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.