Saturday, November 7, 2015

Society Saturday: 2015 Texas State Genealogical Society Conference

Last weekend I attended the annual conference of the Texas State Genealogical Society, held in Austin, Texas.  Since my parents live there, I was able to combine it with a visit with them.

My justification for getting some time off from work to attend on a Friday were the sessions in the "Courthouse Records and Record Loss" track (which was actually on Sunday afternoon).  Two of these three sessions were by John Sellers, a courthouse records expert, and the other was by Teri Flack, who is chair of the society's Records Preservation and Access Committee.  John also did one of the six general sessions, also on courthouse research.  I feel I understand a lot of the legal terminology better now, as well as what some of these resources contain, and will better be able to assist patrons at my library wanting to use the old courthouse records we store.

Half of the general sessions were done by the incomparable Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems.  The topics were "Google Tools & Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries," "Future Technology and Genealogy - 5 Strategies You Need," and "How to Reopen and Work a Genealogy Cold Case."  Great ideas and tips I can use right away!

Besides John's general session, Kelvin Meyers and Cari Taplin stepped in at the last minute to substitute for J. Mark Lowe, who was scheduled to do the other half of the general sessions before he got hurt.  Meyers' presentation was on church records, and Taplin shared an amusing case study about the family legend that she is related to Roy Rogers (she's not, at least not closely).

Otherwise - I decided this was the conference where I needed to learn more about DNA and genetic genealogy.  A few days before the conference, I was contacted by a match on my mother's autosomal DNA.  This one perked my interest because the match is along my mother's paternal, Lithuanian line - where I have a brick wall after my immigrant great-grandmother.

There was still room in one of  Debbie Parker Wayne's Friday workshops on "Incorporating Genetic Evidence into a Family Study," so I signed up!  I also attended the DNA track on Saturday afternoon, which had two more sessions by Wayne, one a more general overview and the other on using a free third-party tool called Genome Mate with autosomal DNA results.  Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, did the other presentation, on next steps after autosomal DNA testing.

So what was my take-away from all the DNA sessions?  I should probably go ahead and get a Y-DNA test for my dad (at least at 37 markers; I can always upgrade later), and a mitochondrial DNA test for my mom.  There's a brick wall along the direct maternal line (can't go further than my great-great-great-grandmother Leah Pickering there), and perhaps it would help.  I'm still trying to decide about mitochondrial DNA for my dad, as I'm not sure it would help with any brick walls there.

I also figured out who I need to test (mitochondrial DNA) to try to get some answers on my Lithuanian great-grandmother Elizabeth Benevičiūtė.  What I did *NOT* learn at the conference was how to ask my mother's first cousin (who lives in California and whom my mother has not seen in years) if she or her daughter have already tested, or if one would be willing to test!  Somebody needs to offer a session on how to do that. :)

I also hope I can convince my husband to do an autosomal test (as he is the oldest in his line) as well as a Y-DNA test.  His direct line great-grandfather John Gresham is a brick wall.

I also got some tips on how to use the autosomal test results I already have for my parents within AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA.  I'm going to try those out, and maybe Genome Mate too.

The other great part of conferences is seeing people I know and meeting new ones.  At the general sessions (and at a number of the breakouts), I sat next to my mentor during library school (my practicum supervisor), Kathy Strauss, head of genealogy and special collections at the Emily Fowler branch of the Denton Public Library.  I also got to meet the Patient Genealogist, Devon Noel Lee.

© Amanda Pape - 2015 - click here to e-mail me.

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