Category Archives: New England

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.

 

 

 

NERGC? What’s a NERGC?

Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past

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

The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium produces a conference every other year. Each NERGC conference is held in a city somewhere in New England. Past conferences have been in Hartford, Connecticut, Manchester, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island, and this year, Springfield, Massachusetts. The event will kick off on 26 April 2017 with a specialty day devoted to Librarians, Professionals, Genealogical Society Management and Technology. During the following three days, you’ll have a chance to hear and learn from 70 genealogists of every level and in every aspect of genealogy and genealogical research. NERGC organizers have devoted quite a bit of time and space to DNA, a “hot topic” in today’s genealogy world.

The MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield is the venue. Hotel accommodations are available within a block. Other than presentations, this year’s conference includes several workshops, banquets and a “private” tour of the archives at the Museum of Springfield History.

Our opening speaker is Mary Tedesco, a co-host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show. Speaking several times during the conference are 3 featured speakers, Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner and a third, another co-host of Genealogy Road Show, Kenyatta D Berry.

NERGC is supported by 23 genealogical from societies around New England, all of whom will be represented at the event. Volunteers from each will be busy making sure your experience is optimal. Stop and visit each of them in the Exhibit Hall and perhaps you can meet with a society near where you live.

Also in the Exhibit Hall, you’ll see a wide variety of vendors of genealogy products: Books, CD’s, old maps, clothing, and other genealogy-oriented products. Scheduled are genealogy companies such as Ancestry.com, Evidentia Software, FindMyPast and Geni.com to name a few.NERGC is worth a look! If you can’t make Springfield this year, the 2019 conference is scheduled for a return trip to Manchester, New Hampshire.

Find-A-Grave Project – BIG Project

At the November meeting of the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society (WMGS), we listened to a presentation titled, “CSI Gravestones: Causes of Death.” Although that may sound a bit on the morbid side, one of the details that most genealogists look for is the cause of death. The intriguing nature of this presentation was the highlighting of the propensities of our ancestors to “broadcast” those causes through the epitaphs carved in stone on grave markers all over New England. It’s not seen very much these days, if at all.

Mr. Nathaniel Parks Elmwood Cemetery Holyoke, Massachusetts

Mr. Nathaniel Parks
Elmwood Cemetery
Holyoke, Massachusetts

The most interesting, or rather, the most tragic gravestone I’ve ever photographed is the memorial to Mr. Nathaniel Parks who was 19 years old on the 19th of March 1794 when he was shot to death by Mr. Luther Frink. Considering the length of time between the shooting and the burial, it’s safe to assume that Mr. Frink admitted the cause of young Nathaniel’s demise. See his memorial at Find-A-Grave here.

What’s the BIG project I was talking about? Let’s get back to the WMGS meeting. Al and Betsy McKee of Longmeadow, Massachusetts have been photographing gravestones for over 20 years. They’ve traveled up and down the Connecticut River Valley from northern Massachusetts down into southern Connecticut. They have a little over 20,000 images in their  collection. They sorted out about 50 or so for us that showed causes of death: fevers, war, old age among many other causes including illnesses that we are no longer confronted with.

Since I’ve been involved with Find-A-Grave for over 15 years, it occurred to me that the McKee’s had probably uploaded many of their images to that site. At the conclusion of the presentation, I asked them about that. Well, they just never got involved with uploading to Find-A-Grave. So I proposed a collaborative project between them and WMGS.  And they’re all for it. My idea was to open an account so that the memorials that get posted would give credit to them for the photographs.

Find-A-Grave is one of the websites that researchers use on a fairly regular basis. Creating an

William Bassett Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

William Bassett
Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

account is totally free and anyone can upload any memorial as long as the memorial has not already been posted. Incredibly, there are over 140 million memorials for “regular people” all the way up to presidents and movie stars. It’s a good research tool in that using the site to search for an ancestor can turn up some surprising results. That’s the upside. The downside is that realistically, anyone can upload anything. So you may find someone who is a target of your research, but the data gleaned from such a memorial must be verified before we take it as fact. Either way, it’s just another breadcrumb in the relentless search for our ancestors.

