Showing posts with label New England Regional Genealogical Consortium. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New England Regional Genealogical Consortium. Show all posts

Friday, March 8, 2019

Meet NERGC Speaker Dave Robison

Dave Robison
Are you searching for ancestors who spelled their names in creative ways, never the same way twice? Or perhaps you're planning to interview a relative about family history? Then don't miss Dave Robison's presentations at this year's NERGC conference, full of great ideas to take your genealogy research to the next level.

Dave is a professional genealogist and owner of Old Bones Genealogy of New England. Not only is he President of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists, he is also President of the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society, a past president of the New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (NEAPG), and the Registrar for the Pomeroy Chapter of the Massachusetts Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (MASSAR).

In my role as an official NERGC blogger, I caught up with Dave during a rare break in his busy schedule. He answered a few questions about his involvement in genealogy.

1. One of your presentations is about interviewing relatives to record the past for future generations. What happened when you first interviewed your own relatives?

Initially, I interviewed an aunt simply for a reason to have a conversation! For a variety of reasons, we were driving back from an event at my sister’s in upstate New York. We just got to talking about how she met my uncle, what was life like for them in the mid-50s, what was it like raising 5 children all born within 6 years, where did she go to school, where did she work before her marriage to my uncle, and on and on. It was a 4 hour drive so we talked a lot.

2. What inspired you to become a professional genealogist and help others explore their family trees?

I grew up in a household where, at a very young age, if I asked a question of my mother, her response was, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” When I’d ask my father, his response, “Go ask your mother!” That’s bit of an exaggeration, but basically it was the culture of our little family. Of course, I’d be all ears at holidays and other occasions when a larger group of relatives got together. I learned that my maternal grandmother, Hazel, was raised by her grandparents because her own mother had died, that her cause of death had been “milk leg,” that her grandfather (my 2nd great grandfather) came from England, that my father was in the US Navy during WW II but never heard any details, and lots of other stories that I couldn’t connect until I grew a bit older.

As a genealogist, many of these tidbits surfaced and when I had time, I’d run down the details. For example, “milk leg,” it turns out, must have been their euphemism for cervical cancer as that was the cause of death of my grandmother’s mother. In the 1950’s, no one would dare say the word “cervical” out loud! I discovered this when I went to the Worcester, Massachusetts City Hall and ordered her death certificate.

There are hundreds of family history jewels where I only had hints. Here’s the best story: My father was born in Evergreen, Conecuh County, Alabama. I contacted the Conecuh County Historical Society to request information. I was strongly advised that if I was going to do any family history research in Evergreen, I should contact Mrs. Sarah R. Coker who had been researching the families of Evergreen and surrounding communities for decades. “Write clearly” I was advised, as Mrs. Coker was elderly and had vision problems. I quickly fired off a letter that I printed in large fonts to make sure she could read it. About 2 weeks later, Mrs. Sarah R. Coker replied. She was delighted that I finally contacted her. She was my paternal great-aunt, my paternal grandfather’s sister. By the way, I had never met, spoken to or seen a picture of my paternal grandfather who had died in 1964. When I visited her in her home in Evergreen, she regaled me with stories and shared mountains of research. Wow!

3. Do you have a favorite ancestor story from your family's past? 


I would have to say that currently, my favorite story begins with one of my many pilgrim ancestors who found their way to Plymouth Colony. In Springfield, Massachusetts, there’s a statue of one of the founders, Deacon Samuel Chapin who came to what was then called the Agawam Plantation (later renamed “Springfield”) at the behest of William Pynchon, a wealthy businessman from Springfield, Birmingham, England. The statue stands in Merrick Park next to the main branch of the Springfield Library. My sister and I attended grammar school about a block away and often ran over to Merrick Park to play or run through the many museums that are next door in what is known as “The Quadrangle.” By the way, the new national museum dedicated to Dr Seuss is here at the Quadrangle. At any rate, Diane and I had no real idea who the Deacon was or what his history might be. 

Years later, as I was researching ancient local families, I discovered a pattern of family names in a certain section of the Springfield Cemetery. The “Ancient Burying Grounds” from the original settlement had been moved there in 1848 as it was right on the river bank and had suffered from many floods but was also going to be split off as a result of the railroad coming through separating the city from that area. The railroad, ironically was being built by a prominent Chapin descendant, Chester William Chapin. Many coincidental names began to come together and as it turns out, I  am the 8th great grandson of the Deacon! I use this story in many of my genealogy classes and my favorite closing for the story is to ask the class, “…and what does that get me??” They toss out a few suggestions, but the real answer is this: “A good genealogy story!”

