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NGS offers lots on genealogy and law

More than a thousand genealogists are in the process of descending on Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the 2016 National Genealogical Society conference, which gets underway officially on Wednesday with a keynote address by Connie L. Lester.

NGS2016In “Ordinary People,” Extraordinary Lives, she will tell the story of the men and women who battled the heat, the swamps, and the bugs to establish farms, businesses, schools, and the arts in Florida. More, she’ll tell those lucky enough to be there for this opening session how to find their stories and help us understand what those stories contribute to our understanding of who we are.

After that opening session, there’s so much to choose from! But, of course, this blog is by The Legal Genealogist, so it should come as no surprise that I’m going to focus on the presentations for conference goers that will help us all understand better the law behind the records we find.

Wednesday, May 4:

11:00am: Getting More from Court Records: Order Books, Minute Books, Dockets & Associated Loose Papers, presented by Vic Dunn, CG. “Was your ancestor illegitimate, a ‘gentleman justice’ of the court, a horse thief, or an insolvent debtor? Court records may provide answers and connect generations.”

2:30pm: Chancery Records: The Secrets They Hold, the Families They Reveal, presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS. “How to locate and work with Chancery records, often including evidence of migration, descriptions of multiple generations of family members, and details of family life.”

4:00pm: What Did Your Ancestors Leave You? Probing into Probate, presented by Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer, MLS.
“Learn about the documents in estate files, their purposes, how to access them, and how they can help you learn more about your ancestors.”

Thursday, May 5:

9:30am: Behind Closed Doors: An Introduction to Plaçage, presented by Beth Ann Stahr, CG, MLS. “The lecture is a historical explanation of the tradition of plaçage, its origins in Saint-Domingue, current notions about arrangements, and sample records regarding these families.” (Note: plaçage was a recognized extralegal system of interracial relationships akin to common law marriages.)

11:00am: Justice of the Peace: Miscellany, Mischief, Marriages, and More!, presented by Diane Florence Gravel, CG. “This lecture introduces a variety of records created by these local judicial/administrative officials. Learn techniques for identifying the justices and locating extant records.”

11:00am: “A Family of Fiends”: An Antebellum Tale of Southern Murder, presented by Jordan D. Jones. “Come hear a case study that proceeds from an eleven-word biography to discover bastardy, murder, and the acquittal of the victim’s brother.”

4:00pm: Separate but Unequal: Slave Laws and their Records, presented by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL. “North and south of the Mason-Dixon line, laws governed enslaved Americans and slave-owners alike, creating a treasure trove of records for genealogists.”

Friday, May 6:

11:00am: Finding and Using Online Legal Resources, presented by Michael Hait, CG. “This presentation will show how to locate historical laws online to learn about the world in which our ancestors lived and better understand their records.”

4:00pm: Dower and Dowry: Women, Property, & Legal Records, presented by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL. “Bringing property into marriage or trying to take it out, our female ancestors were governed by laws that generated valuable records.”

Saturday, May 7:

11:00am: The Hidden Gender – Finding Women in Courthouse Records, presented by Janice Lovelace, PhD. “Pre-20th century, women had limited rights. This presentation will look at courthouse records with a slant to finding ‘hidden’ women while addressing race and age.”

2:30pm: It Wasn’t in the Will! Dazzling Discoveries with Probate Records, presented by Diane Florence Gravel, CG. “Get beyond the will book! Learn to uncover and analyze hidden clues of kinship in obscure probate records.”

2:30pm: Laws of the Indies: Spanish Florida Laws and the Records They Produced, presented by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL. “From town planning to native relations, ‘Las Leyes de Las Indias’ (Laws of the Indies) governed Spanish Florida and created unique records for research.”

And just because…

There are two other must-attend sessions at this conference. The Helen F.M. Leary Distinguished Lecture will be presented by David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA, on Friday at 2:30pm. His topic is a critical one: Ethics in Genealogy – Professional and Personal, where he’ll discuss “the ethics needed in both our professional and personal genealogical research – the need to be true to the science.”

And to learn how about the challenges — and the successess — of records preservation and access, there’s How the Virginia Genealogical Society made Virginia Vital Records More Accessible, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 4:00pm, presented by Peter E. Broadbent, Jr., JD. “Learn the steps Virginia took to improve public access to vital records, including reducing the closed period to 25 years for marriages, divorces and deaths.”

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