Saturday, June 1, 2019

Session Serendipity

One of the helpful dynamics of genealogical conferences is that there are enough people gathered together for such an event that a wide variety of speakers can be assembled to address a multitude of research angles.

That detail is becoming particularly helpful to me as I move into the deep middle of the four-day-long Southern California Genealogical Society's combo of DNA Day and Jamboree. Now that I've been researching the connections between my southern family history and the histories of specific enslaved people in Georgia and Florida—I'm thinking here specifically of King Stockton and his mother, Hester—I'm finding resonance in the sessions offered at this conference.

I've already heard Nicka Sewell-Smith discuss DNA and the Future of African American Genealogy. Tomorrow, I'll again have the opportunity to hear Tony Burroughswhose session I sat in on at the FGS conference in Fort Wayne last summer introduced me to the "Last Seen" project. Actually, I'll sit in on two of his presentations. One will focus on post-Civil War records to help trace the families of the formerly enslaved. The other, taking an unusual approach, will use land deeds to help find the current-day location of the plantation—in my case, the Tison plantation—where all the names of enslaved persons listed in his probate once lived. Besides Tony Burrough's presentations, I'll also attend Angela Walton-Raji's session on using Benevolent Society records to trace possible participation by any of the specific names I've been researching.

It isn't often that I've had the chance to focus so intensely on a research goal while choosing from the multiple session choices offered at a conference. But somehow, my current research focus seems to have been in sync with the mindset of the conference planners as they worked, last year, to bring this coordinated learning package to fruition. I don't think the choices could have fit any better if I had planned the conference, myself—for which I'm quite grateful.


  1. This is great stuff - I look forward to seeing what you do with the ideas you are gathering. The Benevolent Society angle caught my attention. I really want to know more. In trying to glean some hints of the history of my Jeffers ancestors, I read old newspapers online. Apparently they founded a benevolent society after the war. I am just beginning to learn about what that means. Actually, I feel I don't know anything yet. I wish I had a back-looking crystal ball.

    1. That is an interesting discovery about your Jeffers ancestors, Lisa. And the benevolent society session provided quite a bit of information. I'd suggest, as you search through those old newspapers, looking for any ads for such societies, as that would spell out what the societies offered. But in addition to what they did, the societies kept records of their members and their activities which also may provide genealogical hints for researchers.

      As for the session I attended, much of the focus was on the recognizable symbols often included on headstones of the various societies' members, much like the Masons' insignia. Like many other aspects of genealogical research, these provide clues which then can be followed up on to glean further information about our ancestors.


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