Imagine an entire conference dedicated to genealogy with a focus on helping fellow researching by sharing nuggets of wisdom and great stories!
Last week I attended the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was the first opportunity that I’ve had to attend a national conference and it did not disappoint. The caliber of the speakers, the great organization and planning, the plethora of exhibit vendors and the fellowship of the participants was outstanding. As I regroup and review materials I’ll continue to share key learnings and helpful links with you.
Paths to Your Past was the conference theme and we were treated to an entertaining opening presentation about the Erie Canal by John Philip Colletta, PhD, FUGA. Along with key historical points, he challenged us to think about the multitude of people who worked on, around and near the Erie Canal. Entire towns popped up to support the work and with them all the usual businesses such a livery, grocer, and blacksmith plus all the unique roles specific to building the canal itself. While the opening session doesn’t appear to be recorded, there are more than 150 session audio recordings from the conference—including some additional sessions from John--that you can purchase here. Since it is impossible to attend all the sessions available, it’s a great option.
How did your ancestors get to where they planned to settle? Were they traveling by railroad, ship, horse and wagon or on foot? As you write your own family story, learn more about the area they traveled to and what transportation was available. While you might not have a diary telling their exact steps, you may have first hand accounts of other people who traveled in that same location and timeframe. Of course, you might not prove that your ancestor took the stage coach out of Dodge but if that is one of the few means to get to their new home, you can say it is likely. And if you do that, share what that type of trip was like based on first hand accounts of others. Remember to site your sources when using reference material to honor copyright and to help people reading your story to understand the source of the information. Use statements like “Most people in this area traveled by railroad to reach this location” or “While we may never know for sure, it is likely that our family traveled this way to their new home.” That way, the reader knows that this is not proven fact but our best educated guess based on research.
The best stories make a reader feel like they are participating in the story. When we can give details like how far they had to walk from a town or how long a typical trip by railroad took in that era, it helps the reader have a better understanding of our ancestors.
Follow the path of your ancestors and enjoy the journey!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Note: I am a member of the National Genealogical Society and have found the publications and opportunities to be quite valuable. Here is a bit more about them if you’re interested.
To serve and grow the genealogical community by providing education and training, fostering increased quality and standards, and promoting access to and preservation of genealogical records.
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.