Friday, February 15, 2019

It's an Eye-opener: Slaves in New England

William C. Nell, The American Revolution with Sketches of Several Distinguished Colored Americans
(Boston: Wallcut, 1855), page number not supplied; New York Public Library

NERGC 2019 Lectures To Include Janice Lovelace, Ph.D., on
Slavery in New England and the Black Experience in the American Revolution

It only happens once every two years. It takes two dozen genealogy societies, acting in tandem, to put on the NERGC conference, an event with as many genealogy learning opportunities as a national genealogy conference. But NERGC is always in New England, often close enough for many of us to commute rather than incur the travel and hotel expenses that come with the national conferences. NERGC 2019 runs April 3rd to 6th in Manchester, New Hampshire.

My specialty is New England research in the colonial period, specifically Connecticut and Massachusetts. About 25% of my ancestors come from that time and place. (The other 75% are Swedish, Danish, English, Irish, Scottish, and Belgian, with a tiny bit of Spanish.) That small quarter of my heritage has been a huge research task with many years invested in tracing people back.

One of those people was an enslaver in 1790. When I found this, I carefully counted the number of slave owners in Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut. It turns out that

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Attend NERGC 2017 to Hear Warren Bittner and Increase Your Wicked Good Genealogy Skills

It’s such a great opportunity to talk with Warren Bittner, one of the best speakers on doing genealogy better. The first time I heard Warren speak, he talked about the importance of source citation. If anyone in that auditorium wasn’t already using source citations, they were by the time Warren finished.

NERGC 2017 provides five wonderful opportunities to share Warren again. 

  • On Thursday afternoon, April 26, will discuss “Death Records as Starting Point.” 
  • Friday morning he jumps into German genealogy with ”Where Was Your Ancestor Really From? Germany’s Shifting Borders.” 
  • Friday afternoon he speaks twice, “Writing to Engage Your Reader,” and “Complex Evidence: What It Is, How It Works, And Why It Matters” (one of the best speeches ever! Anywhere! I reviewed it here). 
  • Saturday morning Warren will discuss a perplexing issue in genealogy, “Understanding and Researching Illegitimacy.”

Warren, you are one of the best evangelists I know for putting quality into our genealogy work – the focus of my own blog. How did this become a focus of your own work?

Well, I had an interesting experience where I had been doing research for about 20 years, professional research for 7 or 8, and thought I knew a lot about genealogy. I hadn’t read the National Quarterly because when I looked at the articles they didn’t interest me. They were about people I wasn’t related to and geographic areas where I didn’t do research. Then I read a few articles, and every article I read amazed me at the quality of the research and the depth of the methodology in solving difficult problems. I can honestly say my genealogy education started the day I started reading the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), and the quality of the research that I saw demonstrated in the articles published there made me realize how sophomoric and uninformed my own research was. After that I went back and read 20 years of the Quarterly and learned how the best genealogists think and how they solve the most difficult research problems. It also took the quality of my own research up ten steps. 

About three years ago I was in conversation with Thomas W. Jones, current co-editor of NGSQ, and related this experience to him. He looked at me and said “Warren, I had the same experience, but for me it was 30 years. I had a Ph.D. and thought I knew how to do research, and my education started when I began reading the Quarterly.”

I hear you have a master’s degree in history. How did your history major and your love for genealogy enrich each other?

I was considering becoming a CG or an AG and then I realized that professional licensure as a genealogist was recognized in the relatively small world of serious genealogical researchers, but a Master’s degree is universally recognized. So I made the decision to get my Master’s degree before I went after licensure. It was a good decision because my history degree introduced me to a broad spectrum of historical concepts that I didn’t realize and that I didn’t understand. Concepts like how to read beneath a document to unearth what the document is telling me about the people in the historical document and the people that wrote it down. I learned about micro-history, where an in-depth study of an otherwise insignificant person or event can be used to turn upside-down generalizations made in histories of a broader scope.

What is your favorite part about teaching and lecturing?

I enjoy seeing the light that comes into the eyes of my students when I see that they are learning something in the lecture, and the hope that comes onto their faces as the mental wheels begin to turn and they see ways of looking for the ancestors they have almost given up on. 

The Demanding Genealogist is proud to be an official blogger of NERGC 2017.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

NERGC 2017 Premieres Society Management Day with Elissa Scalise Powell, Jen Baldwin, and Michelle D. Novak

Photograph placed in the public domain by Cade Martin, Dawn Arlotta, USCDCP.

Face it, many genealogical societies are aging, growing grayer, and seeing fewer people at their monthly meetings. My beloved Welles Family Association filled hotel meeting rooms with 80 to 100 attendees in the 1980s. Now we see about two dozen at each annual meeting. How can we reverse this trend?

How can we who have been leading genealogy societies for decades ensure that our societies thrive in the future?

For those of us committed to ensuring that our societies thrive long after we retire from leadership, this special track at NERGC is perfect. I spoke (that is, emailed) with the three presenters for Society Management Day at NERGC 2017. I wanted to give them an opportunity to share their enthusiasm for the future with us.

 Jen Baldwin, “Connecting with the Next Generation: Join the Conversation!"

Me: Jen, the next generation is our own children, but meeting them as a group of genealogists is a new thing. What are some of the new ways of finding our audiences that you will cover?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What is a duplicate original? And what does it have to do with the U.S. census?

“Duplicate Original” © 2011 by woodleywonderworks,
uploaded to flickr, used with permission.

“Duplicate original” is a legal term that applies to two or more copies made simultaneously, each of which can stand as the original document.

When two written documents are substantially alike, so that each might be a copy or transcript from the other, while both stand on the same footing as original instruments, they are called “duplicates.” Agreements, deeds, and other documents are frequently executed in duplicate, in order that each party may have an original in his possession.[1]

We are already familiar with this concept from our everyday lives. Speakers at genealogy conferences sign two copies of their speaker contracts, one for themselves and one for the conference program chair. When we get divorced, both we and our spouses receive copies of the separation agreements and the divorce decree.

Is this legal term used in the same way in the world of genealogy? Essentially the answer to that question is yes. The definition by Elizabeth Shown Mills includes some examples.

Duplicate original: a copy officially made at the same time as the “original.” Examples: The grantor’s and grantee’s copies of a deed, simultaneously made; or the multiple copies of a census schedule that enumerators were required to make in certain years.[2]

Today in the Boston University Genealogical Research Certificate course, instructor Julie Michutka and lead course facilitator Michelle Goodrum posted that duplicate original copies of the U.S. census were made only in certain years and not others. Both noted that, beginning with the 1890 census, only one copy was made, the copy sent to the federal government. They supplied a link to the U.S. Census website discussing pertinent legislation.[3]

It’s a pity that the 1890 U.S. census was the first to exist in only one copy, because that copy was for the most part burned in 1921.[4]

Barbara Jean Mathews, "What is a duplicate original? And what does it have to do with the U.S. census?" The Demanding Genealogist, posted 22 March 2016; : <date accessed>.

[1] Henry Campbell Black, A Law Dictionary Containing the Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern, …, Second Edition (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1910), 403, “duplicate;” Google Books ( : accessed 22 March 2016).
[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2015), 822, “duplicate original.” For an in-depth discussion, see also Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 10: Original Records, Image Copies, and Derivatives,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 22 March 2016).
[3] United States Census Bureau, “Legislation: 1830-1899,” History ( : accessed 22 March 2016).
[4] Kellee Blake, “'First in the Path of the Firemen:’ The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 1,” Prologue Magazine selected articles, from 28 (Spring 1996), posted on National Archives ( : accessed 22 March 2016).