Category Archives: Uncategorized

The City That William Pynchon Built

 

2017 NERGC Conference “Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past”

April 26th through 29th will be a busy one for 1,100 or so genealogists. Speakers, vendors, professionals, hobbyists and the curious will converge at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts! The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium’s  (NERGC) conference is a biennial event that is 2 years in the making and is produced in various cities throughout New England.

My role as a co-chair for this year’s event consists of a great many responsibilities including marketing. As a result, I’ve brought my retail experience to the table and helped as much as I could in getting the word out.  Some of the unusual opportunities included the MassMutual Center itself which, for example, sends an “events update” email to a 25,000 name database. That sounded like a pretty good audience to me so I signed up to have our event included with a special offer for those registering through that site. We offered a “coupon code” to those registrants to claim a small gift as a token of our appreciation.

We’ve been placing announcements on multiple Facebook pages, Google+ Communities, Twitter, Pinterest, press releases to newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, and announcements at a wide variety of genealogical societies around the country…wherever we thought we might find an audience who could be drawn to an event such as ours.

Since I participate in a number of genealogically oriented Google Hangouts every week, I always get a chance to talk about the conference to an audience that is literally worldwide. These short promotions are courtesy of the Hangout host who, most of the time, is Pat Richley-Erickson and her cousin, Russ Worthington who produce the “DearMYRTLE Hangout” series.

William Pynchon – Founder of the Agawam Plantation

Here’s my point….finally! Among other genealogical societies, the Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society asked me to assist them with 2 issues: First, get them started in the use of virtual meeting platforms to bring a wider variety of speakers to their membership; and second, give my presentation titled “The City That William Pynchon Built” at their April meeting in Gardner, Massachusett.  I broadcasted the presentation from home to a room full of CMGS members in Gardner.  This link will take you to the YouTube channel where you can hear a brief history of the City of Springfield where our NERGC conference will be held.

William Pynchon was an English businessman who invested in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and arrived here around 1630. He then struck out to explore the wilderness of what we know today as the Pioneer Valley and the area along the Connecticut River. Well, without going into too much detail, if you have any interest in NERGC or the host city, Springfield, take a look at the video and leave your comments.

And by the way, at the time of this blog, you can still register to attend the NERGC conference. There will be over 70 presenters from around the world with 135 programs and workshops. There will also be 75 vendors with an amazing array of genealogical products and services. There is no need to register to visit the Exhibitor Hall.

After the conference, I will be glad to post the highlights with pictures and stories.

A view of Springfield from across the Connecticut River in West Springfield.

 

 

 

Quick Lesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof

Dave Robison – QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof [1]

As with any genealogical research question, establishing the accuracy of an item as simple as a date of birth can prove elusive and, at times, frustrating. In the case of one of my own direct ancestors, the search has taken me to many sources, with two, rather than one definitive answer. Although the search has been exhaustive, neither date has been proved.

This is the case of my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robison. He was also the subject last week’s assignment regarding the number of wives. The very first record I had on his age or date of birth came from an on-line family tree, a source I was unfortunate enough to use 15 years ago, when I was so enthusiastic about my own family’s genealogy, I was hungry for every tidbit I could find. Unfortunately, it was one of the first conflicts I ran into. There were 2 schools of “thought” based on other people’s enthusiasm. First, his year of birth was alleged to be 1777 and later, in other trees, 1784. My solution at the time was extraordinarily amateur. I simply picked one!

Hezekiah RobertsonRobison

Hezekiah ROBRSON

At a family reunion in 2001, I visited the Robinson Cemetery, off of Robinson Road in Robinson Hollow near Elkmont, Limestone County, Alabama. There could be as many as 30 ancestors here but only about 16 stones remain. Other markers may have been wooden or disintegrated and sunken into the ground.  Now I would have thought that with all the “Robinson” designations, that there’d be little doubt as to spelling. This stone provided a new entry into the various spellings: “ROBRSON.” And as you can see in the photo[2], “Died June the 19th 1852 Aged 75 years” suggests a birth year 1777. Other records would disagree. (FOR THE RECORD: I did not chalk this stone. As a matter of fact, I’ve never chalked a stone. It’s not a good idea!)

1850 United States Federal Census-30A few years later, I was able to find him in a few census records. The first source mentioning an age was the entry for Hezekiah in the 1850 US Census[3]. Here he or the informant stated his age as 66 suggesting a birth year of 1784. Just with these two sources, the information they contain 2 glaring inconsistencies. The 1850 census taken just 2 years prior to his death states his age as 66 while the gravestone which was likely carved just after his death states his age as 75. Obviously, there’s more work to be dome to resolve this conflict.

