Yesterday was Family History Day sponsored by The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and Ancestry.com. I always come home ready to break down those brick walls and to take on new challenges. They had wonderful speakers from across the US. I heard renown speaker, Curt B. Witcher, Manager of the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN speak on “The Changing Face of Genealogy”. He is so entertaining and really hit the head on the nail about genealogy. Since I began so many years ago, we have gone from trips to the library to search microfilms (and pray you would stumble across your ancestor) to type their names into Ancestry.com and viola –more information than you can possibly absorb in one sitting.
Most of my research is in Pennsylvania, so I never miss John Humphrey speaking about those PA Ancestors. If you are researching in PA you really must purchase his book “Pennsylvania Research: County and Township Records”. I am constantly pulling it off the shell to see what records can be found in a new county where I’m working. He has oodles of books that every serious genealogist needs on their reference shelf.
The next speaker I heard was Susan Koelble on “Formation of the Pennsylvania Counties”. She has published a companion book that goes with her talk. For the price, I couldn’t resist purchasing one. I have a software program, called Animap, that is also very helpful for other US County Boundaries and is also an historical atlas. If you are having difficulty find a record in a county courthouse, you just might want to see if that town/township fell in another county at the time of the event. Pennsylvania counties did not necessarily share their records when the county lines changed. From the 3 original counties of PA, we now have 67. You can imagine how many times those county lines changed in the 110 years it took to finalize the present boundaries.
Our lunch time speaker was DearMyrtle (Pat Richley), who is from Salt Lake City. “Let Them Eat Jam” she says and went on to describe the many flavors of jam. If you think this is a talk on food, you would be mistaken. Jam in this case is whatever “floats your boat” or that you get excited about. If you like genealogy you know not EVERYONE else does. Have you ever been to a genealogical society meeting and been bored to death by that guy who just has to tell you all about the research he has done so perfectly over the past umpteen years. Take note –boriiiinnnng. Don’t you fall in this same trap. Families are a potpourri of jams – photographers, teachers, travelers, etc. and everyone likes to share their stories.
Ancestry.com provided some excellent speakers. I attended Juliana Smith’s talk on “Finding Your US Military Heroes on Ancestry.com”. I have been a member of Ancestry from inception and still learn lots of things about the website with every meeting. A word of advice — open up those little areas under the boxes. Try looking at the default settings under First Name or Last Name. You have many more options and will make your searches more defined.
The final speakers I heard were Aaron McWilliams from the Pennsylvania Archives and Kathleen Hale from the Pennsylvania State Library. Both are excellent and always willing to help you find that hidden gem at the Archives or Library that will advance your search. Aaron worked with “Who Do You Think You Are?” produces to help actor Steve Buscemi find his PA connections. We were told there will be a season 3 of this show, so keep an look out for the advertisements.
Can you tell I had a great time? I never miss a chance to visit the vendors either. I have a Nook, but still love holding those old books and adding some meat to my barebones research. And always looking for a new piece of software to help with my research. I’ll get back to you on the program I purchased “Gen Detective”. It is supposed to tell you what you don’t know and what you need to find. I also heard the count is 149 days until 1940 Census is released. And finally, please write to your Representatives about voting in favor of putting birth and death certificates on the web. If you need gr. grandma’s death certificate from 1910, it just may take an act of congress to get a copy. It is presently taking about 4 months.