#NGS2017GEN Official Day One!


It was Day One of the NGS conference and I was so excited. I was completely ready for the day, I had my backpack packed and I even recall checking twice to make sure that I still had my badge on. I strategically planned to dawn my newest pair of family tree earrings along with my “Thompson, Bryant, Choates” family reunion t-shirt. I wanted to make sure that I had my N.C. surnames in view for all to see.

I was still stuffed from dinner the night before (see previous post) so breakfast wasn’t even a thought in my mind. I took the elevator down to the lobby and followed the corridor down two sets of escalators into the conference center. The evening before I had given myself a mini tour of the convention center so that I would be less likely to get lost, I’m pretty sure I had at least a half of an idea of where I was going. Just my luck, as I was entering the conference center two nice ladies stopped me and asked me for directions. We were able to travel up the remaining three sets of escalators to the grand ballroom together.  Ballrooms A, B, and C were reserved for the opening session, to say that it was crowded would have been an understatement. I found a seat near the door and waited for my NGS experience to begin.

“Welcome to the National Genealogical Society 2017 Family History Conference”

The opening included a welcome to Raleigh from the staff of the state archives/state library, as well as a warm and hearty welcome from the NGS President. A safety warning was issued to ensure that everyone used their 3 point stances (two feet on the floor and one on the hand railing) when going down the escalators. Apparently there had been injuries in past years. There was a raffle drawing with some great goodies that I would have loved to have won, awards and recognitions were given out, and a heart touching  video was displayed detailing the amazing family history projects of some local high school students. The projects were put on display outside of the exhibit hall.  One of the most memorable phrases that I took away from the opening session was…


I wish I could remember had who said it… (if you know please email me so I can give them the credit that they justly deserve for this statement)

Once the opening session had concluded, everyone (and I do mean everyone) headed out of the room and down the three levels of the convention center into the exhibit hall entrance…


and then believe it or not down yet ANOTHER set of escalators into the actual hall. As you can imagine it was a little bit tight spaced….


My first stroll around the exhibit hall was just to get an idea of what was there and to kill some time before my first class. I already knew that I wanted to get a few things but nothing specific.



I traveled down the escalator and headed straight to the booth to say hello and have a few quick laughs with my genfriend Christa Cowan.


I decided to walk all the way to the back of the exhibit hall first. People were still pouring in, so the further back I went the less crowded it was. I ended up stopping and taking notice of the NYG&B (New York Genealogy & Biographical Society) booth, standing there was Joshua Taylor (one of the co-hosts of Genealogy Roadshow). Since there was no one around, I asked him for a quick photo and he was happy to take a selfie with me.

I kept walking and ran into a person whom I consider to be my adopted genealogy big brother Thom Reed (Senior Marketing Manager for Family Search). Its always fun catching up and whats been going on with him since the last conference. IMG_4512

Traveling through the expo hall  I met Caroline Gurney, a lovely lady  who traveled to NGS all the way from England!


I got the opportunity to met a few of my Facebook genealogy friends in person. I ran into Ari Wilkins and Andre Kearns. Both were speaking at NGS this week.

I swung by LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson’s booth, I had intentionally been waiting to purchase her book in person so that I could get her to sign it. We are also friends on Facebook but had never met in person. She and her husband are so nice.

I was fortunate enough to get my book signed.



Funny story about this picture however is that I didn’t take it… I  was so excited about finally meeting LaBrenda and getting my book signed that I completely forgot to take a picture of her signing it. But this is what it looked like… exactly what it looked like because as you can see, she was signing a book… just not “MY” book… (Thanks to J Paul Hawthrone, he had his book signed on the same day.)

I passed by the ancestry booth on my way out of the expo hall and just happened to overhear someone telling a lady about the chance to win a FREE ancestry dna kit. My ears perked up of course and I moved a little bit closer to hear what the catch was… It was simple really, all I had to do was take a picture with “the ancestors” and post it to Instagram. From that there they would select a photo to win. They had a few hats and accessories off to the side so I thought, “Why Not?” I grabbed a hat, shawl, and a suitcase and threw out my “Fresh off the boat” / “Look out America here I am” pose…


I decided to do another walk through of the expo hall just to see if I had missed anything…


It was almost time for my first session of the day so I made my way to the escalator exit. On my way, I noticed a giant map of North Carolina so I went over to take a look…


I took a blue pin (my favorite color) and found Sparta in Alleghany (formerly Ashe) County where the majority of my maternal grandfathers family is from.

The first session of the day was W122 – Autosomal DNA for Newbies with Blaine Bettinger PhD.



