A week ago Saturday I went to suburban Pittsburgh for the North Hills genealogy conference, for the second year in a row. This is a first-class one-day conference. They bring in good speakers, have good food, and are well organized. This year’s speaker was Joshua Taylor, now with brightsolid publishing, which is the parent company of findmypast.com. Having said that, he said almost nothing about his employer and stuck to genealogy.
Joshua Taylor presented four sessions. The first one covered USGenWeb. I’ve used it before but it isn’t one of my regular go-to sites. He gave the background of the organization and covered their major projects. The big takeaways were that even if some of the information seems old and the site isn’t as slick as the commercial genealogy sites, people put in information from whatever sources they had access to and these aren’t necessarily the ones that the big sites choose to digitize. Another thing to keep in mind is that because a lot of the pages haven’t been updated in years, Google often leaves them out of its indexing, so it is worth going to USGenWeb directly and browse for your areas of interest. I think Mocavo might index it better but they don’t publicize what sites they cover.
The next session was called Bridging the Gap, which dealt with researching ancestors between the Revolutionary War and 1830. Genealogists come from a variety of backgrounds. Mine is computer science so Taylor, whose background is in history and library science, provided ideas from a completely new direction for me. I had never thought of looking for scholarly publications via JSTOR or going through antique imprints. He also discussed other sources, most of which I’m familiar with to some degree but he added some extra detail. For example, when discussing church records, he pointed out that after the Revolutionary War only 1 in 4 people attended church regularly, but the number went up greatly after the Great Awakening in the 1820s so your odds of finding someone in church records goes up a lot after that.
Then it was lunchtime. The conference was held at a country club, who catered the meal. Also there plenty of good desserts provided by the North Hills members.
At the end of lunch was the drawing for door prizes. Alas, I didn’t win one, but they had some good ones, including some genealogy site memberships and an all-in-one printer. Maybe next year.
After lunch Taylor did a talk on maps and genealogy. He covered a number of mapping services. For the final session he went through a case study from his family tree.
I learned some other things from the sessions. One was how someone so young has gotten so far in genealogy. It turns out he started as a child and started seriously. He’d take month-long genealogy research trips with his grandparents each summer so got a lot of learning in early.
Next year’s speaker will be F. Warren Bittner, who I’m not familiar with. His background is in archiving and German genealogy. I’ll be interested to see what he talks about.