For as long as I have been a member of Eastern Washington Genealogical Society there has been a fall seminar. Usually it alternates with one year local speakers doing several short subjects and you can pick and choose which ones you want to go to out of a group of nine or twelve subjects something like the big national seminars. The next year is usually a national speaker doing three or four sessions that take most of a whole day.
This year was the national speaker, Michael John Neill from Illinois and his four subjects were "Locating Immigrant Origins or Where Could That Town of Origin Be Written." The second session was "Organizing Your Information - Seeing the Patterns." While the third and fourth sessions were "Researching the Entire Family" and "Tried and True Tidbits" respectively.
How were these sessions picked? Before this year, the program chairperson picked the sessions, but the internet has changed genealogy so all the members were asked to go to Michael John Neill's web site and pick their favorite sessions.
"Locating Immigrant Origins" was a good session, on where and what sources to search to find the town of origin. Michael gave a long list of items to research vital records, obituaries, naturalizations, the IGI, Ancestral File, the Internet, funeral books, pension records, census records, church records, biographies, county histories, tombstones, military records, bible records, published indexes (like PERSI), and emigration/immigration records. You néed to check all these records for the immigrant, his spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and neighbors. Michael said he has given this list to many people and several have said this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but sometimes it is necessary to find the place of origin.
Michael teaches math in Illinois, and so the second section showed some of his math skills. He suggested several charts to use to help you see patterns that may help you along in your research or where to concentrate future research. The first two are very common, family group sheets and pedigree charts. The next one I have never seen before, a discrepancy chart, where you list all the records on a certain event that may give you the information on a birth date, etc. You may have found five sources for you ancestors birth date, and while each one could be correct, you are not sure if any will give you the correct date. Another chart he uses was an acquaintance chart, he listed all the witnesses on every document you have on your ancestor, see any patterns? Last lists were sorted lists, by place, date, surname, etc., to see any patterns are here.
The third session was on researching the entire family, and I think this subject is really common sense and has been taught for years, but it is always nice to be reminded of this powerful research tool.
The last session was another list of tried and true tidbits, I will just highlight a few; be aware of local history and geography, why did they move south or west? Were there mountains or rivers in the way? Do not bring a 21st century mind to an 18th century problem and be aware of old customs and ways. Your ancestors did not have a supermarket to shop at, an interstate highway to travel on, and no cell phones. Identify people in your photographs now, have you gotten any photographs from your ancestors you do not know who is in the picture? In addition, a very interesting one is to have a friend look at your research, the next step might be obvious to someone else yet a brick wall to you.
Michael John Neill is an excellent speaker so if you get a chance to hear him speak I think you néed to go even if you have to travel a long way to the seminar.