Genealogy and history conferences: Advantageous to your social history research

On Monday I went to the annual Mass History Conference. The theme was “Never Done!: Interpreting the History of Women at Work in Massachusetts”. The theme intrigued me, but I mostly went for the networking. The conference was held at Holy Cross College in Worcester. It is beautiful.


I have picked up so many wonderful tidbits from networking at various genealogy and history events, as well as from groups and friends on Facebook and Twitter. This conference was no different.

I sat next to 2 city archivists from Gloucester and told them about my thesis research. They
gave me some wonderful ideas for future research after I have completed my thesis.


Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was the keynote speaker and mentioned that Harvard had just released a free online EdX course about material culture. I signed up and am auditing it.


Quite a few people came-we filled the ballroom at Holy Cross College in Worcester.


The best part for me though was what came after a panel discussion on archival resources for women’s research. One of the panelists was from the National Archives. She brought some really fun things, including pictures of women lumberjacks in the 1930s and government records for the Von Trapp family (Sound of Music). I mentioned the Indian depredations records I had found in the US Serial Set for Levi Savage and she gave me the email address for another NARA employee who knows everything about Congressional records and government records related to Indians. She is not in the Boston or DC office, so I may never have found her if I hadn’t been networking. I am pulling together everything and will then email her.

One of the afternoon seminars was a readers theater about women, illness and death in the 1800s. It was amazing and I thought about new ways to use records and to get others interested in the research I am doing. Have you considered a readers theater to share family history stories with your family?

I have stumbled across so many wonderful resources and ideas through networking. I found the manuscript I am using as the primary source document for my thesis through networking. I have made wonderful friends through networking.

Which conference or other means of networking will you participate in?

Foodways in the Northeast II: A Second Helping

I just returned from a weekend in Historic Deerfield where I attended the Dublin Seminar New England Folklife for the first time. They have been holding this event for more than 30 years, covering such diverse topics as medicine and healing, foodways (food history), textiles, family life, women’s work, diaries, probate inventories, Connecticut doors, life on the commons and in the streets and many more.

The talks from the conference are published a few years after the conference and are available for purchase here. It’s a wonderful collection and I own many of these books as part of my social history collection. This year the talks focused on food history and covered such diverse topics as Indian corn and social identity, the cod industry, dining interactions between the colonists and the Wampanoags, dining and education in boarding schools over the past 200 years, how food and recipes are often used politically and modern indigenous cuisine in New England. I was especially interested in those that dealt with colonial New England or with the “common folk.”

I am not a food historian and before the conference wasn’t all that interested in food history. But I know that in the colonial period, food and medicine very much overlapped and recipe (or receipt) books often contained both culinary and medicinal recipes. So I went hoping that I would make some new contacts through networking and to learn a little more about food history.
I came away with several new friends, and just as important, a new appreciation for food history and it’s role in social history. I will use some of the new resources I learned about as starting points to learn more about food and its role in our ancestors lives.

Upcoming Social History Events in the Greater Boston area

Boston Historic Civil War Tours
Ongoing throughout the summer–highly recommended by a friend of mine in her blog. Click here for more information.

The Object of History: 18th Century Treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society
June 13 – September 7
Massachusetts Historical Society, free and open to the public, donations appreciated
The exhibit asks explores the meaning of historical objects by asking questions about why some artifacts have preserved. Are they attached in some way to a famous person or historical event? The exhibit includes a variety of portraits and objects including scientific instruments, needlework and maps.

“The Education of Our Children is Never Out of My Mind”
June 13 – September 7
Massachusetts Historical Society, free and open to the public, donations appreciated
The exhibit is a collection of letters between John Adams, Abigail Adams and others regarding their thoughts on teaching children general life lessons. To the extent that these views were at least somewhat widespread, these letters can help us understand how children were viewed in the 18th century. Click here for more information.

Three Bags Full: All about Wool
Saturdays and Sundays through June 30
Historic Deerfield
Springtime is the time for sheep shearing. Come see how our ancestors transformed wool into thread.

Open Hearth Cooking Demonstrations
Saturdays through the end of July
Historic Deerfield
Learn how our ancestors cooked using in-season ingredients (June) and how they stayed cool during the summer cooking (July).

