Whittier Area Genealogical Society
Whittier Area Genealogical Society

Annual WAGS Seminar

For your convenience, there are three ways to register for the seminar:
1. At our regular WAGS meetings.
2. Register by Mail here. Print out the flyer, and mail the completed form in with your check.
3. Register Online   For detailed instructions on the online registration process, please click here.
The WAGS 36th Annual Seminar will be held on January 26, 2019.  We are fortunate to have scheduled an outstanding speaker, John P. Colletta. 
John Philip Colletta is one of America’s most popular genealogical lecturers. Knowledgeable, experienced and entertaining, he resides in Washington, D.C. For twenty years, while laying the foundation for his career in genealogy, he worked half-time at the Library of Congress and taught workshops at the National Archives.
Today Dr. Colletta lectures nationally, teaches at local schools, and conducts programs for the Smithsonian Institution’s Resident Associate Program. He is a faculty member of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (University of Georgia, Athens) and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.
He has also taught for Boston University’s Certificate in Family History program and three genealogy institutes where he created courses: the National Institute on Genealogical Research (Washington, DC), the Genealogical Institute of Texas (Dallas), and the Genealogical Institute of Mid-America (Springfield, Ill.).
His publications include numerous articles, both scholarly and popular, two manuals — They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record and Finding Italian Roots: The Complete Guide for Americans — and one “murder-mystery-family-history,” Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath. It tells the story of Colletta’s great great grandfather, Joe Ring, who moved his family from Buffalo, New York, to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, after the Civil War. When Joe Ring’s country store burned to the ground with five unfortunate victims sleeping upstairs, the incident was investigated as mass murder, robbery and arson. The new edition of Only a Few Bones includes 140 pages of instruction on how to write narrative family history.
Dr. Colletta appears frequently on podcasts and local and national radio and television. He is featured in Episode Four of “Ancestors,” the ten-part KBYU-TV series, as well as its sequel. He has received many professional honors, including fellowship in the Utah Genealogical Association and distinguished service awards from the Dallas Genealogical Society and the National Society, Daughters of Colonial Founders and Patriots.
The Seminar Committee has selected four diverse topics for our 2019 Seminar:
1. Our National Archives:  The Astounding Institution and How to Use It
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) encompasses many buildings across the country.  It holds millions of records that document American families from 1776 through the enormous century.  This lecture takes the fear and mystery out of using such an enormous repository.  It explains how NARA is organized and how archival research differs from library research.  It describes the finding aids that help researchers access what they need in NARA's universe of historical materials.  Three research cases demonstrate how w military, legislative and judicial records are accessed at Archives I in Washington, D.C., and NARA's regional archives.
2. Using Original and Derivative Sources:  How to Evaluate Evidence
Finding the sources to reconstruct the lives of our ancestors is only half the challenge; the other half is understanding what those sources say.  This lecture defines and discusses original and derivative sources, and explores their importance, challenges and relative reliability.  One case study drawn from Only a Few Bones, a True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and its Aftermath, together with two other examples, demonstrate how to derive the full informational content from a source; the importance of knowing the origin and purpose of the source; how to analyze and correlate the information in order to resolve conflicts; the difference between information and evidence; and how to test hypotheses to learn the true facts for each ancestor.  It culminates in an understanding of the "Genealogical Proof Standard."
3. Discovering You Ancestors' World Through Maps and Gazetteers
The facts you discover about your ancestors did not occur in outer space.  They represent real-life events that took place in a physical place at a particular time.  Cartographic collections - maps, atlases, and gazetteers - are essential tools for grounding all your genealogical discoveries in the real world.  This lecture describes different kinds of maps, current and historical, U.S. and foreign, and illustrates the broad range of information they provide.  It explains how to use Internet sites to locate cartographic collections in libraries, archives, courthouses, historical societies, as well as those available online in digitized format.  Specific examples illustrate how maps form an integral part of thorough genealogical investigations.
4. Hacks and Hookers and Putting Up Pickles:  Snares of Yesteryears' English
Our ancestors used a vocabulary based on where they lived, when they lived there, and what they did.  Their words reflect a world of skills, tools, apparel and customs that no longer exists.  So, the written records of any particular place and time and family contain lots of words that are unfamiliar to 21st-century researchers.  Deciphering the informational content of old records poses a challenge.  Misinterpreting small words can lead to big mistakes.  This entertaining lecture explores ways to arrive at an accurate understanding of what the old records really say.