4. What tools and discoveries keep genealogy fresh and exciting for you, even after years in the field?

First, I have to state for everyone’s benefit that you don’t know what you don’t know. So the discoveries keep on coming! Naturally, the internet is a useful tool but understanding that it isn’t the only tool is critical. The discoveries just keep on coming, whether it’s a new collection that gets added to a website, a new discovery at an archive or repository, a DNA connection to someone who knows a great deal about a newly discovered branch of my family or just the chance to talk with people whose names and dates I’ve had for years but have finally able to connect with.

5. What is your game plan for getting the most out of your NERGC experience?

I’ve been heavily involved with NERGC for the past 2 or 3 conferences with many duties. I’m still involved but not to the extent of previous years so I hope to actually get to attend the presentations that interest me! I won’t be pulled in dozens of directions. So my game plan is simple: Make sure that the societies I represent fully comply with our volunteer hours commitment and beyond that, attend as many sessions as possible including luncheons and dinners, network with as many colleagues as possible, meet other genealogists who I may not have had a chance to meet in the past, and seek out the dozens of colleagues I know from interaction on webinars and social media whom I’ve never met in person.
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Dave Robison is presenting two programs at this year's NERGC conference:

Session T-113, The Interview: Recording the Past for the Future (Thursday, 4:30-5:30 pm) - sponsored by the Connecticut Society of Genealogists
Session S-150, Speelin Duzn't Cownt - and Other Online Search Rules (Saturday, 1:45-2:45 pm) - sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society


Friday, February 8, 2019

Meet NERGC Speaker Bryna O'Sullivan

Bryna O'Sullivan - NERGC 2019 Speaker
Do you have a New England patriot in your family tree? Maybe you need ideas for reading genealogy documents written in French? Pro genealogist Bryna O'Sullivan is an expert in both of these areas! I've seen her speak at Connecticut genealogy events, and she really knows her stuff.

Now Bryna is presenting two programs at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) conference in New Hampshire, April 3-6, 2019. She's a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and she applies her academic background in history, church history, and French to the genealogy projects she undertakes. Please visit her website, Charter Oak Genealogy, to learn more.

In my role as an official NERGC blogger, I asked Bryna a few questions about how she got started in family history, who's in her family tree, and making the most of the NERGC experience.

1. What kindled your early interest in genealogy, and why did you decide to become a professional genealogist?

Surprisingly enough, my interest didn’t start with the traditional “family tree” project. My elementary school had (and still has) a unit on the Mayflower as a way to introduce students to American history. Seeing how intrigued I was by the unit, my great-grandmother shared that we were descended from one of the Mayflower’s passengers and a little bit about our family’s history. I wanted to know more about the stories. It was enough to get me started. Although I researched inconsistently through school, the early love has stayed with me and only grown over time. As an aside, I was actually able to go full circle and conduct a genealogy workshop at the school several weeks ago.

Becoming a professional genealogist was a way for me to tie together my love of those stories, my love of the French language and a desire to make a difference. Every day, I’m lucky enough to help my clients access their past. Sometimes, it’s through translating historic documents. Other times, it’s through preparing a lineage society application. But in each case, I’m able to give them a deeper sense of where they came from and what that can mean for their lives.

2. One of the programs you're presenting is about proving service for a New England patriot. Do you have a patriot in your family tree?

I actually have “patriots” – defined by the Daughters of the American Revolution as “one who provided service or direct assistance in achieving America’s independence” -  on multiple lines of my family tree. My “patriot” ancestors include one of the surveyors of Connecticut’s Western Reserve, a Maryland plantation owner, a militia officer in Quebec and several others. While I’ve not yet proved all of them to DAR standards, I’ve loved to chance to delve into their history and learn more about their lives.

3. What have you learned about genealogy research that you wish you had known when you first started out?

Although there’s very little I wish I had known in advance, as learning is part of the process, there’s one thing that my family did right for which I’m very grateful. My family has always told stories and tied them into our current experiences. Most were positive. When I was studying the Connecticut River, my great-grandmother told me about the ancestor who was a riverboat captain. My mother shared stories about pranks her father played as a child.

However, many stories were not. My grandmother spoke about the French officer who saved my grandfather’s life in the Second World War. Another relative mentioned how an ancestor had died at the Battle of Petersburg. These stories gave incredible gifts: they provided the details I needed to research my family further, but more importantly, a sense of where we had come from, that we had survived tough things, and that we could keep going. Too many families don’t share these stories on the belief that they don’t matter. They do.

4. If you could visit with one ancestor in your family tree, who would you choose, and why?

I was lucky enough to grow up with her! My great-grandmother, who started my interest in family history, joined the US Navy during World War I. As a yeoman (F), she was one of the first women to enlist in the United States military. I attended several events that honored veterans with her when I was a child. How she handled the reaction from World War II vets who assumed she was lying about her service provided a powerful lesson about public perception and standing up for yourself. It was far from her only lesson.