Why put up memorials? There are many reasons. First, it is a memorial and it does just that, memorialize a family member, friend or anyone who you are familiar with who you feel deserves to be remembered in such a manner. Many of us simply like to provide the information to researchers from around the country and actually from around the world. The photo isn’t necessary, it’s more of a bonus. I’ve had email over the years from people who appreciate the fact that they can “visit” friends and family when there is no opportunity to visit the actual cemetery. One elderly woman saw her sister in one of the local cemeteries and, according to her daughter, teared up.  The cemetery is here in Massachusetts and she currently lives with her daughter and son-in-law in California with no hope of making a trip back here.

So here’s the point of this post. If you’re familiar with Find-A-Grave or even if you’re new to it and would like to take part in this project, just get in touch with me at dave@oldbones.info. As we put together the details, I’m sure we can easily find a way to allow anyone from anywhere to pitch in.

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)

 

Where’d They Go???

This is getting a little frustrating!  I’ve put up…or tried to put up…a few new posts.  Then POOF!

English: American genealogist Joseph Lemuel Ch...

English: American genealogist Joseph Lemuel Chester (a.k.a. Julian Cramer, 1821–1882). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They’re gone and I can’t find them.  And WordPress can’t find them!

But, I’m going to just soldier on and hope for the best.  Lots of interesting things are going on. That was the inspiration to post “Busy Year.”  But I have no idea if it’s out there somewhere.  So here goes.

First, I was nominated for and elected to be the president of NEAPG, the New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.  High regional profile and I’m getting to know some of the best known and most talented genealogists throughout New England.

But I also want to tell you this little story. In early January, I was invited to join a private Google+ Community, “NEAPG Lunch with Dave.”  It came from a highly credentialed and well known genealogist, Barbara Mathews.  Barbara is a Certified Genealogist, author of several genealogical books and articles,  and was recently named Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. I’ve known Barbara for about 2 years mostly through NEAPG.  I also participate in her NGSQ study group once a month.  So, in order to maintain good relationships, I accepted the invitation naively unaware of which “Dave” she was referencing.  I had to wait to see who else was invited.  Turns out, 3 other well respected and highly accomplished genealogists were also invited. I mean, to be invited to meet with this group was flattering to say the least.  As it turns out, the purpose of the lunch was to provide me with some background and working knowledge of the status of NEAPG and offer me their assistance in my new role.  I was not a complete stranger to NEAPG.  I had been a member for a little over a year before taking the Vice President’s role.  But the “top spot” carried with it quite a bit more in the way of responsibilities.

So on a Friday a couple of weeks ago, I met with Barbara, Kate Lowrie, Tim Firkowski and Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt, all past board members of NEAPG and equally accomplished professional genealogists in their own right.  Lunch, or more accurately, school was at Amici Trattoria in Shrewsbury, Mass.  I admitted to them that my visceral reaction to the invitation for “Lunch with Dave” left me wondering “Who’s Dave” but I was quick to figure that out!

The lunch was great and the help they collectively provided was priceless. Polly invited us all back to her house for some socializing so the day turned out to be quite an “event,” at least from my perspective!

Now all the pieces are coming together nicely.  I’m accompanied in this adventure by Michelle Fontaine our new Treasurer, Jennifer Shoer as Secretary and Brent Chadwick, Vice President.  We’ve already begun a good stream of communication, held a few “virtual” board meetings and our new Program Committee co-chaired by Polly and Cathi Wiest Desmarais has the year pretty much mapped out!  I’m determined that as a group, we’re going to put together an interesting, educational and mutually helpful year for all the membership!

More later, especially if I’ve fixed the phantom blog-post problem!!

One more comment: Go PATRIOTS!!