Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Week in Boston

I can remember as a small boy, being taken to the Saint Louis library by my Mom and accompanying her while she looked through what seemed like a mountain of books. She was researching our genealogy and would occasionally show me one of these reference books. It would contain lists of births, marriages or other vital statistic. One of the consistent things that she would tell me was that we were related, in some way, to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The name of the signer was fuzzy, and many years later, my sister Margie and I thought it was Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island. We thought this because my Mom had gone to a convention in Rhode Island and talked about going to a museum there. The Hopkins House has been converted to a museum.

As I began to do amateur genealogy work, I searched records online and found nothing to lead me to any signer. I had picked off all the easy stuff and had hit brick walls beyond that. In the summer of 2011 Nancy and I decided that I should go for some additional training to better help me gather more deeply hidden information. The New England Historical and Genealogical Association was offering a class “Come Home to New England” at their Headquarters in Boston. We debated the expense of the trip, cost of a hotel in downtown Boston for a week, plane fare and so forth. I am forever grateful that Nancy thought it was important enough to spend a considerable amount on this effort.

I attended the training last week and am committing what I learned with these postings. Our 20 or so students had a world class library at our disposal and a team of expert professional genealogists with whom to consult. We started each morning with a one hour lecture on a topic related to research. We spent very little time working on internet sources although I did pick up a few new places to look online. After our opening lecture with questions and answers following, we would move from the classroom to the library. NEHGS has a six story building. The first floor is a high ceiling rotunda, the second floor is their classroom area. The third floor houses their administrative offices while the fourth has their extensive microfilm collection. The fifth and sixth floors are their extensive libraries. These contain many family genealogies done by professional genealogists over the years and manuscripts, rare books and a variety of other books with historical references of all manner.

All of us had brought our own genealogy projects to work on so we would begin to do research. We would also be assigned a consultation with a professional genealogist of our choosing. There were ten available to us and we were given each of their specialties in advance. Inevitably these consultations would deepen our understanding of possible sources. In some cases they debunked the work that students had done before the class. Luckily in my case they did not find any problems with my work in advance.

We had one other invaluable resource at our disposal. The first morning, Gary Boyd Roberts, announced that he wanted to work with each one of us for at least two hours during the week. In order to accomplish this, he was going to be keeping the library open until 11:00PM every night. Gary is the author of several books on genealogy “Notable Kin”, “The Ancestry of U.S, Presidents” and others. He was born in Texas, educated at Yale and has spent his working life pretty much at NEHGS. Gary’s generosity with his time was the key to the discoveries I would make during this week.

So thats the background, now on to our Fleming family kin.

1 comment:

Mattwaspele said...

Thanks UD - what an amazing amount of history so personal to the family!