Sara Gredler's DNA session from the 2016 Texas State Genealogical Society Conference

The 2016 Texas State Genealogical Society Conference was a great education event for genealogists Texas, and especially in Dallas.  Friday was all break-out sessions on special topics, while Saturday and Sunday had keynote speakers in the morning and breakouts in the afternoon.  All of the sessions that I attended were very good and will influence what I work on in the coming year and how I work. I'm not so interested in my family tree as I am in the social history of their time; genealogy is just a tool to get interested in history. In choosing sessions, I primarily concentrated on subjects that were new to me and speakers that are new to me as well.  I've been to enough conferences at this point that I've heard several of the keynote speakers several times.

I started off Friday with a session by Deborah Abbot on "Strategies and Techniques for Slave Research" that was enlightening for both the generally applicable research techniques to get back to a slave, and then the records that are specific to slaves and slave holders. I'm white, but I've taken a DNA test, and recognize that I could get a contact from someone who is black and connected to my tree during the the 18th or 19th century, though this isn't likely given where my ancestors lived in that time.  Kristin has gotten a contact from an African American man who is almost certainly connected to her tree in antebellum Texas. When we visit the relevant court house, it would be good to know the records to look for to assist in finding this connection.

My next session was Michael Strauss speaking on "The Great War: Researching Your World War I Ancestors." Although he focused on WWI, the archives and records that he discussed would be useful in researching any 20th century veteran. This was a very useful session, and especially so as we approach the 100th anniversary of the US entry in to WWI. In American History classes, this isn't covered to the degree that it should be; it had a much more profound effect on European politics, policy and culture than I think most Americans realize.  Most Europeans don't understand the degree to which America is still fighting the Civil War.

Sara Gredler's session on "Starting your DNA Journey: Why Test and How to Use Your Results" was perhaps the best overview session on DNA that I've heard. She covered Y-DNA, mt-DNA, at-DNA, and X-DNA and what specific ancestor relationships each can prove, or disprove.

Bernard Meisner's session on "Mining the Gems in a Civil War Pension File" was eye-openning as an exposure to the first major social welfare program in the United States.  In many ways, the Social Security program was an extension of the pension program, although this was not something that he discussed. I have some Civil War veterans among my ancestors, and will look at these records.

Debbie Parker Wayne's session on "X-DNA Inheritance and Analysis" was fascinating.  This is a relatively new test and is not as generally applicable as an autosomal test, but can be useful in ruling out some specific relationships.  More than anything else, I want to know how she does her "ginger bread man" diagrams to show how DNA is passed down from generation to generation. These are works of art and science. Her session on "DNA Analysis Tools (atDNA) was more generally applicable to what I will be working on in the coming year. The short answer: upload to GEDMatch.

Devon Lee's session on "A Recipe for Writing a Family History" was the best session I've attended on this subject. She had some very concrete ideas for where to start, which is the biggest problem for most people.

The final session that I attended on Saturday was perhaps the most interesting and useful of all of the sessions. Timothy Pinnick spoke on "And the Church Said Amen! African American Research" which was heavily focused on records specific to African Americans. Blacks did not generate as many court and land records as whites in the 19th and 20th century, so church records are an important alternative.  For my research, they are important for a branch that was on the frontier at a time when there was neither government nor court.



Cataloging and Citing Personal Papers

We have boxes of paper from our ancestors.  How should we go about reviewing, organizing and deciding what to pitch? The Summer 2016 Dallas Genealogical Society seminar "You Can't Take it With You: Preserving & Sharing Our Family Treasures" led by Denise Levenick was a great starting place. Now, we just have to start.

The box of "stuff" from my mom and dad's?  It looked like a bunch of old insurance bills that could be pitched, but a review of the bills gave me every address where my parents lived after they married, and a couple of my grandmother's addresses where my dad had his mail sent during WW II. There was a set of auto insurance stubs that showed my maternal grandfather's address--it looks like he paid for their auto insurance while my dad was in graduate school on the GI bill. It also had a military personal effects check list that gave his Army Serial Number and a couple of additional tidbits. I'm only half way through.

This box will allow geotagging for a lot of photos where we knew the city, but no one could remember the address of a residence.

Today's task is to read Levenick's book How to Archive Family Keepsakes for suggestions on how to catalog this box of stuff. The basic cataloging structure that I've decided upon is

  • Collection (mom and dad's papers, with date transferred to me)
  • Box # (this is #1 of several)
  • Folder # (there are no folders, but I will split out each bill payee to a folder or group them in folders)
  • Description or general inventory of contents
  • Notes on useful genealogical information

I'm not sure about digitizing this; certainly parts of it make sense. Some of it would scan well on the Scansnap auto feeder.

We went to the Fal 2016 Dallas Genealogical Society seminar and North Texas Genealogical Society day given by Curt Witcher, Senior Manager for Special Collections at the Allen County Public Library held at the downtown Dallas Public Library.  Friday was a meeting of officers from about 20 North Texas genealogical societies, talking about issues and directions.  Generally, the issues that people talked about are the same issues that face all community organizations: leadership burnout, leadership succession and marketing. Curt's afternoon lectures on the national trends and directions and leadership were spot-on.

Saturday was the seminar on "Sources and Methods for Family History Research" with four interesting lectures on methodology, the German migration in the Midwest and Native American/First Nations research.  Although I don't have any First Nations ancestors that I know about, the history discussed in that lecture was really, really interesting; if you ever have a chance to hear this lecture, go to it even if you don't have any First Nation ancestors.

Denise Levenick presenting the Dallas Genealogical Society Summer Seminar

Summer 2016 DGS Summer Seminar--Preserving Family Treasures

We went to the Summer 2016 Dallas Genealogical Society Seminar given by Denise Levenick  held on July 29-30 at the downtown Dallas Public Library.  This was not about genealogy; it was about how to deal with the "stuff" that we get from our parents.  The letters, manuscripts, bibles, wedding dresses, and other family heirlooms that are passed down in a country where we have been blessed with prosperity to create and acquire stuff and peace so that it doesn't get destroyed. Her lecture on what to keep was quite useful, as well as how to identify and record it to share information with family members or others who might want to publish something and use a bible or manuscript as a source.

This would have been useful for anyone, even people who have no interest in genealogy. The highlight was finishing up the two-day event with a "road show" of items submitted by attendees to talk about how to preserve, and potentially donate.  Items included a WW II leather bomber jacket, some 1800s vintage tin types and a WW II neptune certificate.

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