Saturday, March 30, 2013

Society Saturday - RootsTech Session Review

[Editor's Note:  Today's post was written by Denise Hibsch Richmond who gratefully acknowledges the contribution by Fran Marlow.  Photo courtesy of Judy Nissila.]

Well-over 5,000 people descended on Salt Lake City, Utah last week to attend RootsTech 2013, a genealogy conference about connecting with your family roots using technology.   Several members from Root Cellar Sacramento Genealogical Society were among the attendees.

The RootsTech organizers were very generous.  They seemed to understand that not everyone could attend in person so once again, livestreaming of select sessions was made available for viewing from your home computer.  If you couldn't view the session being livestreamed, an archived version or "recap" is still available.  Warning: this could possibly entice you to attend in person next year.

Fran Marlow
Root Cellar member Fran Marlow was one person who watched the session by James L. Tanner from the comfort of her home.  She told me that "attending conferences is always more fun than watching online, but we take what we can get for we can't attend all of the conferences.   I ....found Mr. Tanner to be an interesting and down-to-earth speaker.  He holds the audience's attention but without talking down to the more experienced genealogists in the audience."

At my request, Fran wrote a summary of Mr. Tanner's session titled "Finding the Obscure and Elusive: Geographic Information on the Web".

The location where an ancestor was born or lived may not have kept the same name through the years.  Mr. Tanner stressed the fact that we need to know the exact location for ancestors at the time of an event, such as the birth or the death.  We may have a family group sheet stating the person was born in one place but that may not be entirely accurate.  We know surnames can be incorrectly spelled on records and names of towns can also be spelled incorrectly.  The person recording a document wrote down what he thought was the name he'd been given, but it wasn't always correctly spelled.  The pronunciation as given is also a valid reason why a name may not be correctly spelled.

Boundaries changed therefore official records may not all be located in the town or county where we think they are. That's another reason we need to know exactly where these records may be found which could be in different locations.  No matter how many times a town's name or a county changed names or boundaries, we need to find the records from each location.  What we thought was the correct name where our ancestor lived may in fact not actually be the correct name.
Being a researcher we need to find exactly where that ancestor was born, or where they lived by using latitude and longitude coordinates on a map.  That means we check websites for maps to find a specific location and also to get map coordinates. Certain websites can be used to pinpoint a location and map the latitude and longitude such as History Topical National Geological Survey National Map, Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), as well as Google maps. For historic maps try the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Historic Topographic Maps Collection for they have digitized 141,000 of their 180,000 maps.  Another website for historic maps is David Rumsey Map Collection which focuses on rare 18th and 19th century maps of North and South America.  Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia and Africa are also on this site.
Thank you Fran for your report.  Now, we're challenging all Root Cellar members who attended RootsTech in person or from home to send us your comments about the experience.  We'll post it on the blog.

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