To recap what I have so far, there are 2 sources: the 1850 US census and a gravestone. Both I would consider original. But keep in mind that the information each contains could fall into either primary or secondary status. As Elizabeth Shown Mills describes in her article “QuickLesson 2,”[4]  information should not be confused as “fact.” It is merely the content found in a source.

Since ether are so far only 2 sources, we can hardly say that so far, the research has been exhaustive. As a result, the hunt was on to prove or disprove one or the other. Since Hezekiah was a veteran of the War of 1812, the records at Fold3.com, a source, may have contained information to clear up the discrepancy. However, his military record including enlistment data, muster rolls or any other mention of a “Hezekiah Rob*son” make it difficult to ascertain as to which Hezekiah is which.  His widow’s subsequent pension application file found during a visit to the NARA in Washington DC contains a number of documents none of which make any reference as to his age. The search at Fold3 has been ongoing as more and more records are digitized and uploaded. Therefore, this source should be reviewed from time to time.

Finally, any document that references Hezekiah’s place of birth states Virginia. I have searched on line and in person in a variety of sources in Virginia to no avail. Since I’m far from knowing exactly where in Virginia, he may well have been born in what is now West Virginia.

For now, at least, the sources and the information they contain do not hold enough evidence to reasonably come to any conflict resolution. And now, the search for a date or even a year of birth together with a location, has been put on hold for a variety of reasons. But stay tuned! Someday I’ll have a better answer.

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-2-sources-vs-information-vs-evidence-vs-proof : accessed 19 March 2016).

[2] Photo taken by the author and remains in the author’s collection.

[3] 1850 US Census, Population Schedule, Alabama, Limestone County, District Four, household of Hezekiah Robinson; digital media, Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 September2012) NARA roll M432_8, p 4A.

[4] Ibid.

Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic Users — Great News!

Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Groundhog Day 2005 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

Groundhog Day 2005 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016 was a great day for Punxsutawney Phil (no shadow) and users of Family Tree Maker (FTM) and RootsMagic (RM) for building their family trees, collecting and storing photos and documents and adding source citations. With last December’s announcement that Ancestry.com was discontinuing support for their Family Tree Maker product at the end of 2016, FTM users collectively groaned “Oh no!” which could be heard around the genealogical globe.

There’s a cure. And I have to believe that this had been in the works for a long time because these sort of arrangements don’t happen on a whim. The Ancestry.com blog explains it in greater detail. It’s not a complicated explanation. The long and the short of it is simple.  Software MacKiev is the developer for the Mac version of FTM. They are now taking over the PC version and continue to publish it along with support and revisions.

Ancestry also announced a deal with RootsMagic whereby RM users will be able to sync their trees on Ancestry.com. The deal is best described in an Ancestry.com announcement which you can read here.

So Family Tree Maker will continue to be available after 31 December 2016. RootsMagic, a very popular and competitive product will bring thousands of family trees into the Ancestry.com data base. They offer a free trial version with limited features to get folks familiar with it. Certainly that will vastly expand the “shaky leaf” feature and also increase exponentially the possibility of DNA matches with customers who chose a test through AncestryDNA.com.

Your choices for genealogy software are certainly not limited to FTM and RootsMagic. Family Tree Builder is a product available at MyHeritage.com who offers a free limited version with upgrades at a variety of price points.

Legacy Family Tree is another free, upgradeable software program.  Legacy Family Tree

Legacy Family Tree Homepage

Legacy Family Tree Homepage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Webinars are broadcast weekly on Wednesdays dubbed “Webinar Wednesdays.” You can view upcoming topics, register for one or any that interest you. The broadcasts use GoToMeeting technology, a very simple “plug and play” process. They allow everyone to view the latest broadcast for 7 days from the date of the show. You can view the entire 300+ archive for free at any time with a paid membership.

There are other products that might interest you. Click here for “2016 BEST Genealogy Software Review” to assist you prior to making a financial commitment.

It’s all good, at least from my view.

Family tree made with "Family tree - clip...

Family tree made with “Family tree – cliparts CD” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Black History Month

Here are a couple of links to research opportunities. The first is an article I found in the Huffington Post and the other is an announcement by Fold3,

This was my post to the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Societies (WMGS) Google Community:

I just read this article at the Huffington Post: http://bit.ly/Black_History_Month_Google_Cultural

Great for researchers interested in Black History. And I know there are quite a few WMGS members who would benefit.

Here’s the Fold3 announcement and my post to the WMGS Community:

Here’s the Fold3 Google Community regarding Black History Month: https://plus.google.com/+fold3

In addition to these posts, I also placed this on our Facebook page. Click here to “Like” the WMGS page.

By the way, WMGS is centered on Western Massachusetts. But there are many who have ties to the area and choose to become a member. There are members in California, Maryland, Texas and many other states. Click here to access a membership application.

