Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NGS2015: Day One

Today was Day One of the National Genealogical Society's Family History Conference

After dropping our children off at daycare, I arrived at the conference just as the Opening Session was starting. I was able to quickly obtain my badge and lanyard at registration and enter the ballroom.

After some initial awards and door prizes were handed out, J Mark Lowe presented. He spoke in the voice of "Charlie Floyd," born in November 1804. Charlie was named after a relative, Charles Floyd, who was on the Lewis and Clark expedition, and died three months prior.

"Charlie" told many tales of his kin which included emotional reactions to a cholera epidemic, a little boy's favorite song, and dialogue. It was a moving performance, but left me wondering if all of it came from historical documents. The personal information could have been from journals, but it could also have been creative additions to add to the performance.

Lewis, a Bald Eagle from the World Bird Sanctuary made an appearance (he was said to have been named after Meriwether Lewis), and J Mark Lowe led the room in singing Woody Guthrie's song, This Land is Your Land.

After the opening session concluded, I browsed the Exhibit Hall. I met Dear Myrtle, Terri O'Connell from The In-Depth Genealogist, Susan Clark, and Diana Ritchie - four genealogists I've known through the blogging community and Facebook for several years, but had never met in person.

At 11am I attended "Principles of Good Writing and Good Storytelling" presented by John Philip Colletta. He discussed how the literary concepts of setting, action, characters, conflict, and theme all could be used to make our family history more enjoyable, without sacrificing accuracy. He specifically mentioned words that are often referred to as 'weasel words' by essayists and fiction writers are necessary qualifiers for the historian. If something only 'probably,' 'likely,' or 'possibly' happened, we have to be clear to the reader that we are speculating. Throughout the presentation he utilized examples from his own writing, which I found very helpful, as this is a topic with which I struggle. My college English degree was in composition, not literature, but my focus in college was on fiction and poetry writing courses. I have a lot of experience writing professionally in the business world, but there I am expected to focus on the facts without adding creative flourishes. Family History writing requires adding these flourishes when the facts aren't in abundance, which can be a challenge.

After this session finished, it was time for lunch. I had signed up for the luncheon presentation by Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell. Her presentation, "The Rest of the Story," started with the guardianship papers for siblings Andrew Jackson Battles and Samantha Battles. From there she presented additional documents that took us "beyond the begats" and told "the rest of the story." She also discussed how, as family historians, we are potentially "gatekeepers of secrets." She discussed the NGS Standards for Sharing Information With Others, as well as some other ethical considerations. The examples she chose to support her presentation were emotionally moving. I don't think anyone left the room with dry eyes.

There was an hour before the next session, so I peeked outside. I had heard there would be food trucks available, and I was curious which ones - to plan ahead for lunch for the rest of the conference.  I saw the food trucks for Yo Salsa, Deli on a Roll, and Slice of the Hill. Mexican, Kosher Style deli, and Italian. If the food trucks remain the same, it's a good selection.

The final session I attended today was "Maps! Wonderful Maps" presented by Sayre and Sayre. Rick Sayre began with a discussion of Map resources, and Pamela Boyer Sayre followed with a case study. This was actually a 2-hour presentation, and I was only able to attend the first hour. There was to be a second case study in the second half. While I was already familiar with Sanborn fire insurance maps, several other map resources at the Library of Congress, the David Rumsey collection and elsewhere, were discussed. I took copious notes.

After the first half of the session concluded, it was time for me to pick up my boys at daycare. I left the convention center tired, but confident I had learned a lot that would help with my own research and writing. Days two through four lie ahead.

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