27 January 2010

LDS Church Plans New Film for NGS Conference

This past week the audio/visual department of the LDS Church went to the BYU campus in Hawaii, looking for five individuals to star in a short film for the upcoming 2010 National Genealogical Society conference in Salt Lake City.

According to an article in Ke Alakai, the BYU-Hawaii Student News Lab, the three- to four-minute film is based on the true story of Mailie, a woman who searched for her grandmother who resided in the Molokai Leper Colony. The movie will depict her grandmother’s hardships and show the importance of getting to know your roots. The story of Mailie’s search for her grandmother will be a segment of a 12-minute film.

20 January 2010

NARA Public Meeting on Researcher Needs - 29 January

There will be a public meeting in Washington D.C. on Friday, 29 January, at 10:45 a.m. to discuss how the National Archives meets the needs of the research community. This will not be a discussion of the details of the research room layout, but rather about researcher needs and how to meet those needs. There will be a presentation followed by an open discussion. The Archivist and Michael Kurtz will be the speakers, and David McMillen, External Affairs Liaison for The National Archives, will moderate the program.

The meeting will take place at 700 Pennsylvania Ave NW. People should use the Pennsylvania Ave entrance and allow 15 to 20 minutes to get through security.

If you would like to e-mail a comment about researcher support, the mailbox is [email protected]

Discover the Joys of Genealogy with Helen F. M. Leary, CG (Emeritus), FASG, FNGS

The National Genealogical Society announces a series of interviews with Helen Leary, whose recognition in the field of genealogy includes Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists and Fellow of the National Genealogical Society. See the interviews at www.ngsgenealogy.org at the "Videos and Publications" tab.

Helen Leary’s many scholarly publications include the seminal National Genealogical Society Quarterly study, "Sally Hemings’s Children: A Genealogical Analysis of the Evidence." Hear Leary discuss the research and analytical techniques she used to arrive at the conclusion that Thomas Jefferson was the probable father of several of Sally Hemings’s children. Find a copy of her article adjacent to the video at www.ngsgenealogy.org at the "Videos and Publications" tab.

In her interview Helen talks about the value of bringing our ancestors back into memory. "I once studied the history of genealogy and the rise and fall of genealogy through the ages. And I discovered that the renaissance in genealogy comes when there is economic unrest. Somehow, when our economic life begins to shake, it’s like being in an earthquake. We don’t know exactly where we stand. But it’s comforting to know who our people were and, you know, as one person said, 'You don’t know where you’re going for sure if you don’t know where you’ve been and where you’ve come from ...'. I think people right now are just unsure of who they are and where they are going and what’s going to happen."

Other video segments include how Leary became a genealogist as well as stories about her family and the importance of close connections with extended family today. In “Stories from My Research” she talks about how tiny and mysterious clues can reveal family relationships.

While visiting the National Genealogical Society website at www.ngsgenealogy.org, you may also view the documentary, Paths to Your Past, produced by award-winning cinematographer Allen Moore and filmed in part at the 2009 Family History Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. More video clips from the conference will be added throughout 2010.

Charles Sherrill Appointed Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist

Charles Sherrill, a Middle Tennessean with 25 years of experience as a library administrator, will begin his new job as State Librarian and Archivist Feb. 8, Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced this week.

The State Librarian and Archivist directs operations at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, the agency that collects, stores and displays state documents and records. The State Library and Archives (TSLA) also operates the Tennessee Regional Library System, provides training and support for other public libraries throughout the state and oversees the Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which offers free library services to people with disabilities.

"I am pleased to have someone with Mr. Sherrill's background and skills in this esteemed position," Secretary Hargett said. "Our goal is to increase the awareness of the great programs available to Tennesseans through the State Library and Archives. Our goal is to extend our outreach beyond our downtown Nashville location, and I know Mr. Sherrill will provide excellent leadership and vision to not only TSLA, but also to libraries throughout our great state. I am sure Mr. Sherrill will build on the solid foundation that has been laid by Ms. Sugg and I expect the transition to be a very smooth one."

Sherrill has served as director of the Brentwood Library since 2000 and also works as an adjunct faculty member at Jackson State Community College. Prior to taking over as director of the Brentwood Library, he was the director of public services for the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Before that, he served as director of the Cleveland Public Library in East Tennessee.

