Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day Three NERGC 2013, Manchester, NH

Today was the last day of NERGC, days full of great sessions, lots of meetups with new and old friends, and a wonderful conference program.  I arrived late and missed the first session but while hanging out in the lobby I chanced to meet Elroy Davis, the "Green Mountain Genealogist", who introduced himself, several women from Canada with roots from Nutfield Settlers, and another young couple who overheard our Nutfield conversation and wanted directions to Forest Hill Cemetery in Derry before they drove home to New York.

The first session I went to hear was Elissa Scalise Powell's "Eating an Elephant: Managing Large Projects".  She had some great ideas and tools for breaking down any large project, such as family reunions, genealogy books, society indexing projects, or even a portfolio to present to the Board for Certification of Genealogists. I really enjoyed it, and so did the audience, because there were lots of questions after the talk, and a line of attendees who wanted to talk with Elissa after the session.

I met up with Pam Carter, Diane Boumenot and my husband for lunch.  We were discussing the next GeneaBlogger meetup, and Diane proposed a field trip to NEHGS.  Stay tuned for an announcement of a day trip to the NEHGS library for sometime in June or July.  If this is successful, we might try a few more field trips to different repositories around New England at different times of the year.  If you are interested, leave a comment!

Colleen Fitzpatrick
After lunch I tried a session on "Forensic Genealogy:  SCI meets Roots" with Colleen Fitzpatrick.  This is a subject I would really like to learn more about, and NERGC was the perfect place to try it out.  I was expecting a rather dry lecture, but Colleen was very witty, and made the subject incredibly fun and interesting.  I'm tempted to buy a copy of her book, which is coming out soon in a new edition.

For the last few sessions I decided to try the cemetery track, although I had already missed the first lecture (you just can't do EVERYTHING at NERGC!).  The first was "The Sociology of Cemeteries" by Helen A. Shaw, which explained the different types of cemeteries where you might find your ancestors based on geography, ethnic group, religion, occupation, etc.  I never knew there were sections of cemeteries just for certain occupations (such as circus performers), or for fraternal organizations such as Elks or Masons.  She had some great photographs to illustrate her talk, although it was a slide show.  I can't even remember the last time I saw a slide show!  At least she had no technical problems with getting her computer to talk to her projector, which had happened in at least three of the sessions I saw during NERGC 2013.

Donna Walcovy gets excited
about gravestone carving, and you will, too,
if you have a chance to hear her lecture! 
The last session was one I would highly recommend to anyone who has a chance to see hear Donna Walcovy.  It was called "The Symbolism on New England Gravestones", which to me is a fascinating subject, and I was expecting a rather straightforward lecture.  Instead Donna has a hilarious presentation of examples of wonderful stone carving from the 1600's up to modern gravestones.  She had some wonderful examples of all types of symbolic carving, and gave the history of the changing beliefs about death and religion in New England.  Her syllabus had a lot of great links and a bibliography that will keep me busy reading about gravestones for quite some time in the upcoming year.  I enjoyed it very much, and it was a terrific conclusion to the conference.

It wasn't the last lecture of the day, though, because at the banquet sponsored by NEHGS we heard from New Hampshire's own Milli Knudsen about forensic genealogy in her "Cold Case Unit" talk.  Milli works for the New Hampshire State Police, where she first volunteered as a genealogist to help with unsolved "cold cases".  She gave examples of how police detectives use techniques similar to genealogists in determining time lines, identities of friends, family and aquaintances, examining documents and indexing and organizing clues. She has developed spreadsheets for indexing evidence that the detectives are now using to help solve these cases.

Milli's lecture was extremely interesting, yet slightly unsettling as we heard the details on how many New Hampshire women's murders are still unsolved.  Pam Carter and I walked together to the garage, not wanting to be walking alone late at night after hearing about these scary crimes! I think I sprinted to my car! It was a rather creepy way to end the night. But then I drove home thinking about Donna Walcovy's funny names for some of the gravestone carvings and it made me smile all the way from Manchester to Londonderry.  There were too many great memories from these four days at NERGC to let the cold case stories get me down!

NERGC 2015 will be held April 14 - 19, 2015 in Providence, Rhode Island.  Follow the website and blog for more information:

NERGC website

NERGC blog

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Replies
    1. Yahoo! Bill we missed you at NERGC. Your name came up often.

  2. I'm game for a field trip if I'm not already booked for the day you choose.

  3. A trip to NEHGS sounds like fun. I've never been to the library, so count me in if I can make the travel and child-care arrangements. I'm glad that we finally had a chance to meet in person, though I apologize for cutting it short (I'd been trying to reach my wife all morning. :) ).

    I also attended Donna Walcovy's seminar, which was a great way to end the day. The examples were wonderful, and she clearly loves her work. Years ago my wife and I had talked about putting together a coffee-table book of gravestone art and epitaphs that we've come across. Now that I've seen even more examples, I'm tempted to look into the subject more.

  4. I am most definitely interested in field trips.

  5. I'm interested in a field trip to NEHGS. A field trip to Connecticut State Library would be great too!

  6. I hope to make it to Providence in 2015. (Hoping that my spring concert that year is a different weekend.) And I am definitely up to a local "field trip."