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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My day at the fair

Last Wednesday and Thursday I attended NARA’s 8th Annual Genealogical Fair and I had a great time!  Everyone was very helpful, patient, and eager to share; perfect for a genealogical conference I would think.  As this was my first outing anywhere near a conference, on this subject, I was over the moon with it.

Wednesday was grey, drizzly, and cold which for an outdoor venue was not necessarily the best weather you could hope for.  Big name vendors and local area societies were present.  My friends and I walked past Ancestry, Fold3, and FamilySearch.  There was a large bank of terminals next to Ancestry and FamilySearch so that you could go out and start searching right then.

Down another aisle I stopped and talked to several of the local societies, the APG representative, and NGS.  The Loudon County Virginia Historical Society even took a note for me to give to the county archivist to help me find the documents I wanted on my 4th great-grandfather Edward Arvin.  (They are on their way to me now by the way!)  I enjoyed talking to the woman from the local APG chapter and I think it may be something I look into more in the future. 

We all stopped briefly to peruse the books section at the Foundation for the National Archives.  I left that day with three books:

·         Evidence! Citation and Analysis for theFamily Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills

·         The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebookfor Women’s Genealogy by Christina Kassabian Schaeffer

·         The Genealogy Tool Kit: Getting Started on Your Family History at the National Archives by John P. Deeban

The last book has been talked about recently on several blogs and in a press release from the Foundation for the National Archives.  It is a basic book, but there were step-by-step worksheets to take you through the records at the archives as well as how to research with original documents.  I am sure I will find it useful and a good book for the future.  Plus, I am a sucker for an autographed book.  The author was there and he signed my copy happily.

In the afternoon I introduced my friends to the reading room where the original documents are viewed at the archives.  I requested two more Civil War Pension Files and they had just as much, if not more, fun than I did looking through and analyzing the information.  We thought we had a good lead on a Civil war Ancestor for one of them, but when we started to read the file it was not her ancestor.  Bummer, but still fascinating as the widow had included newspaper clippings about her husband with her pension request. 

Thursday was a much nicer, and sunnier, day.  I took two classes.  In the morning I listened to a lecture on “Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research” by Jeffery Hartley.  I had heard of the serial set but was not entirely sure as what it was.  Wow is all I have to say. That afternoon I attended “Treating the Sick and Wounded: Civil War Medical Records” by Nancy Wing.  My mother’s a doctor, I toyed with being a doctor, and I have a biology degree… do you think I could have passed this up?  It was fascinating and even got me thinking about how I need to have my mom write a guest post here.

The highlight of Thursday was meeting the author of Annie’sGhosts, Steve Luxenburg.  Of course I don’t have a paper copy of the book, it is on my iPad, but he kindly took a picture with me so I would have a remembrance of the day.  He chatted with me and my friends for a little bit and I have to say he was extreamly pleasant, very personable, and very tall.  You can listen to an interview with him  about this book from Lisa Louise Cooke at the Genealogy Gems Podcast.

The last part of the day was exploring the stacks at the research library.  I had not been in there before and I was not disappointed.  In the library are reference books, biographies, indexes, maps, and so much more.  All the books relate in some way to holding at the archives.  I just wandered the aisles reading titles, flipping through maps, and getting acquainted with everything.  It is a place that I will be going back to when I have a specific research plan.  That day, since the Revolutionary War was on my mind for some reason, I looked through indexes of soldiers for my ancestors.  Found most of them, and not  just names.  Most of the books had a description of the person, ranks, and short bio from the war.  Yes, I made copies.

Overall it was a very satisfying experience… and I have a lot of fling to do!

*Thanks to Barb for helping take pictures!

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