I took a seat in the front row and watched as the room filled to capacity. Before the class started I asked Blaine if he wouldn’t mind taking a photo with me. I was all prepared to stand up for the selfie but he hopped in the seat next to me to take the picture. Needless to say I was thrilled!

The session itself was amazing! 5 Stars across the board. Even though I didn’t consider myself to be a DNA “Newbie”, there were a lot of things that he brought up in his talk that I hadn’t even considered. For example, the meaning of the ranges in the ancestry DNA results. Don’t quote me on this, but what I understood this to mean is that when a DNA company does its testing, they do it multiple times and list all of  the findings in the range area. The most common results of those ranges are given as the final ethnicity result. I personalized this and I now notice that my 0% Native American results ranged between 0% – <1%. Now of course this doesn’t make me Native American by any stretch of positive measurement but it does show that I have tiny traces of Native American ancestry. I would have inherited those traits from my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother who had full percentages of Native American ethnicity when I tested them.


I have both of Blaine’s books and I recommend them to anyone who is interested in learning more about genetics within genealogy. (I was not paid to endorse these products.  I paid full price for both my digital and physical copies of the books)

 I haven’t finished them yet but I’m getting through them. I kicked myself for not having brought my book to the session with me… Oh well…

Here is a snippet of the lunch invitation. I loved the Little Women quote’

So last night, there was a lunch invitation extended to myself and a few others by a fellow genfriend named Tara. It was so thoughtful and I was honestly so surprised to have been invited that I couldn’t say no. It takes a lot of guts to ask people that you’ve never met out to lunch and I admired her for it. (I know I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do that – as much as I love to talk, my social anxiety can be crippling at times).

I was supposed to meet them at the front of the convention center but I couldn’t for the life of me find the front of the building! I found myself lost somewhere on the lower level of the conference center. Fortunately for me the conference center was full of help desks and I was able to be redirected and found the exit before 12:30pm. Phew….

I  ran into J Paul Hawthorne, Cheri, and Amy as I exited the front of the building and we waited for Tara and Sarah near the front door. We chatted and took selfies and before we knew it, it was 12:30pm…

12:35pm came and went…sSill no Sara or Tara…. We decided that we might as well  IMG_4568take the bus (Raleigh has a circulator bus to get you through the city totally for free) to Big Ed’s and see if maybe we could meet her there. Just as we were getting ready to walk off… I hear “Tierra!” well, I hadn’t met any other Tierra’s during my trip so my head snapped to the right and there were Tara and Sarah. We had been standing less than 10 feet from each other the entire time! We laughed through our introductions and then we all began our walk to Big Ed’s.


Let me just tell you that I’m an indoor air conditioning kinda girl, so walking many miles (I jest, it was only about 1/2 a mile lol) in N.C.’s ever so inviting weather of 79 degrees with an almost 35 pound backpack wasn’t exactly a picnic for me. What was in my book bag you ask… A Mac book Pro, Surface Pro, and an Ipad Pro, an external hard drive, a notebook, and chargers for everything) I’m not the fastest walker as it is but, thankfully my lunch mate Cheri lagged behind a bit with me as my walking partner. She understood my grief because she too carried a backpack. By the time we got there my hair was extra fluffy (something about thephoto NC air does not like my hair). We found a table quickly and sat down, I was so relieved to t18423890_1919625831614042_8059500883188757408_nake the backpack off. The walk was a little long but it was definitely worth it, even if it was just for the conversation alone! We touched on a little bit of everything, from research topics to our pets. Most notably we touched on the wish that we could ignore the three point stance rule in a “look Ma, no hands!” kind of way. I thought it was really cool how the menu was hand written every day.  I also loved how the structure for lunch ordering was set up. You would pick one meat, two sides, a bread, and a dessert. For an indecisive person like myself, this was a great help, even thought it still took me a little while to make up my mind.

The food was really good… The country ham was a little salty for my taste (yes, I’m aware that on the menu it is listed as “salty country ham”) but it was delicious non the less.. I chose banana pudding for my dessert (one of my favorites). It was great, the fact that it was warm did catch me a little off guard.  I don’t think I’d ever had warm banana pudding before, is that a North Carolina thing?  The sweet tea was a southerns dream! It was A1 sugary just the way I like it… The walk back was smooth (the trip back is always faster when you know where you are and where you are going) I had a lot more energy and pep!  No doubt because of the amount of sugar that I had ingested. (note in the picture below, I had a cup to go)

“The gang” sadly Tara didn’t want to take any pictures, but I assure you she was a real person, who was super sweet and funny, I wish she would have joined the photo.

We made it back to the conference center with plenty of time before the next session and, said our thank you’s and goodbyes.

