The 2014 Austin Convention was held the weekend of September 26 - 28 in a very classy hotel against a backdrop of crisp autumn weather interspersed with a hint of fall color throughout Rhode Island.
For early arrivals to the convention, Art Sikes organized two outings. On Thursday, there were visits to quirky and mysterious graveyards to discover Austin ancestors. The rainy day did not stop a dedicated group of genealogists from tromping over fences and through overgrowth to search out unique Austin gravestones. Cemeteries on the schedule to visit were the old Austin Cemetery in North Kingstown, and the Joseph N. Austin Cemetery in Narragansett. Afterwards, a visit by the group to Pettaquamscutt Historical Society Museum, followed by lunch at a local restaurant, gave everyone a warm and welcome reprieve from the rain.
Friday, a group of 14 were off to the Rhode Island Historical Society in downtown Providence to enjoy the society’s popular walking tour: “Benefit Street: A mile of History.” This morning tour was an opportunity to view the unique architecture of homes in the Benefit Street neighborhood and to check out two churches bristling with history: the First Baptist Church and the Unitarian Church. The guide had so much to tell about the events of bygone days! Lunch was followed by a tour of the John Brown House Museum.
Friday night, convention attendees gathered for a “get acquainted,” or “get reacquainted,” reception at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick, where the convention was held.
Saturday morning was the beginning of a weekend of presentations on an array of subjects! Before lunch, Kristen Hammerstrom, Director of Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society, spoke about genealogical research in Rhode Island and Southern New England; and Art Sikes presented his latest finds and information on New England Austins in New York and the 1855 New York Census Project.
On Saturday afternoon everyone enjoyed Gary Austin’s talk, “Student Craig’s Romance”, about a colorful and interesting ancestor - a family story about how and where a school romance took Craig in life and the ensuing discoveries made by his descendants today.
Liz and Jim Carlin rounded out Saturday afternoon, with Liz sharing information on Google Alerts and other Internet search techniques. Jim then brought everyone up to date on our website and talked about adding multimedia to AFAOA’s genealogy data.
Sunday morning, speakers included Barbara Austen, Archivist of the Connecticut Historical Society and Art Sikes, administrator of the Austin-Austen DNA Project.
Barbara’s presentation was titled “Behind Closed Doors: Archival Resources at the Connecticut Historical Society”. She walked us through the multitude of materials available at the society and when and where to find them. Art brought us up to date on the newest DNA test results and the future of DNA testing.
Workshop and computer time, for anyone interested in working with AFAOA genealogists or wanting to research online, was scheduled before and after the presentations on Saturday and Sunday and after the Sunday afternoon business meeting.
Sunday night everyone gathered in the Rotunda for a well-presented banquet - the entrée, a delectable Chicken Cordon Bleu. The special guest speaker for the evening was C. Morgan Grefe, Ph.D., Executive Director from the Rhode Island Historical Society. The title of her talk was “Turning Thought into Gold: How Freedom of Conscience Helped Make Rhode Island an Early American Exemplar.”
The 2014 convention was another fine event with camaraderie, discoveries, renewal of friendships and creation of new friendships. You can join in the fun next year! Be a part of our 2015 Austin Convention, to be held either in Salt Lake City, Utah or St. Louis, Missouri. AFAOA members will choose the location by vote, so be sure to cast yours for your favorite location.
Click here to view convention photos taken by attendees.