5. What is your game plan for getting the most out of your NERGC experience?

For me, one of the joys of NERGC is learning more about what genealogists are interested in discovering. I’ve carefully blocked out time to work in the Ancestor Roadshow to get a little more one on one discussion.
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Bryna O'Sullivan is presenting two programs at NERGC, both on Friday:

Session F-135, Tips & Tricks for French Language Documents (1:45-2:45 pm)
Session F-134, Prove New Service for a New England Patriot (4:45-5:45 pm)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It Was a Busy Genealogy Year in 2017

This has been an incredibly productive and rewarding year for genealogy--and it's not over. A recap of the year to date:
  • Thanks to newly-discovered ephemera, I smashed a long-standing brick wall on my paternal Burk tree, identified my great-aunts and great-uncles, and met lovely new cousins, who were kind enough to share photos and memories.
  • With the in-person help of one of my UK cousins, I learned the sad truth about hubby's ancestor, Mary Shehen Slatter, who died in a notorious insane asylum in 1889.
  • Cousins I found through genealogy have been taking DNA tests to help in the search for more connections with outlying branches of our mutual trees. At the very least, we've proven our family ties and, sometimes, pinpointed the common ancestor.
  • I've made a lot of progress on writing family history. I updated one family history booklet for my side of the family, based on the new Burk information. I wrote two brand new booklets for hubby's side, one based on his Slatter-Wood roots and one based on his McClure-Larimer roots.
  • I'm about to complete a booklet about my husband's Wood family during World War II, based on interviews with relatives, documents and photos saved by the family, and genealogical research to fill in the gaps.
  • Also, I've written detailed captions for key photos, so future generations will know who's who, when, where, and why.
  • I was a speaker at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the International Jewish Genealogy Conference. So many wonderful sessions to attend, excellent speakers, friendly audiences, and a chance to meet blogging buddies in person.
Already this year, I've written more posts than at any other time in my 9 1/2 years as a genealogy blogger. At top are the stats showing my most popular posts of 2017. If you missed them, here are the links. Thank you for reading--and stay tuned for more posts before the end of the year.
  • Beyond Google Your Family Tree (practical tips for online genealogy searches using five specific search operators)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Genealogy, Free or Fee (try free sources first, but don't hesitate to pay for a Social Security Application if it will show a maiden name you don't have or otherwise move your research forward a leap)
  • Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations (downsizing or just simplifying your life, consider the significance of family artifacts before deciding to donate, give away, or keep)
  • The Case Against Paperless Genealogy (Why I print everything, file everything. Technology changes rapidly but paper, stored properly, will live on for future generations)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Free or Free Genealogy (Learn to record strip: check every detail on every document or photo, analyze it in the context of what else you know, wring everything you can from the research you have and what you acquire)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Meet NERGC Speaker Janeen Bjork, Expert on Newspaper Research


Extra! Extra! Janeen Bjork has combined her 30 years of experience as a television researcher and presenter with her love of family history. Her methodology for locating hard-to-find newspaper items was developed as she uncovered 130 widely-varying accounts of the 1894 murder-suicide that left one of her great-great-grandfathers dead in Syracuse, New York. Her popular "Newspapers for Genealogy" classes, workshops, and presentations in CT, NY and MA, have helped many others research their families over the years.

Janeen will share her tips and tricks at NERGC on Saturday, April 29th, from 3:15 – 4:15 pm, during her presentation “Using Newspapers to Track Your Family, Character by Character.” She’ll discuss the technology that allows newspapers to be scanned and indexed, offer her Top 10 Tips for searching digitized newspapers, and share her favorite online newspaper resources. Look for her upcoming classes and presentations at JaneensList.com/Events, https://twitter.com/JaneensList, and
https://www.facebook.com/janeen.bjork.3. You can get to know her notorious great-great-grandfather on the social media accounts she manages in his name (https://twitter.com/WilliamStrutz and https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009395213740).

1.      What first attracted you to genealogy, and what keeps it fresh and fascinating every day?

My sister-in-law sat me down in front of her computer on Thanksgiving Day, 2011 and said, “This is Ancestry.com. You’re doing this for your niece and nephew.” She added that she had been working on her family tree for over four years, and her two children, who share my surname, wanted to know where the Bjorks were. I had a professional background in research (you could say research is in my DNA) and in a matter of days, I found second cousins who had been doing genealogy for two or three decades, and who were looking for me. I’d like to say we’ve been doing “Genealogy on steroids” ever since. And there were many octogenarians and nonagenarians in both my ancestral lines who were happy to let me pick their brains, scan their photos and documents, and swab their cheeks for DNA.

