Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Impressions Of My First FGS Conference

Last week I attended my first FGS Conference. Having worked for my dad since I was a child on internationally attended conferences and seminars, I know exactly how much work goes into them. In my opinion based on my experience at the FGS Conference they worked very hard and it showed. Aside from a fire alarm that went off Thursday all went extremely well. The sessions and their speakers were all outstanding. Of course, my favorite speakers were Elizabeth Shown Mills who inspires us all to be the very best and thorough as we can be as well as how to properly conduct research, document and of course, site those sources. I cannot forget to mention Judy Russell (AKA The Legal Genealogist) whose passion and humor not only teaches but inspires and entertains. I think if Judy wanted to, she could add professional comedienne to her list of professions. In addition to that, Judy keeps us out of trouble. Based on her session on copyright law, I think I had better go through my websites and check those images! I was also impressed with Laura Prescott's obvious passion. But all the speakers were great and they had quite a list of speakers that represented the best genealogy has to offer. I attended this conference to learn and with their impressive list of speakers, I certainly did that. I also had the opportunity to meet many people, network and have fun.
The exhibits in the exhibit hall were all great and several book and map vendors were there. I had been to their booths every day looking through their collections of books and maps. They had books on everything you could imagine. I found books on researching every state in the United States, African American, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Scandinavian, Slovakian, Czech, Serbian, Russian, Jewish even several Caribbean Islands. What I did not find was anything related to Italian Roots. One vendor had a map of Sicily and Naples. That was all for Italian resources! I have been aware for years that the genealogy community in general has mostly ignored the Italians. But not a single session included anything Italian related and even the vendors have ignored those with Italian roots. Family Search understands well how many people with Italian roots are looking which probably explains why they have put so many Italian records online. I think the time the genealogy community begin to offer at least something for the Italian community is long overdue. My experience at the conference did not entirely lack an Italian experience though. Thanks to Dr. John Phillip Colletta and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Italians did have some representation. Dr. Colletta was the speaker for the APG luncheon and did an outstanding, extremely funny speech regarding the keepers of the records and his experiences in Sicily. His presentation was very funny and he rocked an awesome imitation of the Italians.
Lessons Learned
If you want it buy it now: I found several books I wished to purchase in the exhibit hall, however, because I found them on short breaks between sessions and did not wish to carry these heavy volumes around, I waited. When I returned to purchase them, they were gone. One of these books was a 2 volume set on Colonial Virginia printed in 1906. The set was offered for an extremely reasonable price of $50 for the pair and was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. Next time, I will at the very least ask if they can either hold them until the end of the day after I purchase them or have them shipped. At least one of the book vendors did offer free shipping for purchases.
Carry light: I have a huge bag I use all the time when visiting repositories, etc. It is a huge heavy thick leather bag with big brass clips. Empty this bag weights about 5 pounds. Next time, I leave that bag home! By the time I packed everything I needed into that bag, it felt like it weighted 50 pounds! I doubt it did but by the end of the conference my back and shoulders were hurting quite bad.
Book the hotel early! By the time I committed to go, the venue hotel was booked, as was the hotel across the street. In fact, my top 4 choices were all booked. Next time I will book the hotel before the conference - as soon as the dates are announced.
Come early, stay late! This particular conference was held in Fort Wayne. Located here is one of the largest genealogy libraries in the country. Next time I attend a conference (particularly one with a genealogy library I can use) I will book a hotel at least a day early and stay a day after the conference so I have more time for research. Roots Tech will be held in Salt Lake City, the Mecca of genealogists. Booking an additional week still would not be enough time to go through the amazing collections of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I need to choose a few lines to concentrate on and be super organized for this visit.
Overall it was a great experience that I cannot wait to repeat.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Death Records: A Love Hate Relationship

Recently I have been trying to help someone at one of my Family History Centers who is new to Italian records. She was confused because things were not making sense. Things were not making sense because she was tracing the wrong family. Hence, this blog post.
I learned early that death records can provide the place of birth, the parent's names and more. Many United States death records also provide a cause of death. I love death records! The biggest problem with death records is, the information contained on them is provided by another person. Although I will be using Italian examples, most of the content here works with American records also.
This is the death record of my paternal second great grandmother, Caterina Nicastro. According to this death record (atti di morte or act of death) Caterina died at the age of 80 in November of 1904. The record identifies her as the wife of Filippo Napolitano so we know we have the correct Caterina Nicastro. The record also states that her father was the late Giuseppe and her mother was Carmela Alfano. Great! So now we have the parents of Caterina, right? Wrong! The first question I had when I found this record was how can Caterina's mother still be living when Caterina was 80 years old? The fact is Carmela Alfano was only 9 years older than Caterina. Next we look at the people who reported her death. Pasquale Arturi, age 40 and Emilio Arturi, age 27 reported the death. Two of Caterina's daughters married men named Arturi, however, neither of these men were close family members to her son in laws. Pasquale was a 2nd cousin to one of her son in laws. So, how did they know Caterina's parent's names? The answer may be that they guessed. If they did, they guessed incorrectly. Caterina was actually 75 years old when she died, not 80. Her father was actually the late Francesco Nicasto and her mother was the late Isabella Fullone. The only correct information on this record is the date and her name. So, how do I know this? Her marriage, processetti and birth records.
This is a portion of Caterina's marriage record that clearly shows her (still living) parent's names. Both Caterina and her parents were present so we can assume that this record is correct, however, her birth record provides further confirmation.
My own grandfather's death record was incorrect. His son reported the death, however, his children never knew his true age nor where in Italy he was born. I love death records but I never trust them by themselves.