A Saturday Spent Listening

“I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”  Ernest Hemingway

I am a true believer in continuing education.  It comes in all forms.  I want to learn more about data sets I have not tried using and how to be a more proficient researcher.  To accomplish this, I have spent two full days this Fall dedicated to learning more about genealogy research.  This past Saturday, I spent the day listening to Judy Russell and learning a lot!

Judy Russell presenting at the San Mateo Genealogical Society Fall Seminar
Judy Russell presenting at the San Mateo Genealogical Society Fall Seminar


Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, was the featured speaker at the San Mateo Genealogical Society‘s Fall Seminar.  She presented four topics during the day.  The first one was Where There Is Or Isn’t A Will.  I have many trips to the courthouse looking at probate records under my belt.  I still walked away from this presentation with ideas about how to look for female death dates from the husband’s estate being reopened after her death.

The second lecture, The Fair Court – Records of Chancery Courts, opened my eyes to a whole new data set.  During the lunch hour I jumped onto my tablet and used a link for Virginia records that Judy Russell had recommended. I identified 198 hits for Chancery Court records for the surname Strickler in Page County, Virginia.  I was so excited I introduced myself to Judy to tell her how thrilled I was and thank her for teaching me about these records.  A closer look shows that one of the cases was the executors of my 4th great-grandfather’s estate suing the estate of his brother, my 4th great-uncle.  The fight lasted 13 years in court.  Then the daughters of my 4th great-grandfather sued their brother, who was one of the co-executors and my 3rd great grandfather, for not paying them part of their inheritance after the first case was settled.  I will write more about these cases in the future.

The afternoon sessions included Polls, Personalty, and Property – Making Sense of Tax Lists.  This is a dataset that I have only dipped my toes into.  After listening to Judy speak, I am ready to dive into the deep end and immerse myself in tax lists for as many ancestors as I can.

The last session was From Blackstone to the Statutes at Large – How Knowing the Law Makes Us Better Genealogists.  My biggest take away was to understand the law WHEN and WHERE the record was created.  During the session, I was scribbling down ideas about how to use this in relation to my ancestors.  There are several places in my research I need to take a close look at the law to clarify what is the truth.

If you have the chance to see Judy Russell present in person, I highly recommend it.  Her excitement for all things genealogy and law is contagious.  There is also a very good chance you will walk away learning something new.

I also recommend, if you live in the Bay Area, to attend the Spring and Fall Seminars hosted by the San Mateo Genealogical Society.  They do a great job of bringing in quality speakers and run a well-organized, fun day.


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