Monday, August 12, 2013

IAJGS Conference Wrap-up, and Visiting Family and the Cemetery

Friday, the final day of the conference, was not just throw-away sessions.  The ones I attended were interesting, even if I didn't agree with everything.

The early morning one (that I had to be at on time, because I was assisting the speaker) was given by Sandra Crystall, whose day job is using geographic information systems (GIS) in wetlands assessment for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.  She is also an enthusiastic genealogist.  She has taken population data collected by Dr. Laurence Leitenberg and is creating maps that show the changes in population over time for about 800 towns.  Crystall is using data for the years 1750, 1800, 1850, 1900, and 1930.  The research and project were supported by the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center.  The maps show increases and decreases and indicate shifts in population from small towns to larger cities.  When the maps are completed they will be posted for online viewing.  Several people in the audience suggested that interactive maps that showed the continuum of changes would be better than the static maps that are being created, but those would take significantly more time and programming.

Certified Genealogist Rhoda Miller gave a presentation on evidence analysis.  This was essentially a talk about the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS); she discussed all the points of the GPS in relation to several examples.  Few people in the audience were professional researchers, and almost no one had heard of the GPS before.  In one example, I disagreed with her classification of a piece of evidence as being a primary source.  She had created a table showing the pieces of evidence she had found for the birth year of her grandfather.  For all but one, there was no way to determine who had given the information for his birth year (e.g., ship manifest, census return), and she listed them as secondary sources.  But for one record, an application for a grave purchase, her grandfather had given the birth year.  She classified this as primary, saying that he would know when he was born.  I asked why that was not a secondary source, as he was not cognizant at the time and could not attest to it from his own knowledge or memory.  She explained that his parents would have told him.  I did not press the point, but in my mind, that's the very definition of second-hand information:  when someone else tells you.  But I'm not a CG, so I may be missing something.

The final session was definitely one that I'll be able to use.  Vivian Kahn and Rony Golan taught a quick-and-dirty Hebrew class for genealogists.  The handout was a list of genealogical terms in English and Hebrew, complete with pronunciations, and lists of male and female names in English and Hebrew.  We got an overview of the alphabet in both block printing and cursive (which was great, because cursive is so much harder) and even some comparisons to Yiddish.  For example, I now know that cursive Yiddish uses vowels, but Hebrew doesn't.  Printed Hebrew often doesn't use vowels either, particularly on tombstones.  Those missing vowels can make translation difficult.  I'm starting slowly -- I can recognize three letters so far! -- but it's a start.  Learning Hebrew and Yiddish has long been on my to-do list, and at least this class was a first step.

There was no wrap-up or good-bye ceremony for the conference; it was just suddenly over.  I left the hotel and went straight to meet up with my cousin so we could drive to Connecticut for a visit with her mother.  It was a lovely visit, and she answered all sorts of questions about the family.  Luckily, her memory is still very good.  She also has a beautiful photograph of my great-grandmother and three of her siblings, along with all of their spouses.  She let me take a photo of the photo (even if I got it a little fuzzy) and identified everyone for me!  But she doesn't know why a cousin is in the photo and the fifth sibling isn't.

On Saturday, before I returned my rental car and boarded my flight back to California, I made one more genealogy visit, but this time the conversations were one-sided.  I drove to Brockton, not too far from my cousins' house in Sharon, and found Calvary Cemetery, where the great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and several cousins of my stepsons are buried.  I paid my respects at both of the family plots and stayed around to talk to them for a while (just like Kelly Clarkson did on Who Do You Think You Are?).  It's a well maintained cemetery, and the gravestones are in good condition, which was nice to see.  I'm glad I was able to go.


  1. First, this sounds like it was a great trip for you! I'm glad you had the time and money to go.

    Secondly, I think the most telling line in this post is: "But I'm not a CG, so I may be missing something."

    1. It was a great trip! I'm glad I was able to budget for it (only started planning two years ago).

      I did stay polite while telling it, though, didn't I?

  2. "I did stay polite while telling it, though, didn't I?"

    Very. It was well done. Still can hear it in your voice though. :)

    1. Can I claim it's a good thing that I write like I talk? :)


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