Fire and Ice Day
July 20
Old Sturbridge Village
Learn how firefighters fought fires in the 19th century and help pump water.

Exploring Victory Gardens: How a Nation of Vegetable Growers Helped to Win the War
July 23rd 7:00 pm, $15 fee, pre-registration encouraged
Strawbery Banke
Talk by Dr. Judith Sumner about the role that victory gardens played in the 1940s. Also includes taste-testing of period recipes and viewing films about victory gardens from the 1940s.

Redcoats & Rebels
August 3 and 4
Old Sturbridge Village
Nearly 1,000 soldiers participate in New England’s largest military re-enactment. Visit the soldiers a Revolutionary War era encampment, see mock battles and drills and listen to the fife and drums.

Twilight Tours
August 16, 5 pm – 8 pm, $18 if paid in advance
Sponsored by Portsmouth Historic Houses Associates
Tours of seven historic houses in Portsmouth. Click here for more information.

NERGC 2013 full report

This post is appearing a bit early because I am excited to share about my experiences at a genealogy conference the past several days. I spent 4 wonderful days at NERGC this year. I went to the inaugural Tech Day and heard Steve Morse speak about some of the “behind the scenes” aspects of his One-Step website. Josh Taylor spoke about genealogists and social media, and Laura Prescott spoke about building a family history website. It was a great day.

Thursday the conference opened up. I volunteered at the registration booth for most of the morning and made some new friends and caught up with a few people I already knew. While the classes are generally very good, I think one of the best things about genealogy conferences is the relationships that are formed and renewed. I went out to lunch or dinner many times with friends and caught up. I even met a new friend who suggested we work on a joint project. You just never know…

This is my friend Donna who I met several years ago when we were in the same ProGen group.


In terms of classes, I attended Warren Bittner’s classes on federal land records and complex evidence and Laura Murphy DeGrazia’s class on reasonably exhaustive searches on Thursday. From a social history aspect, I loved the photos of homesteaders from the Nebraska Historical Society that Mr. Bittner included in his federal land record talks.

Friday morning I woke up to the news that a major shootout had occurred in Boston between police and the terrorist suspects and the town was on lockdown as they searched for the second terrorist. I worried about my friends in the area and checked the news in between classes. It was nice to escape into a class and focus on something else for an hour. My friend Barbara Mathews summarized it best: “While our hearts are in Boston, our minds are in New Hampshire at NERGC 2013.”

I learned about some new resources in the class on Loyalist Migrations: The David Library of the American Revolution (good for both Patriot and Loyalist research) and the OliveTreeGenealogy Loyalist resource page. I also attended a talk about the resources of which is one of my favorite go-to places for social history and genealogy.

There were some classes on ancestral foodways and genealogy clues in quilts that looked interesting, but I wasn’t able to attend them. I did attend classes on “digging up the dirt” on my farmer ancestors, indentured servants and resources used to follow the migration route of our ancestor. The theme of the conference was “Woven in History: The Fabric of New England.” Social history fits very well into this topic, which was reflected in the wide variety of classes offered that touched upon social history. The final class I attended Saturday afternoon was about writing up our research into well-documented and interesting narratives. It was a fitting way to end the conference as writing is such an important part of social history and genealogy. We can research all we want, but the act of writing it down helps us organize, fill in the holes, and share with our families.

On Friday evening the New England GeneaBloggers group met. It was wonderful to meet other bloggers and to talk about some of the technical and not-so-technical aspects of blogging. Some newbies were there and hopefully we were able to hook them into blogging.


I was a facilitator for a luncheon table about social history on Saturday. There were 25 tables, each with a different topic. It was great to see so many people attend and we had a good discussion at my table. It was nice to meet some other social historians and learn about some of their favorite tools and research interests.

Like any good historian and genealogist, I bought quite a few books, mostly about social history. I also bought a couple of genealogy reference books and a CD of 16 years of back issues of The Family Chronicle. Lots of reading to do when I get home.


All in all, it was a wonderful conference and I came away with many new ideas and resources, some of which may appear in future blog postings on this site. It is good to be home though.