What a great turnout we had this year! What wonderful speakers!
On Friday evening, convention attendees gathered in our “hospitality room” at the DoubleTree by Hilton to meet and greet each other. Sixty six were registered and some had arrived a few days earlier to explore Austin attractions, such as the Texas State Capitol, State History Museum, State Cemetery and State Library.
Saturday morning in the Austin Room, after a warm welcome by Vice President Jane Austin Bruckner, a Proclamation by the Mayor of the City of Austin was read by former President Gay Martin. Then we leaned in to listen to three guest speakers, all of whom had interesting information to share with us. Dr. David B. Gracy II, Archivist, and author of the book Moses Austin: His Life, spoke on “A Researcher’s Odyssey: Lessons Learned in Researching Moses Austin." His sense of humor delighted us, as he told us how he studied the life of the man who opened the way for Anglo American settlement in Spanish Texas. His research advice was very informative.
James Harkins, Director of Public Services of the Texas Land Office, followed with a presentation on “Resources of the Texas General Land Office, Archives and Records," showing us how valuable information about our ancestors can be gleaned from old land grant files.
Our third speaker was Noel Harris Freeze, Director of the French Legation Museum. She gave an in-depth talk titled “From the Sothern States and Beyond: The People of Early Austin." Her reflection on how the early settlers of Austin lived told a story different from how others lived in other parts of our growing country. The early town of Austin had unusual sophistication, along with many talents of trade that gave them a step ahead in settling the area.
On Saturday afternoon there were other interesting speakers. Dr. Helen Cook Austin, an Austin researcher and a member of AFAOA, told us about “David Austin, Another Texas Pioneer," helping us to understand what life was like as a pioneer in Texas.
Austin researcher and AFAOA member John Clinard, on his quest to connect his Austin lines, spoke about “John and Nathaniel Austin: Sons of Richard Austin of Southside Virginia.” John has been a dedicated researcher on this line for quite some time and his serious interest certainly had all of us listening intently.
AFAOA Database Chair Jim Carlin rounded out a very fine day of speakers, talking about new developments in the AFAOA website. He reviewed how to find information on the site and introduced a new area, a repository to include a wealth of publications, soon to be within easy reach of researchers.
Sunday morning included more of our own members giving talks to help us on our search for information on our ancestors. First, Carol Austin, AFAOA Vice President and an assistant in the DNA Project, talked about “Handling Sensitive Subjects in Your Research.” Areas of sensitivity include insanity, crimes, adoption and illegitimacy, all considerations to keep in mind when writing your genealogical stories.
Liz Carlin, AFAOA Genealogist, spoke on “Breaking Down Those Brick Walls” and Art Sikes, Austin-Austen DNA Project Administrator and Rhode Island Austins compiler, spoke on “New York Probate Records.” Both Liz and Art have a lot to offer us from their areas of expertise!
The annual AFAOA business meeting was held on Sunday afternoon. Members voted on the nomination of two possible places to hold our next convention. Providence, Rhode Island and Salt Lake City, Utah were chosen for a vote by the full membership. Be sure to watch, in the next newsletter and online, for your opportunity to vote for your preference.
The conclusion of our weekend was a banquet in the Austin Room, with yet another interesting guest speaker: J.P. Bryan, Founder and Chairman of Torch Energy Advisors and a descendant of Moses Austin. Mr. Bryan gave a talk entitled “Stephen F. Austin and the Idol of His Existence," in which he described Stephen’s feelings about the new colony and independent Republic, soon to be the State of Texas, using quotes from his letters.
Dinner was a sit down occasion with Brie and Apple Stuffed Chicken Breast as the entrée - excellent By the end of the evening, after a weekend of camaraderie and good information, and opportunities to do research in the conference room before and after lecture time, we were all feeling enriched and invigorated and ready to dig even deeper into our roots!