Paths to Your Past – NGS 2018

We just returned home from the National Genealogical Society’s 2018 Family History Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan (lucky us! it’s held in a different city nation-wide every year). This was my first genealogy conference and I had an absolute blast. After four days of lectures and talks by the experts in the field, my mind is still churning through the massive information dump.

A few weeks before the conference I was at a family function talking about my plans to attend when a cousin (no names… to protect the innocent) said with bemused wonder, “genealogists have conferences?” I don’t remember what my answer was, but I was not entirely successful at clearing up his confusion. Elizabeth Shown-Mills’s presentation using the example of John Watts would have no doubt answered that question in spades.

We started Wednesday morning with the opening session, including John Phillip Colletta’s talk, Coming Along the Towpath: The Erie Canal and the Peopling of the Great Lakes States. (Incidentally, if you subscribe to The Great Courses or have an Audible subscription, check out his genealogy course – good stuff.) Eighteen additional sessions and four days later it was, sadly, time to go home. I was lucky enough to see presentations by many different speakers – the standouts for me were Elizabeth Shown-Mills, Thomas W Jones, Judy G. Russell, and Blaine Bettinger. I say standouts – every lecture I attended was excellent and informative – these four speakers were the most compelling of the bunch. I listed the full schedule of classes I attended at the bottom of this post.

According to the conference literature, there were over 175 lecture topics. I could have easily attended dozens more and not lost a bit of interest. Time being limited and cloning out of the available options, I did the next best thing – I brought my wife along. She went to at least a dozen additional lectures and came back full of excitement about quite a few of the topics. Stage 1 of Ensnare More Family Members Into The Genealogy Rabbit Hole is now complete.

My only real regret is not attending the luncheon and evening events. That can be easily corrected next year in St. Louis.


My schedule of sessions:

Day 1

  • Coming Along the Towpath: The Erie Canal and the Peopling of the Great Lakes States, John Philip Colletta
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is Your Friend, not Your Enemy, David E. Rencher
  • What Do I Really Have Here? Analyzing Sources Effectively, Ruth Ann Abels Hager
  • Using Evidence Creatively: Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records, Elizabeth Shown Mills

Day 2

  • Digital Preservation, Eric John Wells
  • The Discriminating Genealogist: Telling Good Evidence from Bad, Judy G. Russell
  • Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof, Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • When Worlds Collide: Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records, Judy G. Russell
  • Making Good Use of Direct and Indirect Evidence, Amy Harris

Day 3

  • History, Records and Context: Researching the Locations Your Ancestors Lived, Angela Packer McGhie
  • Irish Research—Using Online Resources, Rick Sayre
  • Using Indirect and Negative Evidence to Prove Unrecorded Events, Thomas W. Jones
  • A Matter of Standards: DNA and the GPS, Judy G. Russell
  • Deeper Analysis: Techniques for Successful Problem-Solving, Elissa Scalise Powell

Day 4

  • Creating Your Personal Continuing Education Plan, Elissa Scalise Powell
  • Transcribing Documents: There is More Than Meets the Eye!, LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson
  • Evidence Correlation: Making the Most of Your Research, Nancy A. Peters
  • Inferential Genealogy: Deducing Ancestors’ Identities and Relationships, Thomas W. Jones
  • Evaluating Genealogical Conclusions Using DNA, Blaine Bettinger

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