Thursday, February 19, 2015

FGS/RootsTech 2015 - What I Learned on Thursday

The Federation of Genealogical Societies and RootsTech held their joint conference last week in Salt Lake City. That’s four days of doubled up, non-stop genealogy. It doesn’t get any better than that does it? Thursday, I attended three sessions. Narrowing each hour down to one session was a challenge. There were many high quality offerings each hour. Somehow I managed. Here are my top three take-aways from each session.

How Old Did He Have To Be? Judy Russell aka The Legal Genealogist
The short answer: look to the law. Of course, Judy would say that. After all, she is The Legal Genealogist! Seriously though here are three things I learned:
1.     Age is one of the most important elements we have to distinguish one person from another. So determining how old a person was (or when he was born) is a must.
2.     What the law says about how old a person had to be to do this or that is critical.
3.     Judy went over the hierarchy of the law. Now I know why I should have paid attention to my high school history classes! When you’re trying to determine how old someone had to be, investigate the laws in this order:
a.     Federal and state constitutions
b.     Statutory law – federal, state and territorial
c.      Common law

I don’t want to give away anymore. So if you want all the details, well, you’ll just have to order a recording of Judy’s talk from Fleetwood Recordings. 

A Pine Post Four Inches Square: Staking a Claim on Mining Records – Jen Baldwin

This was my favorite session of the conference. It’s a specialty topic and one I’m keenly interested in. That’s because I have ancestors who staked mining claims in Colorado, an area of Jen’s expertise. Jen knows her stuff and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty to learn. Plus, she’s a great speaker. I think we will be seeing much, much more of Jen.

So what did I learn?

1.     Know your mining districts. When the miner staked a claim it was with the mining district where the land was located. The districts usually follow the local ridges and valleys.
2.     The mining districts kept books of these claims. Usually the original is the only copy that exists. Often the local courthouse has no idea these books exist or that they have them. This is where a willingness to get your hands dirty comes in.
3.     Jen talked about how to get the claim number so you can obtain a copy of the deed.

I learned so much from this talk it’s hard to boil it down to three points. And it wouldn’t be fair to Jen if I share too much. If you have ancestors who were miners, especially in the west, consider getting a recording of the lecture from Fleetwood Onsite.  It’s item number 24944.

Putting to work what I learned will definitely keep me busy.

Batch Processing of Photos and Their Metadata Using XnViewMP – Randy Whited

Last year I attended Randy’s session on a similar topic. He’s a good teacher, taking us step by step through several common situations where genealogists need to manipulate metadata in images.

If you don’t know what metadata is, here’s a simple definition: it’s information about information or an object. In this case, your image file.

My top 3 take-aways:
1.     You can use XnViewMP to create a text file that lists files in a particular folder. In other words you can create a master list of all your images. If you save it as a csv file, you can then open the file in Excel and create a spreadsheet.
2.     One of the most useful features (for me anyway) is mass renaming of your image files. You know how your camera automatically names the files with a rather useless name like IMG997? You can use the batch rename feature to give them a meaningful name all in one fell swoop.
3.     When we work with jpg files, we have to be careful not to resave them too many times because they are what is termed a “lossy” format. In other words, each time you save your jpg image, a little bit of the data in the file is lost. Over time this results in loss of clarity of the picture. Editing the metadata is “loss less.” Your jpg file will not degrade by making changes to and saving the metadata in the file. I worry about these things. So I had to know.

I hope you learned a few new things from these tidbits. I’ll be back soon with Friday’s highlights.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Fleetwood Onsite. I did purchase a recording of the conference with my hard earned money though. That way I can drive town (or wherever) happily listening to my favorite speakers and learning more about genealogy.

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 © 2015, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. Thanks for sharing the link to Fleetwood! I didn't realize all those lectures were available. Hmmm... I'm going to be browsing through them and might just get the whole bundle. It's a lot cheaper than actually going to FGS and I can do it when I have free time! Or, I migh just pick & choose. Either way, I'm excited to LEARN!

  2. Your welcome Dana. I've bought the entire conference the last couple of years because it's a pretty good deal. Plus it keeps me occupied while I'm driving around town!