19 October 2010

NMGS Conference - a smashing success!

The 50th Anniversary New Mexico Genealogical Society Conference was a smashing success! Nearly 200 people attended the conference, with 145 people attending our banquet. Many others attended the banquet presentation, but did not eat at the banquet itself.

Conference highlights:

* Dr. Paul Hutton was our keynote speaker. He talked about the "genealogy" of the Billy the Kid story. He showed us how the story of Billy the Kid evolved over the years through books, comic books and movies, and how accurate, or more often inaccurate, these stories were. Some memorable items about his presentation: 1.) Billy the Kid was played by a whole slew of actors including Audie Murphy, Paul Newman and Emilio Estevez. The better looking the actor, the more likely his character was a "good guy". 2.) "The Cisco Kid" is based on the Billy the Kid story; and 3.) There is one comic-book version that has Billy the Kid as actually a woman, pretending to be a man.

* Al Regensberg showed us how our ancestors migrated throughout New Mexico's history. For the most part, our ancestors stayed on the Rio Grande at it tributaries. When the Americans came, people began spreading out more.

* Former New Mexico state historian Robert J. Torrez read excerpts from his new book "Rio Arriba: A New Mexico County". He talked about the times he describes as "mucho mas antes", or New Mexico pre-history, and "mas antes", the Spanish colonial era. He also explained that this is "a" history of Rio Arriba, not "the" history of the county. He said that if any of the readers found that anything was left out, they should write about it themselves. Good advice!

* Krysten Baca, from the Ancestry.com Public Relations and Conference Team, explained how we could get the most out of Ancestry.com. The next day she had a workshop on "Best Strategies for Researching using Ancestry.com". Conference attendees were seen taking copious notes, and asked Krysten many questions.

* Jim Greene of FamilySearch.org showed us new features of beta.familysearch.org, the beta search engine that the organization is using while it updates its website. He explained that the website was free, and requested that our members help in indexing the site. He also showed us a couple of short videos about the digitization that they are doing of the 2.4 million microfilms that they have in their vault. The videos also showed the vault itself, something that the average person would not be allowed to see in person.

* Robert J. Torrez spoke again, this time about the Rio Abajo - specifically about "Rich and Powerful Hispanic Leaders". Although these families were not "millionaires" by any stretch of the imagination, they were definitely the wealthiest people in New Mexico.

* Richard Melzer spoke about "Hispanic Profiles in Courage Since Statehood". His presentation, modeled after John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage", demonstrated how five individuals went against the political and social grain to stand up for what they believed in.

* Rick Hendricks spoke about "Research In and About Durango and Parral". He explained how many of these records had been preserved through his and others actions. Many of these records have been microfilmed and can be found at New Mexico State University. One photo that he showed us sent shock waves through the crowd: that of irreplaceable Spanish documents that were haphazardly boxed up and strewn across the floor of a mold infested room.

* Our banquet speaker was Bennett Greenspan, president of FamilyTreeDNA. His entertaining presentation described how he came about starting FamilyTreeDNA. He also spoke about the controversy over whether Crypto-Jews existed in New Mexico's history. He gave facts that, although did not conclusively prove the possibility of Crypto-Jews, did at least open up the conversation once again to this possibility. He also described the new autosomal DNA test that allows one to find family on across all lines up to 6 generations back.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this conference a success: from the volunteers to the speakers to the attendees themselves. Thank you.

Photos of the conference can be seen at this link.

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