Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day Four at NGS Charleston

Once again I did not have my camera with me, so I am just going to put up a picture of the model of the H. L. Hunley that is located in front of the Charleston Museum. This was what the Hunley was previously thought to look like, but it was proven incorrect when the Hunley was brought up from what had been its resting place on the sea bed for over 130 years.

Today I learned a second lesson about attending genealogy conferences - do not miss the closing/general session of the conference. I found out the good way (by attending), not the bad way (by not attending).

The main presentation, “The Hunley: Where Science and History Come Together to Tell Time,” was delivered by Senator Glenn F. McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission. This presentation all by itself was worth the price of admission to the conference (and there were many first-rate presentations at this conference). Senator McConnell is a compelling speaker and is passionate about this subject, and the subject itself has an absolutely amazing story. Although I knew the outlines and the outcome of the story, McConnell had me and many others on the edges of our seats and received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.

Before this presentation, Jay Verkler of FamilySearch spoke. He focused on the importance of Ancestry going public to the genealogy community, which he believes will attract even more investors to companies that provide genealogy-related services. He also invited people who are interested in giving presentations at RootsTech to look at the website to see what members of the public have said they want to hear. He praised and thanked everyone who has been working on indexing (since 1 January, 300,000 plus indexers, 800,000,000 more records, and many Wiki articles). He said that FamilySearch is working on tweaking the filtering of search results so that people will not have to click so many times and recommended that people come back to check at least every month for new databases and additional material.

Presentations: First presentation - Craig Scott’s “Confederate Prisoner of War Records.” Scott guided us through the complexities of finding these records. While the taking of prisoners started almost immediately, formal protocols for what to do with them, how to exchange them, etc., did not, and the records are quite spotty for a while. Scott explained the differences between the various microfilm series dealing with this subject, as well as what precisely the conditions for paroles and exchanges are. He also pointed us to possible sources of information on categories such as “Galvanized Yankees.”

The second presentation I attended was “Roll Call: New Sites and Sources for Military Records and Research” by Curt Witcher. With his characteristic energy and enthusiasm, Witcher gave us a pretty thorough enumeration and explanation of various sites that may prove helpful. While some of these sites are familiar to us, there are a few ins and outs he pointed out that can help us delve deeper into what these sites have to offer.

Third presentation - Elizabeth Shown Mills’ “Identity Crisis: Right Name, Wrong Man? Wrong Name, Right Man?” She demonstrated how interesting, frustrating, and yes, amusing different naming systems can be and came as close as I have seen to providing a systematic listing for the causes behind name changes, alterations, variations, and so on. If you are a name geek/language geek, these things are truly fascinating, and they are also helpful for anyone doing genealogy.

Fourth and final presentation: John Philip Coletta’s “The Country Courthouse: Your ‘Trunk in the Attic.’” This was a good general outline of ways to find out what particular courthouses contain - both the records that they should contain and what they actually contain. The first half covered the sources we should turn to to find out about the courthouse before we visit, and the second half dealt with the types of records that will ideally be found there.

At the end of this presentation, I said goodbye to the other remaining genea-bloggers, Jennifer Woods and her daughter Ellie (be watching for Ellie - she is very talented, and I hope we will soon be seeing some of the results of her creativity). Ginger, Linda, and Cheryl had been with us for the previous presentation and had left for different venues. It was wonderful to be able to share experiences, information, and ideas with all of them, and I hope we can all meet up again at another convention.


  1. Greta, you did a great job covering the conference. I enjoyed reading your posts. Thanks!

  2. Thank you, Debbie! It was so much fun to attend this one, and we learned so much.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed your conference posts. From what I've read from other bloggers, it sounds like the talk on the Hunley was definitely a conference highlight. Thanks!