social groups, and local and national events. If you’re thinking of ordering audio recordings from PlaybackNGS, this one would make an great choice.
I enjoyed visiting with a number of colleagues at the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) luncheon, where J. Mark Lowe was the guest speaker.
“An Ancestry for Robert Walker of Rockingham County, NC,” by Pam Stone Eagleson (T241)—Pam presented an intriguing case study involving multiple pieces of indirect evidence, which she analyzed and correlated with DNA evidence to establish the parents of Robert Walker. Like many complex cases, it required a thorough investigation of siblings, in-laws, associates, and neighbors. l always enjoy hearing about the process of solving challenging problems and the research behind a NGSQ article like this.
“Dissection & Analysis of Research Problems,” by Elizabeth Shown Mills (T251)—Elizabeth outlined a clear 10-step process to dissect tough research problems and develop plans for solving them. Her syllabus included worksheet templates to use with each step. To drive home the importance of not only citing but also appraising sources, she asked audience members to make a pledge to appraise every source they use. Her 10-step process offers valuable insight into her workflow, and it’s powerful stuff indeed.
|Elizabeth Shown Mills answering audience questions|
“Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof,” by Elizabeth Show Mills (F302)—To illustrate the first tenet of the GPS, Elizabeth likened reasonably exhaustive research to a bulls-eye target. You typically start by focusing on the center ring: evidence on the person of interest. You then expand your focus in increasingly widening rings to encompass the person’s FAN club, less obvious sources, topical studies, and more. Elizabeth walked the audience through a particularly involved case that required 900 hours and the outermost rings of the bulls-eye to prove. Her step-by-step methodology made the concept of reasonably exhaustive research seem more tangible and approachable. This session was live-streamed and is still available as part of a video package from PlaybackNGS.
“How to Use GEDmatch.com to Optimize Your DNA Testing Experience” by Ginger Smith (F353)—Ginger gave a great overview of using GEDmatch to analyze data from autosomal DNA tests, beginning with how to upload your results from AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, or 23andMe. She discussed running one-to-one, one-to-many, and X-chromosome comparisons, then went on to cover phasing and more advanced utilities. I appreciated that she used simple terms to explain the value and limitations of each tool that GEDmatch offers. The crowd that surrounded Ginger after her talk testifies to the need for more of this kind of information.
|Ginger Smith fielding questions about GEDmatch|
“Using Griffith’s Valuation to Identify Your Ancestor’s Origins: A Case Study” by Donna Moughty (S409)—Donna’s fast-paced yet thorough discussion of the valuations of Ireland was exactly what I needed to finally understand these often cryptic records. In addition to explaining how and why the valuations were done, she interpreted them column-by-column. She also talked about related records and databases for finding Irish families. I’ve made some progress with my husband’s Irish ancestors lately, and after Donna’s talk I’m eager to look for them in Griffith’s. Note: this session was not recorded.
“20th and 21st Century Research: Resources, Methods, and Skills” by Debra Mieszala (S412)—Debra reviewed methods of finding living and recently deceased individuals who may be hard to trace due to modern privacy barriers. She talked about databases frequently used by forensic genealogists. Given an interest in finding living relatives for possible DNA comparison testing, I see an increasing need for this kind of specialized skill set.
“I Rest My Case: Constructing a Convincing Proof Argument” by Vic Dunn (S421)—Vic’s presentation concentrated on the last tenant of the Genealogical Proof Standard: a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion. He discussed formats, approaches, and usages of proof summaries and proof arguments. To illustrate his points, he shared how he constructed a proof argument for a published article, and offered tips for effective writing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the NGS conference and felt it was well worth my time and money to attend. I go to genealogy conferences for two primary reasons: to learn and to connect. The learning occurs in seeing presentations, reading the syllabus, and talking to vendors in the exhibit hall. The connecting happens informally as I gather with colleagues and friends at lunch and after hours to share thoughts and news. I also enjoy meeting new people whenever I can.
I’ve seen a number of comments that the 2016 NGS conference didn’t draw as many attendees as previous ones have. I’m sure that’s partly because the southeastern coast of Florida isn’t exactly a central location for most of the U.S. In all honesty, though, the sheer number of people in attendance at a conference doesn’t factor that much into my overall experience.
What matters most is the quality of the learning opportunities, as well as the enjoyment I get from making and renewing friendships with others who share my passion for genealogy. And on both of those accounts, I felt NGS 2016 was a success. It takes an incredible amount of work over a long period of time to host a major genealogy conference like this. Thanks to all the planners and volunteers who worked so hard to make it happen.