BCG Ed Fund Leary Distinguished Lecture: Elizabeth Mills on “Can Trousers, Beds, and Other ‘Trivial Details’ Solve Genealogical Problems?”

Please welcome guest blogger Diane Gravel, CGSM.

As genealogical researchers, we routinely pore through records in pursuit of elusive ancestors, grabbing at apparent minutia, anything that might give us the answers we seek. But are we really gleaning all of the information and clues that lie buried in each document before moving on to the next record?

As interpreters of facts, nitpickers of every detail, innovators of new ways to understand records and apply data, we must spend the majority of our time analyzing every document we retrieve. The careful eye scrutinizes each scrap of paper in an estate accounting, noting the date of an order of velvet and fine pants, recognizing it as a likely death record. The careful eye scrutinizes tax rolls for clues of kinship among the neighbors. These are only a few of the examples used by Mills in demonstrating the fine art of record analysis.

This lecture, used with the syllabus material, easily stands alone as a course in evidence analysis. It’s one of those presentations that will be played and replayed, each time inspiring the listener to take another look at their own brick walls, in search of all those missed clues!

This session has been taped. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at This is session F312 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

From Diane’s profile at APG:

Diane is a full-time professional genealogist and lecturer, with emphasis on New Hampshire research. She is a graduate (with honors) of NGS’s American Genealogy: A Basic Course, and attended both the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (Advanced Methodology and Military Records) at Samford University and the National Institute on Genealogical Research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.


BCG Luncheon at NGS 2013: Judy Russell on “Blackguards and Black Sheep: The Lighter Side of the Law”

Please welcome guest blogger Diane Gravel, CGSM.

Inviting the audience to take a moment to think about the police and court records we are creating now, Judy challenged us to consider how those records might be viewed by genealogists one hundred years from now, exploring us as their ancestors . . . a rather daunting prospect. Present-day examples of intellectually-challenged criminals posting their illegal deeds on social media sites lent stark contrast to the records created by our own “blackguard and black sheep” ancestors.

“Law brings out the mischief-makers!” she declared. And so began the journey through our nation’s legal records, rich with tales of scoundrels and mayhem. A typical story was that of an 1889 case from the Supreme Court of California in which an appeal was filed based, in part, on the intoxication of the jury. The Attorney General contended that the alleged misconduct was not sufficient to reverse the verdict because the wine was “California claret,” and the cognac was used as a “flavoring for coffee.” Then there was the 1823 North Carolina case of a father who petitioned the legislature for a divorce for his son, who had married a prostitute! That had come as news to the minister at whose home that 14-year-old wife had originally been a boarder.

This was a delightful, lighthearted invitation into the wealth of records produced by our Blackguard and Black Sheep ancestors, as well as a cautionary tale for those of us who might be creating our own records that may someday emerge at the hands of our descendants.

This session was not taped.