I was headed to session W144  (if I could find it) with David M. McCorkle. Interpreting North Carolina Land Records.

I grabbed a front row seat and tuned in so that I could learn about how to make sense out of land records. I didn’t realize how many terms that are that are often found in land records that I wasn’t familiar with.  Fortunately for me I don’t have to memorize them because they were listed in the syllabus. I’m looking forward to giving more attention to the website. It was a very informative session. 5 Stars!

Just before the class ended I received an alert to my phone…  I was one of the winners for the ancestry contest in the exhibit hall!


I was ecstatic! I had planned on purchasing a test today in the event that my newly found great great uncle Curt was able to test. Now, I didn’t have to… I had won one! I went to pick it up as soon as the session was over…

My last session of the day was.. (drumroll please)

W160 Divorce Records in Genealogical Research

I grabbed a seat (as you could probably guess… in the front row) to hear different definitions and causes for divorce. I was fascinated by the case studies that showed how women and sometimes men used the status of “widowed” when their spouse was clearly living in the next town over with his/her new family according to the census records. Divorce was looked at a scandalous thing, the complete opposite as to how things are now. My take away from this course is that life stories and divorce records from the past read like a great soap opera!

Once that class was over I took the escalators and elevators back up to my hotel room to drop off my backpack, my newly acquired ancestry DNA test, and the things that I had purchased in the expo hall.

Today’s Haul

I had a bus to catch that was pulling away at 5:30pm and it was 5:27pm. I decided to go out the front door of the hotel and speed walk across the street to the entrance of the convention center. As I reached the intersection, there were two busses there but one was pulling away! I felt a bit panicked even though I knew that the buses would be circling around the route all evening., I really didn’t want to wait for that, I wanted to go with the first group. Fortunately for me, the second bus was still loading and I was able to hop on as one of the last people, there was one seat available after I got on the bus.


The bus was very comfortable with the A/C going full power. I could have taken a nap on the bus but I wanted to see where we were going. After about a 15 minute trip, we all arrived at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

We handed our tickets to the NGS representative before we went inside. Upon entering they stamped your hand with either a green or red stamp for re-entry. The line for food wasn’t long, but as time went on it got a little hectic.  All of the tables were set up with “southern sayings” one of my favorites being “I like to have died”. I’ve actually used that phrase before. The band played very well, I knew a few songs but not well enough to sing them aloud. People danced and some shopped, there were vendors set up along the back wall of the hall. Quite a few unique things to buy but I wasn’t there for shopping. I was there to eat! (Even though I didn’t eat as much as I thought I would lol)

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I ran into my genfriend Ari Wilkins when I got there and we chatted about our North Carolina research tasks and our common surnames. She introduced me to some people from her group, some of which I had already met earlier and some of whom I was friends with on Facebook but had never met in person.

(Photo Credit J. Paul Hawthorne)

Around the time I had finished eating I got a call from my dad telling me that my Great Great Uncle Curt had agreed to take the DNA test for me, that pretty much signaled the end of my pig picking experience. I hopped on the next available bus oddly enough, being  the second to last person (again) and headed back to the conference center.


20 minutes later, I was in the car with my dad and sister Precious, and we were headed to Sanford, North Carolina to meet my Great Great Uncle Curt (Curtis). He was just how I imagined him to be, very nice with a great sense of humor. We all sat and talked for about an hour or two. He gave me the names of his parents (my great grandparents) his father, John Henry Marsh and his mother, Annie Floyd Jean Irene IMG_4663Adlee/Hadly. I’m not sure on the spelling of her last name yet, but I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out. I got to hear some great stories, along with the information about where he was born (Chatham County, NC) and how things were when he was growing up. I learned that night that I have even MORE roots in North Carolina than I originally thought. He was more than happy to take the DNA test and filled the tube in RECORD time… I cannot wait until his results come back! It was one of the most positive first meetings that I’d ever had to date and I can’t wait to go back and visit him again.

It was getting late so I had to head back to the hotel to rest up for the next days festivities. I was on a genealogy high with a new sample of DNA burning a hole in my pocket. Looking forward to adding it to my ever growing DNA profile. I didn’t think anything could add to my evening… that was until I saw Blaine Bettinger sitting in the hotel lobby. I was on my way up to my room, on the phone checking in with my husband and kids. I was fighting with my conscience about weather I should attempt to get my book signed or not. At the instance of my husband I agreed that there was no better time like the present. I grabbed my copy of Blaine’s book and headed back down to the lobby.

He was happy to indulge me by signing the book. I ended my night having my book about DNA testing signed and mailing off my great great uncle’s DNA sample.



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