My “Year Of The Conference”

There is no such thing as too many conferences.  2014 was my “Year of the Conference.”

  • National Genealogy Society Conference – 7-10 May 2014, Richmond, Virginia
  • Jamboree – 6-8 June 2014, selected sessions online (Conference held in Los Angeles, California)
  • Celtic Connections Conference – 15-16 August 2014, Waltham, Massachusetts
  • The Genealogy Event – 17-18 October 2014, New York, New York

I did genealogy for a number of years strictly as a hobbyist.  When I got a bit more serious about education, I took courses.  And then…..I learned about conferences!  My first actual conference experience was a one-day one in 2013 in New York called the Genealogy Event.  It was a great and exciting experience and wet my appetite to sign up for more. Who knew that there were so many other people loving to learn genealogy, just like me?  After taking the courses, I didn’t feel intimidated.  Especially since the conferences usually have presentations for all levels of experience.

National Genealogy Society Conference

As soon as the hotel was available for the NGS conference in Richmond, I booked it!  Then I booked the conference!  The conference had a blog and plenty of attendees who commented about and reviewed it at the time, so I will just focus on the highlights and firsts for me as I look back over the year.

While technology has its challenges, they certainly make conference going easier.

NGS had a mobile app where I could read the syllabus, learn about speakers, pick my schedule and find other people I knew and their schedules, all from my ipad at home well in advance of the conference.

For an extra fee, the conference offered 2 tracks for live streaming.  They were also available for a period of time after the conference.  I opted for Track 1, “Records and Research Techniques,” with sessions presented by:

  • Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
  • Thomas Jones, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
  • Michael Hait, CGSM
  • Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL
  • Sharon Tate Moody.  CGSM

I watched some twice, once in person and once when I got home.  I also watched others when I came home so that I could attend another in person when there were two things I wanted to see, which did happen often.  It was well worth the money and NGS is offering it again.  They are sessions in “The Immigration and Naturalization Process,” and “Methodology Techniques.”  I am registering today.  I just registered.

To be able to see Elizabeth Shown Mills in person was wonderful.  The room was enormous and totally full.  I didn’t get there early enough to get my aisle seat, but I didn’t care.  I am a huge fan!  But that will have to be another topic for another post.

I absolutely loved the conference and everything I learned.  It was an amazing, exciting and exhilarating experience.  It made me want more!


Having been bitten by the conference bug at NGS, when I learned that The Southern California Genealogical Society was going to broadcast 14 presentations live from their Jamboree in June, I registered for my favorites and put it on my calendar that I was busy that weekend!  I had wistfully heard people talk about going to “Jamboree” in California, so the option to attend some sessions from home was a surprising and welcome gift.

I registered for and watched! (FOR FREE to everyone, not just members, handouts included):

  • “Elusive Immigrant!” – Warren Bittner, CG
  • “Researching Your Irish Ancestry” – Maurice Gleeson
  • “Dirty Pictures: Save Your Family Photos” – Denise Levenick
  • “Resources of the DAR: Beyond Soldiers” – Joshua Taylor
  • “Dowered or Bound Out” – Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • “Researching Your New England Ancestors”  – Michael Leclerc
  • “Manuscript Finding Aids” – Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FUGA

Did I mention this was FREE….

Since I had watched some of the NGS sessions in person and then later streaming, I had a really good basis for comparison.  My seat for the Elizabeth Shown Mills session had been in one of the last rows on the side.  My seat at home was quite comfortable, close up and clear.  No complaints from me!  I was so impressed with what the SCGS gave so generously that I have since joined.

Celtic Connections Conference

I had no sooner gotten back from Richmond in May when a friend told me she was going to a conference in Waltham, Massachusetts in August.  We got off the phone and my Google search immediately led me to the Celtic Connections Conference to be held at Bentley University in Waltham in August.  I booked it!

The conference was presented by Co-hosts, The Irish Ancestral Research Association, Inc. (Tiara) and the Irish Genealogical Society International.  The LaCava Center at Bentley was comfortable and the conference was very graciously and professionally done, especially since this was the first time. Breakfasts of scones as well as lunches were included.   When I checked into the conference hotel I was given a shamrock necklace, just to set the tone!

This was a small conference.  My understanding is that it sold out.   All of the sessions were specific to Irish research and it seemed that the speakers were well known in the field.  The sessions I attended were very informative and interesting.  Featured presenters were:

  • John Grenham
  • Brian Donovan
  • Kyle Betit
  • Donna Moughty
  • Eileen O’Duill, CG
  • Sean O’Duill
  • Bill Buddle


I will be on the lookout for the announcements for this year.

The Genealogy Event

Rounding out my conference adventures for the year was the Genealogy Event held at the National Archives in New York.  This is the third year for the event and the first time at the National Archives.  This year also included a third day, DNA Day.

