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New York State Family History Conference Recap

I attended the NY State Family History conference in Syracuse, NY. This is my second time attending this local event. I truly enjoy hearing the diversity of speakers and meeting up with genealogy friends that I met online. 

I recapped the sessions I attended and included some helpful tips. To see the entire program, please click here

Success Tips for Using FamilySearch.org - presented by Jim Ison
Jim emphasized some helpful tips when using FamilySearch web site such as the use of wildcards (? to stand in for a single letter, * for multiple letters), varying up how you search (ex. search with no name and with parent names filled out to pull up all of the possible children), and how to browse unindexed collections by using the waypoints. 

New York City & State Governmental Vital Records and Alternates by Jane Wilcox
Finding NYC records is complicated to say the least. Jane did an excellent job reviewing the history of NY laws that impacted vital record collections. NYC has documents housed separately from the rest of the state. In the absence of vital records, census records, church records, and city directories are just a few of the alternates that can be used to fill in some of the gaps. 

Strategy for a Sound Beginning in Irish Research by David Rencher
This session was not exclusive to Irish research. David emphasized working backwards from known facts about your ancestors and to keep an accurate research log with cited sources to keep track where you have been looking. And some of us may have genealogy ADD need to remember to focus on one line at a time. It's very easy to get distracted! Also, review each document and pull out all of the information you can and compare to other documents (ex. past census documents). 

New York State Census and U.S. Census by Lindsay Fulton
Lindsay went into great detail explaining the different census documents and the accompanying schedules (yes there is more info!). Schedule II - V review marriages, deaths, and occupational data about your ancestors. 

Church and Religious Records in New York State: 17th-20th Centuries by Terry Koch-Bostic
Terry summarized the religious history of NYS from colonial times through the early 1900's. She also offered some great tips on how to obtain information about ancestor' religious affiliation by reviewing family artifacts and certificates, where the ancestor was from (that may have influenced what religious they practiced). 

What's New at the NYG&B by D. Joshua Taylor
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has so many exciting programs coming, including research tours to Albany and NYC (State Archives, Municipal Archives) as well as having lectures and workshops. I recommend you follow them on their Facebook page to keep up to date on their new programs. 

The Jones Jinx: Tracing Common Surnames by Thomas Jones
This lecture offered tips on tracing ancestors with common surnames (the Smith, Jones, etc.). Dr. Jones recommends to start with the unambiguous facts about the known ancestor and use the family, associates and neighbors (FAN) when searching through records. By completing a surname in a fixed location, you can help narrow down the family line. 

Land Records in New York State by James Folts
James discussed the different types of land documents available. The NYS Archives holds many documents but does not have all documents which may be spread at over the county clerk office or NYC Register's Office. 

Panel Discussion - Historian, Librarian, Genealogist - moderated by Sue Miller
The panel discussed how historians, librarians and genealogists can work together. Some takeaways to understand is that historians and librarians are looking for a clear question on where to find specific records, including dates, locations, and surname. Email also may be the best way to start a query to give that person time to research and see what's available to help you with your search. 

Ethics in Genealogy by David Rencher
David reviewed some helpful but necessary tips: 

1. Respect copyright and don't plagiarize 

2. Source citations so the research can be reproduced 

3. Info about living individuals should be handled legally and ethically 

Using Autosomal DNA to Solve a Family Mystery: A NY Case Study by Thomas Jones
Dr. Jones reviewed a case study to determine the father of an ancestor by using autosomal DNA. Through a detailed paper trail to back up the DNA, brick walls can be busted.

Third Party Tools for DNA by Blaine Bettinger
Blaine reviewed GEDMatch and Promethease, GEDMatch can be a bit overwhelming at first so please check out their wiki page for assistance. The 1:many tool will be your best friend to generate your match list across the major testing companies. GEDMatch has great tools like a chromosome browser to conduct detailed research. 

Out of the Ashes: Irish Genealogical Collections by David Rencher
After providing a very detailed recount of the explosion at the Public Records Office, David detailed the multiple Irish research genealogy collections that survive today (many microfilmed at the FHL). These collections involved data copied down from public records and compiled across counties. 

It Gets Even Better Offline by Thomas Jones
Dr. Jones recounted a few examples where he conducted on-site genealogical researching, including walking the land of his ancestors after researching online. By conducting more field research, it makes your ancestors come alive and discover information that may not be digitized. 

Genealogy as Science by Blaine Bettinger
Blaine discussed how the scientific method could be applied to genealogy to create a stronger case. For example, if you did a search on a particular name on a census record with certain details and can narrow down to one record with no other possibilities, that provides a strong statistical case that you have identified the correct ancestor. I thought this was a really interesting theory to apply to research. 

Mapping Your Family History by Jen Baldwin
Jen showed us all kinds of maps during this lecture and how they can be used for your genealogy research. For example, she described a story of how she used maps to find a cemetery located off a private road in Colorado (wow!). One of her tips helped me to locate documentation on my ancestor's record in Kansas by using the Bureau of Land Management web site (another blog post for another day)

All in all it was a great conference and I can't wait for the next genealogy conference, RootsTech! 

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