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.