The 2016 Austin Families Association Convention – Charlottesville, Virginia
In the heat of a Southern summer, Austin friends and family gathered at The English Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia for our annual AFAOA Convention. Held the weekend of August 12 – 14, this was a special time, marking the 75th year since our first Austin gathering. In the summer of 1941, Edith Austin Moore and her brother, Henry Warner Austin, organized an Austin Reunion in Washington, DC, where Austin family members and those interested in finding their Austin roots, gathered to enjoy each other’s company and exchange information. This reunion became an annual event and led to the founding, the following year, of what has become the Austin Families Association of America. Seventy-five years later members are still coming together for fellowship, to share research, and to learn from each other.
Early arrivals enjoyed exploring Charlottesville’s historic downtown area and took advantage of research opportunities at the nearby University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. On Thursday, some Austins visited Highland, the home of James Monroe, and Montpelier, the home of James Madison. A group spent Friday morning taking part in an excellent tour of Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and its beautiful gardens. The tour was followed by a delicious lunch just down the road from Monticello at the historic Michie Tavern. Beautifully preserved, these homes really helped bring history to life. Friday evening, attendees gathered for a “get acquainted and reacquainted” reception in the King Charles Room at The English Inn, enjoying hors d’oeuvres, drinks and each other’s company. It was wonderful seeing both new faces and folks who come almost every year.
Saturday morning, the King Charles room was open early for attendees to visit and share information. Our convention was officially opened by a warm welcome from President Jane Bruckner, who then introduced a series of very interesting presentations. Our first speaker was Rick Britton, an author, cartographer, guide, and award-winning historical journalist with an extensive knowledge of Charlottesville and central Virginia history. He gave a very interesting talk on “Albemarle: The Land, Its First People, Its Setting.” Our next speaker had a more specific topic. Sam Towler, a published author of books on the history of Albemarle County, works at a law office in Charlottesville close to the courthouse, where he does research in his spare time. He shared with us very practical information on “Sources for Austin Research at the Albemarle County Courthouse."
Saturday afternoon we were treated to a series of interesting and helpful presentations by Jean Cooper. Jean, who is Reference Librarian and Genealogical Resources Specialist at the University of Virginia, spoke to us about “Electronic Resources for Genealogy” and “Historical Newspapers." Then after a short break, she continued with “A Demonstration of Using Electronic Resources." All of us came away with new information and tools to help with our own genealogical research.
Our last speaker of the day was Art Sikes, our Austin-Austen DNA Project Administrator. Art led a very interesting “Discussion of the Find-A-Grave Website," another excellent tool for research which contains listings of cemeteries and graves from around the world. Individual records often contain a wealth of information, including dates and places of birth and death, biographical information, cemetery and plot information, and photographs of the grave marker and the individual buried there. Afterwards, the room remained open for continued discussions and assisted use of computers.
We resumed Sunday, with AFAOA member Dave Neithamer bringing us “Confessions of a Genealogical Couch Potato.” Using his daughter-in-law’s family tree as the subject, Dave talked about the wide variety of genealogical resources available from the comfort of your couch. With a little determination and a lot of digging, without ever leaving the house, he was able to take the barest bones of a family tree and extend the family history back from 4 to 8 generations (depending on the particular line), fleshed out with interesting details, pictures, and historical documents. The 18-foot family tree chart he was able to generate through Legacy and Family Chartmasters was truly impressive.
Next was Jim Carlin, who shared with us a video with footage from the very first Austin reunion in 1941. Art Sikes finished out the morning speaking on “Edith Austin Moore’s Ancestors Found!” Edith’s dream was to trace her line back to her first known ancestor in this country, and the first Austin reunion was part of that effort. Although not in her lifetime, those connections have now been made.
Sunday afternoon began with a review by Jane Bruckner of Michael Signer’s book, “Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father.” Interesting and full of little-known details, the book gave new depth to our 4th President.
Jane’s talk was followed by the annual AFAOA business meeting. The current president and vice presidents were eligible for, and were elected to, a second 2-year term. Following officer and committee reports, nominations for the site of next year’s reunion were accepted, discussed, and narrowed down to three. AFAOA members will choose between Salt Lake City, UT, Independence, MO, and Philadelphia, PA. Please be sure to cast your vote! The business meeting was followed by more workshop and computer time with AFAOA genealogists.
Sunday evening, after a Social Hour in the King Charles Room, everyone gathered in the Windsor Room for fellowship and a delicious buffet dinner. Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was a visit from our special guest, President James Monroe! Attendees were treated to dialogue and discussion with our 5th president, portrayed by Dennis Bigelow, who spoke on everything from his travels abroad, to his presidency, to his opinion on world matters, giving us interesting insights into the early history of our country. And so ended another wonderful Austin reunion…..
I hope to see many of you in 2017!
Elizabeth Martin Neithamer
Additional Convention Photos from Members
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