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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Writer's Conference

I'm heading for Harrisonburg, Va. this afternoon to attend the annual Writer's Conference. I think the first year I went was 1975. I haven't gone every year but I've been there many times in the past 30+ years. Leroy went with me one year, but otherwise he stayed home to be chief cook and bottle washer while I was gone. These days, with only one adult son at home anymore, his work load is lightened considerably. I do appreciate his support for my writing through the years, being willing to let me pursue my interests, and even finance my projects. Without his support, I could not have been a writer.
The first year I went to Writer's Conference, I soaked up the classes like a thirsty sponge. I had so much to learn about writing--and am still learning. Although the workshops are generally geared to beginning writers, the conference is still an inspiration to keep writing. It is one of the places I can meet writer friends I've made over the years and "talk shop." Some of my friends know little and care less about writing. That doesn't mean they are any less my friends, but it is on a different level.
As the years passed, I was asked to conduct workshops several times. One year I had four workshops on story writing. That was a lot of work! This year I am having one workshop on Saturday morning which is titled "Researching and Writing History." I am going to talk more about how to do research than about the mechanics of writing. Some of the things I will be discussing are how to find information in primary sources such as wills, deeds, census, court records, cemeteries, newspapers, etc. I will also be talking about secondary sources such as published books, the Internet, etc. which need to be used with caution.
The longer I research, the more errors I find in secondary sources. As a result, I am more of a skeptic than I was a few years ago. People tend to believe what they see published in a book. It is easier to copy someone else's work than to do your own research from primary sources, and that is exactly why errors are repeated and circulated until they are believed to be true. Correcting errors which have been on the books for years is very difficult. The point I want to drive home is to be sure historical and genealogical material can be documented from primary sources before you publish it.
I am skipping the Friday sessions of Writer's Conference to practice what I preach. I plan to spend Friday in the courthouse in Harrisonburg looking for information to try correct what appears to be an error in the family of Jacob Good who moved from Pa. to Rockingham County about 1795. All the books say he had a daughter Mary who married Jacob Beery and moved to Ohio about 1806. When we uncovered the estate settlement of Jacob Good in Va. last fall, we found he had left no will so his estate was settled by law and divided between thirteen heirs--his widow and twelve children. There is no mention of Mary and if she had been Jacob's daughter there would have been fourteen heirs. Whose daughter was she? Will I be able to find any answers or do we have to go to Ohio for that? That's the kind of "jigsaw puzzle" I love to do.

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