Thursday, August 13, 2015

Northwest Genealogy Conference and a Visit to the Cemetery

Today was the first full day of the Northwest Genealogy Conference, which had a very busy and impressive schedule.  I unfortunately did not make it to the opening welcome and prize drawing, because I missed a turn on the way to the conference and went ten minutes out of my way (which I then had to repeat on my back to the correct turn).  But that allowed me to discover the Arlington cemetery, which I visited on my way back in the afternoon (more about that soon).

Today's featured speaker was Angela Packer McGhie.  I attended two of her sessions, "Mining for Family History in Federal Land Records" and "Read All about Your Ancestors by Locating Historic Newspapers."  The land records class was by far the best I have had on the subject.  She provided a very clear timeline of what types of federal land records were created during which timeframes and also gave great instructions on how to find and obtain copies of those records.  These are obviously records she is passionate about.  I am very motivated now to try to find these records for as many of my relatives as possible!

Because I teach so many classes about newspapers myself, I did not expect to learn much new in her class on that subject, but I still picked up some information.  One gem was a list at the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center & Archives of its periodicals sorted by ethnic group.  These periodicals are not online, but it's a great resource to know about.

I had been looking forward to going to the classes that Luana Darby was going to teach (on tax records and online archives), but she unfortunately fell ill and had to cancel her sessions.  The conference organizers arranged for Elissa Scalise Powell to teach her Saturday classes today instead, to fill the gaps.  In one way this worked to my advantage, because one of her sessions was originally scheduled at the same time as mine, so I was going to miss it.

"Bridging the Decades:  Little-used Clues from the Census" (the class I would have missed on Saturday) emphasized all those columns to the right of the names, ages, and birthplaces that many people stop at.  A lot of information there is often overlooked by researchers.  And "What's a Prothonotary?:  Pennsylvania's Courthouse Records" was important for my personal research, because about half of my father's ancestors were in Pennsylvania.  Elissa explained which offices have which types of records, the . . . interesting indexing method used by county offices in the state of Pennsylvania (Randy Seaver wrote about his adventures with the Russell Index System a few years ago), and showed some examples of using the index system to find records.  I also learned that has digitized the microfilms of Pennsylvania probate records (more research I need to make time for!).  Oh, and "prothonotary" comes from the first or most important notary; it's now used to denote the chief clerk.  Apparently a title used in commonwealth states (Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia in addition to Pennsylvania), only Pennsylvania still uses the term.

Speaking of my talk on Saturday ("Looking for Non-Jews in Jewish Records"), I just discovered that it was featured in a post about the ethnic genealogy track at the conference.  I hope Val comes to my class; I think it would help her a lot with researching her husband's mother.

Several ProGen alumni had lunch together today at the conference.  I'm happy to say that we got a photograph of the group (the first time I've managed that in the four get-togethers I've coordinated!).  Thank you to Michelle Goodrum, Cyndi Ingle, Mary Kathryn Kozy, Janice Lovelace, Angela Packer McGhie, Linda Okazaki, Elissa Scalise Powell, and Cari Taplin for a very pleasant lunch break, and to Reed Powell for taking our photograph!

On my way back to the hotel from the conference, I stopped at the Arlington Municipal Cemetery.  It's a very pretty cemetery, with well kept grounds and easy access from multiple entrances.  I spent some time walking around and took photos of a few of the gravestones that particularly caught my attention.

Frank L. Greeno's tombstone was made in the shape of a tree trunk cut off at the top, and since he was only 34 years old when he died (1869–August 13, 1903), I thought the shape might be to emphasize that he died relatively young.  The information about him on FindAGrave suggests that the tree trunk form might be because he was a member of the Woodmen of the World.  (If I knew more about the Woodmen, I might have recognized the "Dum Tacet Clamat" phrase on the stone.)  Sadly, when he died in a work accident he left behind a widow and five children.

I found the stone for William Spoerhase to be very graceful.  When I read the birth and death dates — April 8, 1876 to June 18, 1918 — I wondered if he had died in the influenza pandemic.  The transcribed obituary on FindAGrave doesn't say that directly, but it seems to imply it.

By far the most impressive grave I saw was that of Mariano Soltero.  Mr. Soltero lived a full life (April 17, 1925–October 15, 2001), and he must have been well loved by his family.  His stone, which says, "Brother • Son • Husband • Father" and "He is remembered by his wife, children, and family" in Spanish, is beautifully carved with a natural scene.  The grave also has an elaborate Catholic shrine at the head of the stone.  The flowers were fresh and had to have been put there recently, probably this morning.

I thank the "residents" of the Arlington cemetery for sharing their afternoon with me.  I hope they all are resting in peace.

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