"It is an honor to be selected as the State Librarian and Archivist by Secretary Hargett," Sherrill said. "My predecessors in the post have been great leaders, and I hope I will be able to continue their tradition of excellence. The most critical missions of the State Library and Archives are the preservation of and access to Tennessee's historical collections and the support and development of public libraries across the state. Many talented people are already working on these priorities, and it will be my pleasure to join them. Advances in technology have made it possible to do more and reach more people with fewer overhead expenses, and my hope is that we will find new ways to serve Tennessee residents better while saving taxpayer dollars."

Sherrill will replace Jeanne Sugg, who is retiring at the end of the month after a 20-year career with the State Library and Archives. Sugg held several administrative posts at the State Library and Archives before being appointed to the top job in 2005 by then-Secretary of State Riley Darnell. Secretary Hargett reappointed her last year.

"It has been my privilege to serve the citizens of Tennessee for 20 years at the Tennessee State Library and Archives," Sugg said. "I am grateful for the unfailing support of Secretary Tre Hargett, the staff of the State Library and Archives, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, our 12 regional libraries and our network services team. Our success in recent years has been strengthened through strong partnerships with national, state and local organizations to provide innovative programs and initiatives not only to libraries and archives, but to every Tennessean, whether in person or online. Looking forward, the Tennessee State Library and Archives has plans in place that will allow it to become an institution of great renown. The future is bright!"

R.I.P. Phyllis Walker Johnson, Past NGS President

Phyllis Walker Johnson passed away Saturday, January 9, 2010. Phyllis Johnson was a former NGS President and a volunteer for many years afterward. She was NGS secretary (1976―80) and president (1980―82). In 1984 she was elected an NGS fellow.

Phyllis was born in Washington, D.C., 3 January 1922, to Fred S. and Leonora A. (Perry) Walker. From her first marriage to Earl H. Alexander, she has two daughters. She married Hugh Bailey Johnson on 12 January 1968. In 1943 Phyllis graduated with a B.S. in education from Wilson Teachers College, Washington, D.C. She was a Certified Genealogical Record Searcher from 1975 to 1990 and has published several books. She was a member of the NGS Education Committee that developed American Genealogy: A Basic Course. Following her term as president, she continued to volunteer at NGS for a number of years. She lived in Springfield, Virginia.

11 January 2010

Outspoken Women Who Didn’t Speak Up

by Jan Alpert, NGS President

I just finished reading two novels that family historians might enjoy. Both feature women whose lives were shaped by their outspoken natures that clashed with their surroundings. The reader faces the question, “Why would these forceful women go silent when faced with such dire situations?” Yet, the two stories are very different.

Time is a River by South Carolinian author, Mary Alice Monroe (NewYork: Pocket Books, 2008), is a story about a breast cancer survivor who learned to fly-fish as part of her emotional recovery. While this book hardly seems relevant for this blog, a secondary theme is how the main character became obsessed with discovering the truth about Kate Watkins, who had lived in the same remote mountain cabin two generations before. Town gossip had accused Watkins of killing her lover about the time of the stock market crash in 1929. Watkins was a noted fly fishing guide at a time when it was clearly a man’s sport.

Why did this independent woman not speak up at the time to clear her name and reputation? Although not a genealogy book, Monroe presents various research techniques and resources in her search, including old newspapers, diaries, family papers, personal interviews, photographs, an old letter, and finally, DNA. She also reveals the conflict with her friend and Watkins’ granddaughter, Belle, who asked her to let her grandmother rest and to not “stir up the mud.” I would recommend the book if you’d like something to read on a trip or vacation. Or if you have friends or family who don’t understand your obsession with family research, it might provide them with a better understanding of why we keep looking for facts to explain what really happened. As a side benefit, my father loved to fly fish, and the story provided me with more insight into why he enjoyed the sport.

The second book, The Heretic’s Daughter, by Kathleen Kent (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2008) is a novel based upon the life of Martha Allen Carrier, one of the witches hanged in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, as told by her daughter, Sarah Carrier. Although detailed records exist of the Salem witch trials, the story is fiction as the author provides one possible explanation of what Martha Carrier and her family might have thought and felt as events unfolded. Martha was an outspoken woman who didn’t adhere to the strict Puritan customs and mores of the day and often threatened neighbors or other townspeople. As such, it is no surprise that she became one of the accused. I believe her trouble started earlier in her life, when she became pregnant before marriage, by Thomas Carrier, approximately twenty-five years her senior. A record of their confession of fornication before marriage can be found in the Middlesex County, Massachusetts, records for 3 May 1674, for which Carrier was fined twenty pounds. They were warned out of Billerica 23 Jun 1676 and later suspected of bringing small pox to Andover, where her parents were living in 1690.

