September 30, 2019
Yesterday was the fifth annual C4aC sponsored by the Larimer County Genealogical Society, and this morning I feel like a kid the day after Christmas who expected underwear but who Santa surprised and amazed with a pony. There’s nothing to say except Wow!
In her trademark pink blazer, Judy spoke to sell-out crowd of genealogists (in fact, we were grateful to have a few no-shows to allow us to spread out a bit). She started off strong with a great presentation on “Using Court Records to Tell the Story of our Ancestors’ Lives” in which she gave us an overview of courts important to genealogical research, focusing primarily on county courts and spending a little time on Courts of Appeal. Judy is a master of using examples and case studies to illustrate her points, and this lecture was no exception as she described court records concerning young men abusing various livestock in ways that she suggested we “Ask Your Mama” if we weren’t sure exactly what she meant!
The second lecture, entitled “No, No, Nanette!”, gave us a template for evaluating genealogical evidence and again Judy provided a great analogy using the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” which contains the famous quote about the dog who didn’t bark in the night when he would have been expected to do so. Judy then showed us examples of negative evidence such as the case of a child who would have been ten years old in 1850 but didn’t show up in his presumed family’s 1850 census enumeration. Judy explained that a child of that age would be expected to be living with his family, so the fact that he didn’t appear is the dog that didn’t bark. After several examples, I think all of us had a clearer picture of exactly what negative evidence is and isn’t. Amazingly, one of the attendees of the conference turned out to be a cousin of Judy’s (neither was aware of the connection beforehand), and several of the examples Judy used were from that attendee’s direct line. That’s one conference-goer who definitely got her money’s worth!
If Judy was on a roll before lunch, her afternoon presentations were even better. First she gave us “Building a Family through Circumstantial Evidence” which described the process whereby a genealogist can solve genealogical puzzles for which no direct records are available. As part of this lecture, Judy detailed a genealogical proof standard strategy-based approach to solving seemingly insolvable questions. Her extended case study for this lecture was a woman for whom no direct records could be found identifying her parents.
The final lecture of the day was definitely no end-of-day slump. “After the Courthouse Burns: Rekindling Family History through DNA” delivered a moving homage to the various disasters that “make me cry” as Judy put it – those catastrophes that destroyed most, if not all, the key records in a various location. But then she assured us that it might still be possible to rekindle our research fires using DNA. After a basic overview of some of the ways DNA can do this, Judy ended the conference with an emotional case study about a Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent his entire life looking for family, specifically his twin brother. The less-than-hoped-for result of all of this searching was contact with a few distant cousins. When DNA testing became available, he connected with a much closer cousin who had a picture of his parents – the first picture that he’d ever seen of them since he was so young when he was taken from them. Sadly, he never did find his brother, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a lump in my throat at the conclusion of that story.
All in all it was a fantastic day of learning, laughing and talking to other genealogists. Judy was definitely “on” yesterday, and she said “I enjoyed myself – as I’m sure you noticed.” I’m sure that for all of us the feeling was mutual; we enjoyed ourselves too!
If for some reason, you weren’t able to attend yesterday’s conference, I can only say that you missed a wonderful event. However, while Judy won’t be back for a while, we will be presenting another conference next fall featuring Michael Lacapo, and you’ll get another chance to experience a fantastic day of genealogical magic. If you were in the audience yesterday, I’m sure that you’re already convinced to attend next year’s conference. For the rest, I hope you won’t let the next opportunity slip by you.
Researcher/Director at Large