Thursday, February 19, 2015

More Rootstech lectures

I attended Audrey Collins' Talk Scandals in the Family. I had heard the talk before as a downloaded podcast from the National Archives, but it is just such a cracking good yarn that I thought I'd listen to it again.  As Audrey says, it's definitely in the "you couldn't make it up" category.  It revolves around the Boynton family of Burton Agnes and their shenanigans over a couple of generations. If you have never heard the podcast, I recommend you listen to it or download it from here.

I then attended Deciphering Old Handwriting Online, given by Amy Harris.  It was focusing on the training and resources available on the BYU website, which I had been completely unaware of. As well as interactive tutorials, the site also has a lot of articles on the background to writing - how the parchment was produced, how the pens were made etc. Amy said she always makes her students practice writing in the old scripts with old-style pens, as the act of doing the writing help you understand why some strokes are fainter than others and therefore helps build skills in deciphering the old texts. It was an excellent session and I look forward to exploring the site.

I have been reading Michael D Lacopo's blog Hoosier Daddy for some time and really enjoying it, so when I saw he was speaking I definitely wanted to attend one of his talks. She Came from Nowhere: A Case Study Approach to Solving a Difficult Genealogical Problem was based on the search for a woman from Virginia.  Despite the fact that I have absolutely no American connections, far less Virginian ones, I thought it was a great session and the general approach to finding the identity of a female ancestor was worth listening to. The important lessons from this lecture included the following:
  • If your brickwall is insurmountable re-assess the situation: are you looking for the right brickwall?
  • You MUST understand the social history that bound the people at the time. When you have a tough research problem put yourself in your ancestors' shoes.
  • Don't just look for your ancestor within a source - evaluate the source itself.  Are there gaps, was it made at the time, is it an original or a transcription, etc.

My next talk was Using Word for writing a Family History by Penelope Stratton. A lot of the session was devoted to how to make a NEGHS-style register report or ahnentahfel report, which is their standard. I personally think that most people would rather receive a more interesting style of report, but there are occasions when the more formal report is appropriate.  I learnt quite a few tips from the session which I can see myself using in the future, so it was worthwhile having attended.

Finally I went to a hands-on lab: Historical Photo Restoration with Photoshop Creative Cloud, run by Nancy Barnes.  This was a bit of a disappointment.  Not because of any problem with the teacher - Nancy was very, very good - but because there really wasn't enough time to get to the point where I really learnt anything except some new keyboard shortcuts (and those are actually very useful).  I have been using Photoshop for nearly 20 years, and most of what was covered was beginner level stuff. I really would have preferred this to be an advanced course. But then again, it's not as if it claimed to be one. It's a pity that living on the other side of the world I'm unlikely to get to another of her sessions on Photoshop that will go further than this session did, because (as I said) she was a very good teacher.

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