Sunday, May 6, 2012

Arrows in Your Genealogy Quiver

Laura Prescott
Genealogy Rock Star
Nebraska State Genealogical Society conference
May 4 - 5, 2012
My mind is still spinning with all of the new resources that I've added to my genealogy toolbox this past weekend, thanks to Laura Prescott. Laura was the featured speaker at the 35th annual conference of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society in Grand Island on May 4 - 5, 2012.

Laura is an engaging speaker who not only knows how to do genealogy research, but how to give her audience the tools to further their own family history quest. In her own terminology, these genealogy tools are the arrows in our quiver. I came home with a quiver overflowing with new arrows. Each of her talks gave me some new sources to look into, as well as a reminder to go back to some of the web resources I haven't visited in a while.

Laura's presentation style is organized, focused and most importantly, she connects with her audience. She had us laughing with many of her anecdotal stories - especially about debunking some of the myths.

Her first session was on timelines and placing your heritage in historical perspective. This is one of my favorite topics and she gave several visual examples of different ways to create a timeline. One of the first arrows in my quiver was a link to Vertex 42, a web site with links to Excel templates that can be used to create timelines. I use Excel for all sorts of data management projects in my day-job, but had never carried that over to my genealogy projects. Laura's pointers opened up a lot of new possibilities for me.

"Three brothers came to America . . ."

Laura had us all laughing with this ongoing theme about family history myths. Many times our research is about disproving "facts" rather than proving them. I always like to hear other genealogists talk about doing collateral research using the FANs approach - Friends, Associates and Neighbors. Sometimes I get so wrapped up researching the inlaws of the inlaws that I feel I'm losing my focus. But I know that the missing link I'm looking for will likely be discovered while researching one of these collateral families. This methodology was validated by Laura in several examples in her own research.

I enjoyed Laura's session about diaries and journals. While I don't have any of these in my collection, a close second are several autograph books that belonged to my female ancestors and my father's daily letters home from World War II. Hidden gems of daily life can be discovered in these artifacts. Laura referred to these as "tangible connections to the past." Sometimes, one just has to stop and think that their ancestor actually held this item, signed this item. If that doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what would.

Spinsters and Widows was another of Laura's topics. Don't we all enjoy the challenge of locating our female ancestors? Did you know that a Spinster is not necessarily an Old Maid? Laura pointed out the true definition of spinster as an indicator of a woman's legal status - that she is able to act on her own behalf or on behalf of her husband.

Laura concluded with a session on using manuscripts to create a family history. She reminded us that we are always writing our family history. She emphasized how we need to look at many of our artifacts with fresh eyes - we will often discover something that we hadn't seen before.

I really enjoyed being a student in Laura's classroom. I took away so much from all of her sessions, including  the inspiration that attending these conferences always gives me. I have dozens of web links and books to look in to, so the learning will continue for months to come. And I have a new found Facebook friend!

Visit Laura Prescott's web site

Other posts in this series about the 2012 NSGS conference:

Exhausted and Exhilarated

2011 Nebraska Genealogist of the Year - Ruby Coleman

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