We are even working on perfecting remote broadcasts whereby the membership can sit at home, wherever they live, and participate in real time.  Generally, we have a remote broadcast meeting (Google Hangouts) on odd numbered months and live appearances on even months. Our members have been able to participate and interact with nationally known genealogists.

NERGC

English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with gene...

English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with genealogical information about King Eric the Pomeranian of Scandinavia, as released by image creator Ristesson; Place: Darłowo, Poland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re all talking about NERGC here in the North East.  NERGC?  So what’s NERGC?  It’s the acronym for the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium.  NERGC orchestrates a biennial conference at strategic cities here in New England.   Now it’s not RootsTech..nowhere near the size.  I believe RT had approximately 30,000 registrants this year, give or take 10,000.

No, NERGC is quite a bit smaller but of no less significance or importance to the genealogical community here.  Speakers, sponsored luncheons and dinners, workshops, society meetings, exhibitor hall with unopposed exhibit hours, speakers with national, regional and local recognition… NERGC has it all.

I can tick off a list of reasons why I took 4 days out my own very busy schedule to attend.

First, the opportunity to network with people who I know well, but only via social media: Facebook, Google Communities, Webinars, Google Hangouts on Air, the whole spectrum! I can tell you that it’s one thing to communicate virtually, but there’s nothing like looking across the table with a genealogy friend and sharing a meal or just a cup of coffee.  It’s what I would call a mini-conference.  There were mini-conferences going on all day, every day.

Second, I’d have to count the sessions that were held on all aspects of genealogy, family research and technology.  As a matter of fact, the entire first day was devoted to librarians, teachers and technology.  Not a bad place to be on Wednesday!  And I know that those who attended would agree.

Next, I’d count the individual specialty programs such as the “Ancestor Road Show.” This program is well attended and by reservation only!  A busy time for the NERGC volunteers,

And on the subject of volunteers, there are dozens of devoted genealogists at all levels of knowledge and experience in every field, volunteers who spend hours and hours in the planning and execution of each conference.

The Exhibition Hall was jam packed with representatives from many vendors and societies. The

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry ...

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

genealogy website  MyHeritage was represented as well as the American-French Genealogical Society, Heritage Books, Lisa Louise’s Genealogy Gems, the Gravestone Girls, New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, New England Historic Genealogical Society, citation software vendor Evidentia, and many, many more.

So now we all have to wait until April of 2017 for the next NERGC conference which will be held at the MassMutual Center

in Springfield, Mass.

See you there!

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

John Howland's grave

John Howland’s grave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Page from William Bradford's Of Plimoth Planta...

Page from William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation containing the text of the Mayflower Compact (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today nearly got away from me without my recognition of a very special birthday.  I’ll give you a hint: He was born 342 years ago today (Julian Calendar!).  John Howland was a Mayflower passenger who nearly didn’t make it!  There’s a well-documented, elaborate story detailing the events.  Suffice it to say that he had had enough of the “unpleasant” atmosphere below deck toward the end of a grueling journey.  John went to get a breath of fresh air and…oops! He fell overboard.  Thankfully, the crew spotted him and were able to fish him out of the churning sea and back on board.

Yes, thankfully!  If they had lost him, you wouldn’t be reading this post!

English: Photograph of the John Howland House ...

English: Photograph of the John Howland House built in 1666 in Plymouth, Mass. Photographed circa 1921 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“If It’s Online…It’s True” — Abraham Lincoln

The whimsical quote above is something I found somewhere…probably online… and I thought I’d share it with you. I was hoping it would be a humourous segue into this subject.

It occurred to me as I was watching WDYTYA, that if anyone took a tally of what was discovered on line, specifically by the show’s sponsor, Ancestry.com , and what needed to be researched in libraries, archives, repositories, church records, town halls, private collections, et al, that it would clearly demonstrated that no, as a matter of fact, it’s NOT all online!

The amount of data that can be discovered at home by logging in to a variety of websites both free and subscription is quite definitely increasing, seemingly by leaps and bounds. We see numbers such as so-and-so “…has added 3,500,00 records…” with some more and some less. Without knowing how many more records there are to index and post, it almost seems as though we’re nearly done so who needs the libraries, archives, repositories, church records, town halls, private collections, et al?

I’ve seen estimates that the internet contains 5% or less of the available data. Others estimate upwards of 15%. But the fact remains that even the sponsor of a very popular program dealing with genealogical research which is itself an internet based research resource still employs dozens of professionals to get the job done. If Ancestry.com needs professionals to put their program together, how can any hobbyists or private family researcher or professional genealogist hope to do better?

I’m just sayin’!