Friday, November 2, 2012

Texas State Genealogical Society Conference - Day 2

Today I attended the second day of the Texas State Genealogical Society (TSGS) annual conference, being held this year at the Riley Center in southwest Fort Worth.  Since I've recently been promoted at work to Coordinator of Archives and Special Services, and our archival collections include county records, I decided to attend a lot of sessions pertaining to that topic today (since my employer did give me the time to attend the conference yesterday and today).

Three of the five sessions I attended were by Teri E. Flack (pictured above), who is the chair of the TSGS Records Preservation and Access Committee, and the state's liaison to the same national-level committee.  I was especially interested in hearing her speak when I read in the program that she "volunteers at Texas State Archives on a project to preserve and make accessible to the public over 1,000 volumes of Galveston County Records from the 19th and 20th centuries."  Since my mother and I think her Guokas ancestors immigrated through Galveston, I'd love to know more about what's in these records.

The first session of Teri's I attended was called "Gone to Texas: Fundamentals of Texas Research."  This included a brief overview of the state's history with some pointers on how and why certain events affected settlement patterns and record-keeping.    For example, a state constitution adopted after the Civil War turned county government upside down, abolishing county courts (reinstated in 1876).  Delayed birth records came about due to the establishment of Social Security, as people needed to provide evidence of a date of birth for this program. This is (one reason) why you can find birth records for some people born in Texas prior to 1903, when the state began requiring birth records to be filed at the state level.  Teri talked about many other types of records available in Texas and where you can find them.

Teri was immediately followed by James Harkins, Director of Public Services for the Texas General Land Office Archives and Records Program.  He talked about "Genealogical Resources at the Texas General Land Office" - who should do research there, various land grant documents and how the land grant process worked, and what you might find among their various collections and maps.  He also demonstrated how to search their website, both for land grant information (and, in some cases, digitized images) and their mapping feature (which you can also use to find maps to purchase_.

I also attended Teri's session called "Dead Men Talking:  Finding Answers Using Probate and Estate Records."  Again, she went over the types of records that might be created in every step of the probate process, and where one might find them.  Both of the sessions were particularly useful to me, as I learned more about the county records I now manage, and how to help genealogical researchers find what they need.

The other presentation by Teri Flack that I attended, "Records:  Ensuring Preservation and Access," was really more of a group discussion than a presentation.  The Report on the Preservation of Historical Texas State Court Records, issued in August 2011 by the Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force, showed that many county officials don't know where some of these records are and/or what's in them.  Sometimes the county doesn't have the records (my university, a regional depository for microfilm records for a number of counties, also has, for example, many of the paper records for our local county, almost 400 volumes ranging from 1867 to 1967).  The group talked about some of the issues in preservation (loss through neglect, intentional destruction, theft, lack of funds, inadequate facilities) and access (privacy or security concerns, lack of staffing, misinterpretation of restrictions on specific records), and some of the things genealogists can do to help with these issues.  This was very enlightening.  Preservation of these records is important, not only for genealogy, but for Texas history too.

I rounded out my day with a session for my own edification (not work-related - I'll be making up for that with a session tomorrow).  I went to Debbie Parker Wayne's presentation on "Going Nuclear:  DNA Discoveries to Trace All Lines of Descent."  She is the director of the TSGS DNA Project.  She explained, in a clear, comprehensible manner, autosomal DNA testing and how the results can be used.  I knew very little about the use of DNA testing in genealogy and wanted to learn more, so this session was very helpful to me.

© Amanda Pape - 2012 - click here to e-mail me.

No comments:

Post a Comment