Arches

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Arches at Glendalough 2009

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New England Regional Genealogy Conference...oh my!

I love genealogy conferences! I try to attend one yearly or plan a visit for a national conference every other year. One of the best regional conferences around is the New England Regional Genealogical Conference. The conference began in the 1990s and has grown over the years. The conference focuses on the six New England States and the ethnic groups that make New England...well, New England. This year's conference is in Springfield, Massachusetts, the home of Dr. Seuss and Yankee Candle Company.

One of the best features of the conference is the Librarian/Teacher Day. Sure, it is for teachers and librarians. But it also gives great information for genealogy use too!

For example the first talk was about the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA. At first you wouldn't think it wouldn't apply to you or your research. Look again. Yes, their focus is the Pittsfield area. But did you know they collect records for all six New England states and New York state? They don't collect for NYC but have acquired a lot of great information for the remainder of the state. They house the Melville Collection (Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick in Pittsfield.) Shaker Collection, and the Shays Rebellion Papers. Their updated facilities includes scanning and data entry work stations and microfilm collections that can be viewed and stored digitally.

The next talk was by the curator at the Sharon, CT Historical Society. Here's an example of an organization making the most of their resources.  The society's website and creative use of their space has made it a valuable tool for the community, townsfolk, teachers, students, and genealogists to utilize their collections.

With the anniversary of the Civil War beginning this week the next speaker used the internet and genealogy tools to get kids interested in history. From books, maps, and  other resources, she showed how genealogy could be included in a local history project for school or scouts.

The new and updated archives.gov site has a great tool for teachers called, "DocsTeach." From original documents and images to interactive tools for teachers and students, this is an awesome place to check out primary sources.

Two big pieces of  information I heard today was the closing of the NARA branch in Pittsfield, MA and the new interface of the Sanborn Maps by Proquest. With the government budget cuts, Pittsfield will be closing their reading room at the end of September. The staff at Pittsfield has great following among genealogists and will be missed.

Proquest demonstrated the new look for the library edition of Ancestry.com and showed off their interface of Google Maps with the Sanborn Maps. Little did we know that we were the first to see this feature incorporated with their historic maps. They announced that this feature will be available later this summer for their historic maps collection too.

Day one is over! I can't wait to see what the rest of the conference will bring!

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