As for fresh and fascinating every day, I am energized by opportunities to pass on what I have learned. It’s gratifying to be told that someone who heard me speak about my online newspaper methodology broke through a brick wall. And it’s a kick when new family items come my way. In late 2016 my sister and my father were both cleaning out old boxes and came up with photos of my maternal grandmother’s parents, WWII ration books and a postcard written during the war. Taking my own advice during the holidays, I looked for family members in newspapers beyond the areas where they lived and  found a photo of my mother's brother Al Quadrini and two other Navy SeaBees on the front page (above the fold!) of the Oxnard Press Courier in 1954 when they dug ditches for a California Boys Club. Stories about my brother Bob Bjork appeared in several distant New York newspapers when his 1978 high school basketball team went to the state championship finals.

2.      Who is your most exotic, challenging, exciting, admirable, despicable, or enigmatic ancestor?
 

That’s easy: My great-great-grandfather William Strutz. He was arrested in June 1893 on a charge of assault in the third degree on his wife. He was the first murder victim in Syracuse in almost a year when his former best friend, Henry Vogler, who believed William had been seeing Henry’s wife, shot William and then killed himself in July 1894. Both the Associated Press and United Press picked up the story, and to date I’ve found 130 accounts of the tragedy. Two German language papers had the story as well, one in Syracuse, where a major German celebration was happening and where there was time for local gossip to embellish the story before the weekly published, and one in Baltimore where an editor changed their names to Wilhelm and Heinrich.

There is a relative who is a close second to William that I could call exciting. It was my father’s Aunt Dorothea, a thrice-married flapper. Her picture appeared in the paper multiple times, for her achievements as a captain and pitcher for a "Girls" softball team sponsored by the Syracuse Journal in the 1930s, as well as for a suicide attempt at 17 and a near drowning in a swim meet at 18. She died at age 86 in San Diego, California.

3.      What are your favorite tools for researching family history?


I am a big booster of newspapers for genealogy. My first eight-week Intermediate Genealogy class spent six weeks looking at online newspaper sites. Obituaries are the most obvious places to start when researching ancestors. But there are often stories leading up to or following the death that are full of details. Obituaries and death certificates will tell you that someone died in a vehicular accident, but a newspaper story may tell you who they were with, where they were going, and what they were doing at the time.

My second favorite tool is DNA testing. I’ve gotten 10 family members to agree to test (only one is a generation behind me, most are my parents’ generation) and to appear in various databases. While we have yet to break through a brick wall, we have found some distant cousins we wouldn’t have met any other way.

4.      What’s the number one thing you want attendees to remember from your NERGC presentation about using newspapers to research family history?


The importance of keyword searches. Names can be misspelled, or altered by a hyphen or by optical character recognition. Fuzzy search and Boolean queries have helped me unearth many hidden items. So go ahead and try different spellings and strategies.

5.      What is your game plan for getting the most out of NERGC?
 

While I always create a game plan for Genealogy conferences, and intend to take advantage of the many sessions and workshops, I also like to improvise. Conferences are fabulous networking opportunities. I made a connection with James M. Beidler at the 2016 New York State Family History Conference. Jim specializes in newspaper research (as well as German and Pennsylvania research) and he has asked me to contribute the William Strutz story to his upcoming book, The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide.

6.      What is your greatest genealogical regret?


My maternal grandmother and I spent three weeks in the ancestral hometown in 1983 and I was introduced to about 55 close Italian relatives. Since then I have been the family ambassador, accompanying other American family members and writing the letters and emails to my many Italian cousins.

In 2014, in preparation for a family reunion, I decided it was time to visit the records office in Arpino, Italy. It was my personal "Under The Tuscan Sun," as I heard "no" (it's the same word in Italian) more times that morning than I had in any morning in my life. With the help of a cousin and someone from My Italian Family (run by Bianca Ottone from New Hope, PA), I spent the afternoon in the two churches of the town and found my family first appeared in the records in the 1500s, with a slightly different name. A church custodian told me there was a man in town who had researched my family and other Arpino families. I left without asking for that man's contact information. Big mistake. I learned last year that he had died and his nephews hadn't valued the work. He had used the church records to track all the early families, recording his trees on the backs of calendar pages. Another genealogy lesson learned the hard way.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Speaking at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium - April 2017

The program for the next NERGC conference has just been released...and I'm excited to be speaking on Thursday, April 27th, from 3-4 pm.

My presentation, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, is part of the "Genealogy Heirlooms in the Attic" track.

Featured speakers at the conference include Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner, and Kenyatta Berry.

Click here to see the conference program in .pdf format. And I'm looking forward to seeing you in April!