As a descendant of Martha, I had difficulty reading the book. Like her daughter, I wanted to plead with Martha, “Don’t be so stubborn. Just confess and possibly save your life. Your family needs you!” However, having researched this family, I believe Martha would have been hanged regardless of whether or not she confessed. In Wonders of the Invisible World Cotton Mather calls her "this rampant hag" and "agreed that the Devil had promised her she should be Queen of Hell." The judges used spectral evidence to convict mostly women of witchcraft.

I found the story as written by Kathleen Kent generally adhering to the written record except for a few points. She makes the daughter ten years old and a twin of brother Thomas, rather than seven and a half years old, which Sarah would have been at the time of the trials. Also she refers to son Andrew as slow, possibly having some mental defect, which I have not found in the records. I would be happy to share information with others who descend from Martha Allen Carrier.

Kent is apparently working on her second novel about Thomas Carrier, alias Morgan. If anyone is aware of any surviving male Carrier descendants, it would be wonderful to have them participate in a DNA study so that we can possibly learn more about Thomas Carrier’s origins, purportedly from Wales.

05 January 2010

GENTECH at the 2010 NGS Family History Conference

The National Genealogical Society’s 32nd Family History Conference, “Follow Your Ancestral Trail,” will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, from 28 April - 1 May 2010. GENTECH is back in a BIG WAY at the conference! For those of you who are familiar with GENTECH and its many successful conferences in the past, you are aware that GENTECH was merged with the National Genealogical Society (NGS) in 2005. Since that time, NGS has included a separate track of lectures and presentations in its regular program.

This year, the GENTECH track of presentations will include cloud computing, digital technologies, blogs, personal data storage/preservation, wiki’s, social networking, maximizing your Internet searches, Web 2.0, photo editing software, Google Earth, real-time genealogical research, DNA, voice recognition software, and demonstrations from known genealogical software vendors for Ancesty.com, Legacy, The Master Genealogist, Roots Magic 4, and Family Tree Maker. These will be outstanding presentations by a number of the nation’s experts on how to apply technology to your genealogical research efforts.

NEW this year, NGS will expand the “genealogy and technology” experience with the sponsorship of FamilySearch sponsoring GENTECH Hall—an expansion of the main exhibit hall of nearly 100 exhibit booths all focused on “genealogy and technology.”

This expanded exhibit hall will feature genealogical software, digital cameras, scanners, cemetery mapping software, GPS and Geo Mapping, social collaboration, and many of the desktop and web applications available to genealogists. Expert help will be available to assist you with those difficult technical questions or with the things you always wanted to learn to do technically to assist you in your research.

If that wasn’t enough, a demonstration area of twenty-minute presentations will run throughout the conference in the Exhibit area. There will be theater seating for 150 with sixty computer terminals adjacent to the exhibit area to immediately couple a hands-on experience with your new knowledge. We firmly believe that you can get all of your “genealogy and technology” questions answered here.

All of this technology in one place will surely make your decision to attend this year’s NGS Conference a great one! Registration details and the conference program can be found online at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/attendee_registration.

01 January 2010

Research Resolutions for the New Year

by Jan Alpert, NGS President

What are your 2010 genealogy research resolutions?

Here it is: 1 January 2010! It’s time once again to write down my New Year’s research resolutions:
  1. Begin building my research list for the National Archives and Library of Congress for my trip to Washington, DC and the NGS Board meeting 26 February 2010.
  2. Begin building my research list for the Family History Library while I am attending the NGS 2010 Family History Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, 28 April through 1 May 2010. Conference details and registration can be found at: http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/conference_info
  3. Since not everything can be found online, put one day each month on the calendar to write letters requesting copies of records from state and local governments, cemeteries, libraries, etc. Keep a list of the records I need to request by mail. Set aside a monthly budget to cover the cost of the records. Wait patiently for the snail mail.
  4. Put one day every two weeks on the calendar to write up my research from the Family History Library in November. Remember to send copies to others researching the same families, including local libraries or societies as appropriate.
  5. After the 2010 Family History Conference is over, begin working on an article for the NGS Quarterly.
What resolutions have you made to build your family history this year?