I attended the one-day event last year and was excited to be attending this expanded one.  Last year all sessions were open to everyone, but this year there were general sessions and advanced sessions.  The advanced sessions required additional separate tickets.  At first I was not sure I wanted to attend something where the things I was interested were a la carte, but the two sessions I did attend were worth the extra ticket, particularly Joseph Buggy, the author of  Finding Your Irish Ancestors In New York City.   It was a great session and he has written a very detailed resource for research in New York City.  He presented a picture of what life was often like for Irish in New York, strategies for research, and specific information on churches, cemeteries and neighborhoods.  I loved it and bought the book.

The Event offered general session passes and VIP passes.  The VIP passes included the option of a tour of NARA (National Archives and Records Administration), an expert lounge with computers as well as lunch. The tour of the National Archives was a nice bonus.  The conference was held at the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan.  It was nicely done, although there were some glitches.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable two days and I look forward to the 2015 Event.

It was a great year for learning.  The conferences are fun as well as educational.  The vendor areas are the genealogist’s version of a kid in a toy store!  I am grateful for all that I was able to learn last year and look forward to what 2015 brings.

The 2015 National Genealogy Society Conference will be held in St. Charles, Missouri May 13 – May 16.

The Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree 2015 will be held in Burbank, California  June 5 – 7. They also have an ongoing series of FREE webinars as a part of their Extension Series.






Marriage Records – Monmouth County, NJ

It seems like ages ago, but it was only last month that I ventured out to yet another new repository.   The NGS lesson at that time included surveying marriage records at different types of repositories. If always knew what to do, I wouldn’t need to take the course.  Vital records are confusing.  They are different for different states, counties and towns and they are different depending on the time period.  Looking at records was part of the assignment.  Finding where to look at the records was the challenge. Websites for the Union County Clerk and the Burlington County Clerk didn’t have any information on a collection of marriage records.  I had hoped to do some personal research during this assignment, so I tried Monmouth County Clerk next.  The Monmouth County Clerk’s Office did not send their records to the State Archives in Trenton, but maintains them at the County Archives.  … Continue reading

Jerry’s Genealogy Party

I never heard of a genealogy party until I was invited to Jerry’s.  Jerry is my cousin Theresa’s husband.  He has been doing genealogy research and working on his ever expanding tree for many years.  He was making trips to the New York City Archives when I was just learning research on    So a genealogy party made total sense when I got an Evite invitation for Jerry’s birthday.   As I read the invitation, “in lieu of a gift please bring an old photo or a piece of your past…,” I thought “great idea!” We were all talking about what to bring.  Some people were bringing pictures, others records.  In the meantime, Jerry had gotten a box of photos and stuff from our Uncle Bob.  Our grandmother was a genealogy dream!  She had neatly written who the people were and when it was on so many of the photos.  In … Continue reading

Land Records Part 2 – Union County

Shortly after Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi spoke at the Genealogy Society of the West Fields in October, I met her at Monmouth County Archives and History Day.  I mentioned that I would like to share my notes from her talk about the Union County Land Records and she was kind enough to send me the current inventory of the most frequently used documents. (As of October 2013) Union County Record Room Inventory Union County, New Jersey Index of Chattel Mortgages: 1857 – 1962 (Individual Books are archived on film) Mortgages: 1857- 1984 (1985 – current: online) Deeds: 1857 – 1984 (1985 – current: on-line) Assignments: 1857 – 1991 (1992 – current: on-line) Discharges: 1857 – 1991 (1992 – current: on-line) Liens: 1857 – 1984 (1985 – current: on-line) Church Corporations: 1857- present Construction Lien: (1994 – current: on-line) Lis Pendens: 1861 – 1994 (1995 – current: on-line) Release of … Continue reading

Land Records – Union County New Jersey

A few years ago I came to the realization that online research, however wonderful in its accessibility and scope, did and does have its limitations.  In slow and sometimes small steps I began to make trips to historical societies and most recently, Monmouth County Archives.  I also looked for local genealogical societies. I joined the Genealogical Society of the West Fields in New Jersey.  They have great speakers! At the October meeting, the guest speaker was Joanne Rajoppi, Union County Clerk.  She talked about Land Records maintained by her office.  Many records are searchable online from 1985 to the present. Records prior to January 1986 are in the process of being imaged. It was a great talk and very enlightening.  Ms. Rajoppi was approachable and helpful.  She explained about Deeds, Mortgages, Assignments and liens as well as showing samples of some of the documents.  The most interesting one was the … Continue reading

Next Step – NGS Home Study Course

While I was taking the Boston University course, I learned about the National Genealogical Society’s Home Study Course.  There are 16 lessons on three cd’s and each student progresses at their own pace.  The course really seems like it will give a good foundation for researching American records.   I ordered all three cd’s at once and am taking the graded version.  Completion of the graded version earns a certificate from NGS.  That’s my new goal, to earn that certificate. I took the online version of BU’s certificate program.  The plus side is that you can do it from home.  In theory you can work when you want at your own pace, but the course is broken into modules and those modules have to be completed within a certain time to earn a certificate.  There are is a forum to interact and exchange ideas with other students in the class.  The … Continue reading