Category Archives: Events

Speaking at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference

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The Ohio Genealogical Society is having its annual conference 9-11 April 2015 at the Sheraton at Capitol Square in Columbus. The keynote speaker is the incredible Judy Russell. I’ll be presenting two sessions there:

  • Timelines: The Swiss Army Knife of Genealogical Research (Thursday, 9 Apr at 5:00)
  • How Do I Know That’s My Ancestor? (Saturday, 11 Apr at 4:00)

These two topics are fairly new, but they’ve quickly become two of my favorites. If you stick around for these (yes, both are in the last slot of the day!), I bet you’ll have at least a chuckle or two. (The jokes are pretty bad, so I won’t promise full-out laughter 😉 ) And, oh yeah, you might learn a couple of things about timelines and how to make sure that record you found is really for your ancestor. (The bad jokes are really just a bonus.)

Early-bird registration discount ends Wednesday, March 18!

Save yourself at least $30 by registering before the end of the day on Wednesday, March 18. You can register online or by mail. I hope to see you there!


Stories at FGS / RootsTech, or, Why I’m Not Brandishing a Pitchfork

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It’s been almost a week since the end of RootsTech and FGS 2015. After suffering through delayed flights, adjusting back to my own time zone, and battling to keep the pipes in the house from freezing solid, I’ve finally had a chance to put some thoughts together.

(This is beyond the “genealogy conferences as group therapy” thought that I had earlier this week.)

Part of the FGS / RootsTech 2015 Expo Hall. Photo by Amy Crow.

Part of the FGS / RootsTech 2015 Expo Hall. Photo by Amy Crow.

The Stories… and the Pushback

As Randy Seaver pointed out in his FGS/RootsTech recap, there were a LOT of vendors focusing on stories. Even the winner of the Innovator Summit has a product based around recording family stories. (BTW, some people seem to have the wrong impression of StoryWorth. It isn’t recording only via phone calls; that’s just one way to record them. But I digress.)

I heard some pushback while I was in Salt Lake and I’ve seen comments on various social media channels. “That’s not genealogy.” “Where was all of the research stuff?” “You’d think this was a storytelling conference instead of a genealogy conference.”

On The Intrepid Sleuth blog, she (sorry — couldn’t find your name!) stated:

The majority of the tech community seems far more interested in the latest rage, “story capturing”, and are busy developing entertaining, social based, game-like, story capturing and sharing apps that memorialize not the past so much as present day family events. They do not see a market for anything supportive of the serious family researcher. This is sad. What’s even sadder is that the core genealogist community is not up in arms over this. I have a pitchfork, who’s with me?

(Not picking on you, Intrepid Sleuth. Just quoting you because it summed up a lot of what I heard and read during and after the conferences. And I totally agree with you about the need to clean the Salt Palace Convention Center. I’d add that they also need better signage.)

Here’s Why I Don’t Have a Pitchfork

Pitchfork, by Julussugla. Used under Creative Commons license 3.0

Pitchfork, by Julussugla. Used under Creative Commons license 3.0

First, a bit of background. I’ve been “doing” genealogy for a LONG time. I’ve been a Certified Genealogist since 1995. You might call me a “serious” researcher — and you’d be right. I do take my research seriously. But I didn’t start this way.

It started with my grandma’s stories. It evolved as I learned more and wanted to make more discoveries — to learn more about my ancestors than what Grandma knew.

There’s room for a lot of players and a lot of viewpoints in the genealogy world. The finalists in the Innovator Summit included a company that is working on reading handwriting to index old records. There was also a company that wants to match people with research problems with the genealogists who can help solve them.

The exhibit hall was filled with the “big guys” in the genealogy world, right along with “mom and pop” operations with hand-lettered signs. There were high-tech things and there were decidedly low-tech things. There were even things that didn’t specifically relate to genealogy. (I’ll admit right here that I had a serious case of lens envy every time I passed the Nikon booth.) People were visiting all of them.

Not only is there space for everyone, I have a selfish reason for being more than ok with those who focus on stories. I got my start with the family stories and it sparked a passion in me. That passion grew and I learned more and more and have made some wonderful discoveries about my family. I’ve had opportunities to learn from others who have had the same experience. I want more people to get that spark, to feel that sense of wonder and curiosity. Why? Not only because it will make our community stronger, but because perhaps one of them will be a cousin and will want to share those stories with me.

What are your thoughts?

Genealogy Conferences as Group Therapy

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Organizers of genealogy conferences will mislead you. Why they do this, I don’t know. They’ll tell you that the best reasons to come to their event are the education and the networking. Don’t let them fool you. The best reason to go is that it is the best group therapy a genealogist can get.

I just got back from the Federation of Genealogical Societies / RootsTech conferences. It was big. It was crowded. It was noisy. At times, it was insane. And I wouldn’t have missed it.

Before the Thursday keynote at RootsTech/FGS 2015.

Before the Thursday keynote at RootsTech / FGS 2015. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)

Don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot of good genealogical “stuff” last week. From Judy Russell, I learned about federal court records. (Now to find my ancestor’s bankruptcy case…) Tammy Hepps of Treelines inspired me to think about research from a story perspective. (I have to give a shout out to anyone who loves “footnote surfing” as much as I do!)

And there’s also the 1790 marriage record of my 4th-great-grandparents John Douglass and Susannah Howey that I found at the Family History Library. (Score!)

But a genealogy conference is so much more than the knowledge that you gain.

Amy Crow and Amy Coffin, RootsTech, 2015

The Amys, RootsTech / FGS 2015. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)

What stands out to me after every genealogy event I go to are the conversations. I had a great time with several friends over dinner at the Blue Iguana. While there, we basically solved all of the world’s ills and convinced each other that we are not insane. I had some amazing conversations with Amy Coffin of The We Tree Genealogy Blog. (Though that should go without saying. What else would you expect from another librarian, genealogist, and blogger named Amy?!)

There were the random exchanges with those around me as we waiting for sessions to start — or waiting in line for the ladies’ room. (Believe me, we often had plenty of time to talk then!) It was a mix of sharing ideas for research, feeling joy for someone’s latest discovery, and feeling inspired to continue your own journey.

That’s what I think is the greatest benefit of attending a genealogy event in person — it’s the interaction with those who understand us. We can talk about our research and not have the other person’s eyes glaze over. We can do the Genealogy Happy Dance and not have weird looks thrown our way. We can come away feeling inspired…  Inspired not only with ideas for furthering our research, but also inspired that what we do is important.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy webinars. I love a good blog post. But with every conference I go to — whether it is a HUGE conference like RootsTech, or a smaller event like the Ohio Genealogical Society or the Indiana Genealogical Society annual conference — I walk away renewed. Tired, but renewed.

Attending a genealogy conference is one of the best group therapies out there.

Crowd leaving the Thursday keynote, RootsTech/FGS 2015. not every genealogy conference is this big, but you'll find friendly groups at whatever genealogy event you attend.

Crowd leaving the Thursday keynote, RootsTech/FGS 2015. Not every genealogy conference is this big, but you’ll find friendly groups at whatever genealogy event you attend. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)