Highlights from the 2020 Family History Conference Program

I’m not normal; on this I’m clear. But for reasons that remain a mystery, I take an inordinate amount of pleasure from opening up a conference program for the first time, perusing the pages, and marking the presentations that catch my attention (in red ink, no less). Some lectures I mark because they address a hole in my knowledge base, and some lectures I mark just because they seem fascinating in some unusual or quirky way. What follows is my personal short list of presentations from the 2020 Family History Conference program.

Pioneers of Greater Appalachia: Research in the Draper Manuscript Collection
Daniel Lilienkamp, JD
Wednesday, 20 May, 11:00 AM
Were records of your early 19th century pioneer and Appalachian ancestors collected by Lyman Draper? Discover how to find them in this manuscript collection.

I have a good handful of Appalachian ancestors in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina who are . . . problematic. But I don’t know nearly enough about the resources specific to the region. I’ve heard of the massive Draper Manuscript Collection and its 491 volumes divided into 50 series. Could critical information about my ancestors be sitting there, waiting for me to read? It’s time I actually learn something about this collection.

Elusive Ancestors Never Too Poor to Trace
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
Wednesday, 20 May, 2:30 PM
Poor ancestors are a special challenge. Without deeds, wills, marriages, lawsuits, or newspaper accounts, how do we track migrations, identify origins, and find parents?

A number of my ancestors found themselves on the poorer side of average. Even with the relative dearth of records, I’ve managed to find a few references to them here and there, but I’m almost certain Elizabeth has a few tricks up her sleeve that could help me find and understand more.

Family Search’s Secret Weapon: Court Order Books
Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FUGA, FVGS
Thursday, 21 May, 8:00 AM
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief . . . all appear on the pages of court order books, the unindexed pages of which can now often be read at home.

You had me at “secret weapon” and Barbara Vines Little. I’m even willing to violate my moratorium on attending 8:00 AM lectures.

Breaker Boys and Spinner Girls: Child Labor Laws and Their Records
Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL
Thursday, 21 May, 2:30 PM
Understanding the labor laws lets us trace the lives and the records of lives of child laborers in mills, mines, farms, and more.

Growing up, I was certain I was saddled with more Dickensian chores than were at all reasonable. Imagine my surprise when I grew up and found that some other kids actually had it worse, significantly worse. In the years following the Revolutionary War, my 4G-grandfather Henry Hatfield and his siblings, children of Mansfield Hatfield, deceased, were bound out to several men in Augusta County, Virginia. What were the laws related to those apprenticeships, and what can the surviving records tell me about my ancestor? I trust no legal scholar more than Judy Russell to help me answer these questions.

Discovering Your Immigrant’s Origins: Digging Deeper
Rich Venezia
Friday, 22 May, 9:30 AM
Find your ancestor’s foreign origins in some lesser-used record sets—and in doing so, help contextualize their life in the United States.

I already have experience in finding European origins for those from the 18th and 19th centuries, but Rich is one of the foremost genealogical experts on 20th century immigration. While I certainly have some experience in the 20th century as well, I think I’ll take a few minutes to learn more from the expert.

Harvesting Family History in Agricultural Records
Cari Taplin, CG
Friday, 22 May, 4:00 PM
Those that tended the food supply are often overlooked as “just farmers.” Learn about your farming ancestors and build their stories through rich agricultural records.

With very few exceptions, my ancestors were farmers. I’m familiar with the 1850–1880 federal censuses and their agricultural schedules, but what other record sets can illuminate their specific experience? Cari will help me locate those records and understand how best to use them.

Little School on the Prairie: Nineteenth Century Frontier Teaching
Lori Thornton, MLS
Saturday, 23 May, 9:30 AM
Learn about frontier teacher lives, educational preparation, nineteenth-century schools and classrooms, educational laws, and records for researching teachers.

This is an example of a lecture that doesn’t directly address any of my particular educational needs. I’m not aware of any teachers in my ancestry, but many if not most of my nineteenth-century ancestors were students at some point in their childhoods. What were their teachers prepared to teach them? And how did the pertinent laws impact them? This focused lecture could tell me a great deal about their experiences in school.

National Park Websites Surprisingly Offer Excellent Genealogical and Historical Materials
Terry Koch-Bostic
Saturday, 23 May, 2:30 PM
The National Park Services (NPS) websites offer customized history and often genealogy and biographical information to reflect the site’s local history and early population.

Surprising, indeed. ‘Nuf said. I’m in.

Which of the 2020 Family History Conference offerings have gotten your attention? If you haven’t already formed your own short list, be sure to look over the conference brochure and register soon. A wealth of information and resources will be awaiting you in Salt Lake City in May. What will you take advantage of?

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  1. December 4, 2019 1:39 pm

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