Wednesday, 31 August 2016

In Springfield for the FGS conference

On Monday evening I arrived in Springfield, Illinois, where I will be giving three talks and a workshop over the next few days at the FGS conference ( The journey was extremely long, taking me via Philadelphia, Dallas and eventually into Springfield, although the highlight has to be the extraordinary amount of thunderstorm activity I witnessed on the last flight out of Dallas, in the world's most wee commercial plane - you can't beat a bit of lightning as you fly through it, although I did think the words "Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth" a few times! :)

I asked the taxi driver who took me into the city what Springfield's biggest industry was, and her reply was "Lincoln"! The city is where the former President of the USA, Abraham Lincoln, was buried following his assassination in 1865, as well as being the very place where he lived and worked whilst an elected representative. I spent yesterday (Tuesday) dodging rain and thunderstorms to try to find some of his presence in the area, and it couldn't really be missed, with staties and historic markers everywhere chronicling his life and times.

Due to the weather I had to prioritise what I could do in terms of visitor attractions. Whilst it rained I made a visit to the Korean War National Museum (, a fascinating wee exhibition in the downtown area, on one of the wars that I know least about (why are we not taught about Korea in the UK, many folk from there served?), despite having been an avid fan of MASH as a child. Nothing is ever as it appears to be, and that series, so the exhibition told me, was more of a commentary on the Vietnam War, based within a Korean War setting - you live and learn. It was extremely well laid out, recalling the various factions at play, including the United Nations, the United States, the UK, North and South Korea, China and Russia, as well as providing a useful timeline of events. Thoroughly recommended.

I waited for the rain to clear and then took a long walk out to the Oak Ridge Cemetery ( to see the President's tomb, where he and several family members are buried. It was an impressive structure, both outside and within. It is possible during daylight hours to go inside and to see the spot where Lincoln was buried, and it was quite a moving experience, considering that I am not American! Statues to the politician were accompanied by quotes from some of his greatest speeches, including the Gettysburg Address. The Oak Ridge Cemetery itself was a huge sprawl, and I only glimpsed some of it, deciding I needed to get back to my hotel before Armageddon erupted again from the skies.

In the evening I picked up my registration pack for the conference, and then caught up with several genies I knew, including Paul Milner, Carol Baxter and Audrey Collins, for a meal, where I met several new faces from the US genie scene. Looking forward now to the conference getting under way!


For details on my genealogy guide books, including A Decade of Irish Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923Discover Scottish Church Records (2nd edition), Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

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