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Sunday, September 30, 2012 featured speakers

Greetings.  Last post I reviewed why it was important to join local historical and genealogical societies.  So, here is a review of a society conference that I attended this weekend.

The Fox Valley Genealogical Society hosted their 2012 conference in Naperville, Illinois on Saturday, September 29.  I was fortunate to attend and was pleased to be in the presence of Juliana Szucs Smith and her mother, Loretto Dennis "Lou" Szucs.

They collaborated on four presentations regarding  It was fabulous.  Although I knew about 90 percent of what they had to offer as far as general information and genealogy research, they also revealed some new views and tips for using this wonderful website.

Juliana talked about getting starting on, including global searches, category searches, individual collections and using the online trees.  It was very basic, but I am sure that any novice in the subject surely appreciated this presentation.

Lou followed her daughter with a presentation on what's new at  She pointed out that when viewing the home page of Ancestry, you can check the "What's happening at" section.  All new records will be listed, which are many, and it is always advisable to visit this section at least once per month.  Yes, Ancestry is loading data that fast on this website. She also advised the conference attendees that exploring the many tabs on the home page can reveal some items that you just might have missed before.  The LEARNING tab was most important on her "must visit" list.  It takes a user from the basics of where to start searching for family history, to webinars, and the Family History Wiki, which most people don't even know is there for their use and education.  She had accolades for the MY CANVAS publishing tab, stating that is enables a user to produce their own books, but also posters and custom tree charts.  The SHOP tab features Family Tree Maker, Mobile Apps, Books and Gift Memberships.  The Biographical Sources (found under Stories, Memories and Histories) contains many http selections, such as the "History of the Swedes of Illinois".  Other features that she commented on included:
  Border Crossings                                          Jewish Collections
  Census                                                        African American Collections
  Directories                                                   Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers
  Military                                                        Naturalizations, Passenger Lists, Passport Records, etc.

After a break for lunch, and some serious shopping at the vendors setups and white elephant table, which I did visit and found some wonderful resources to bring home with me, the presentations continued.

Juliana presented Getting the Most from Your Family History Finds, where she outlined the importance of thinking outside of the box (or in my case, outside of the crate).  Looking for the hidden treasures and clues in the documents that you gather through out your search, forming timelines, studying geographic history, using spreadsheets to evaluate the evidence that you have uncovered in your much more to just collecting dates and places.  She suggested being a collector of addresses using census, military draft records, directory and vital records, and placing those in a timeline to see how often your ancestors had moved in their lifetimes.  Lastly, she talked about immigration and passenger lists, and the wonderful "hidden" clues that are so often overlooked on those documents.

This lead to the last presentation by Lou, entitled They Became Americans, Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins.  Finding the first immigrant of your family and following that person through their paper trail of Passenger Lists, Naturalization Papers, Alien Registrations, etc.
She shared some of her favorite websites that she consults for this type of research:

NARA at Chicago -
Cook County Circuit Court Naturalizations -
Family History Library -
Illinois State Archives -
Illinois State Genealogical Society -
Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild -
Roots Web -
The Ships List: Passengers, Ships, Shipwrecks -

It was a nice conference, not too far to drive, and I enjoyed the presentations, the people I met at the lunch table, the vendors that I patroned and the wonderful Fox Valley Genealogical Society members who made this Saturday event a success.  Looking forward to the next conference on my schedule in late October in Rockford.

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