Tag Archives: conference

Genealogical Preparedness – Part 2 – Time with a Professional

Time with a professional

PaperDocumentsPenHave you ever attended a genealogical event, conference, institute, or seminar where you had the opportunity to sign up for a personal consultation with the instructor or a professional genealogist? These are sometimes offered at events like a national conference or during week-long institutes. I recently participated in two such events that got me thinking about how to be prepared for such an opportunity. I was on the opposite sides of the desk for each event so I now have perspectives as both the participant and the professional.

In September, I attended my first ever course through the British Institute from the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History (ISBGF) [http://isbgfh.org]. I took the course on researching in England. I have done a lot of research in United States records on a particular family line leading back to England, but only recently decided to work on the family in more detail. However, I only have minimal experience in records created and kept in England, hence the need to take this class. One of the unique features of the British Institute is that since it is held in Salt Lake City, the instruction time takes place in the mornings and then the afternoon and evening hours can be spent utilizing what you’ve learned on your own research in the Family History Library. Also during those afternoon hours, you have the opportunity to sit down with the instructor(s) and receive a personal consultation; I had about 20 minutes to ask the instructors anything.

In October, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Ancestors Roadshow” giving free 15 minute consultations to members of the public as a part of the “Genealogy Lock-In” hosted by the Central Texas Genealogical Society in Waco, Texas. It was a fantastic event. I met a lot of new people in the Texas genealogical community and had a lot of fun helping a few lucky participants in the roadshow. As part of the roadshow, participants could fill out a questionnaire about research questions or problems they were having and then we (the professionals) were supposed to go over this with them and give suggestions for further research. The participants had the opportunity to fill this sheet out ahead of time. It was made available through a website advertising the service. They could also fill it out at the event and be assigned a time with a professional.

From both of these events, I realized that the person coming to the consultation could get so much more out of the short amount of time if they were a little more prepared. During the roadshow, I was handed the questionnaire and introduced to a person and then only had 15 minutes to help them with their questions. Most of the time, the questionnaire would list a person, perhaps their birth or death dates, maybe a location. They were asked to tell us where they had previously searched and/or give us a list of documents they had pertaining to the problem. Most participants didn’t write much down. Many wrote that they had searched Ancestry.com, which is not very specific at all. Ancestry contains a lot of material. When they got to sit across from me at the event, most of them spent a lot of time telling me their story rather than getting very specific about their problem. This took up most of the 15 minutes we had together. I was not much better as a participant when I had a chance to talk to the instructors at the British Institute. Honestly, I had not done much work yet on the family I was researching and should have spent more time analyzing what I had and preparing specific questions for the time I had with them.

My advice for anyone who has a chance to sit down with a professional for a quick consultation:

1. Decide what you want to ask – be focused.

2. Be specific – the time will go by fast

3. Know what you’ve already done and what documents you already have.

4. Keep the background story to a minimum. Don’t waste your precious time giving unnecessary information.

It is up to you to get the most out of the experience. The professional may be doing this as a volunteer (like I did at the roadshow) or as part of their overall fee (like the instructors at British Institute). You can’t expect one of these consultations to just give you the answer to your research problem. The time is too short. These consultations are designed to give participants guidance and maybe some ideas you hadn’t thought of or weren’t aware of.

I hope that these thoughts help you if the opportunity ever presents itself. I know I learned a lot about the process from both sides of the consultation table and will definitely be more prepared the next time.

Connections at Conferences

FGS2015_Logo_01Genealogical conferences, like the recent FGS 2014 conference in San Antonio, are as much about reuniting with far-flung friends and making connections with new ones as they are about the wonderful educational opportunities. Attending the high quality lectures invigorates me, renews my energy for finding ancestors and gives me new insights on projects I’m working on. Plus, I get a chance to visit a city that I’ve most likely never been to before. If you’ve never attended a conference, I encourage you to do it. The next national conference will be the FGS 2015 conference combined with RootsTech in February 2015.

I have the following tips for making good connections at conferences:

  • Don’t go alone. Plan to attend with a friend who has gone to a conference before, especially if you have never attended one yourself. They can show you the ropes and perhaps introduce you to some folks they’ve become acquainted with, breaking the ice for you.
  • Attend at least one luncheon. You will have the chance to sit at a meal with other genealogists and make new friends.
  • Talk to people in the exhibit hall, not only the vendors but also volunteers and other attendees.

    Overlooking the FGS 2014 Exhibit Hall
    Overlooking the FGS 2014 Exhibit Hall
  • Attend unusual lectures. Sometimes I attend lectures that are on topics I have no research projects in. I find I always have a good time and I definitely learn something new. Also, new methods are almost always applicable to any project and get you thinking about your work in a different way.
  • Go out to dinner with new people. Find a new friend or two (or seven) and go to dinner with them! This is one of the best ways to form new connections and see the city.
fgsfriends
clockwise from left, me, Jen Baldwin, Rorey Cathcart, Barry Kline and Deena Coutant

Over the years, I have made so many great friends by attending conferences and every time I attend, I make even more! Not only are these friends fun, but they can be very helpful in giving insights into your research, giving opinions on documents, taking classes with online or at institutes, or by sharing your finds with others who are interested. Consider making some new connections at the next conference!

 

Four Favorite Features of FGS 2014

photo
My kids and pup pose at one of the Texas State signs.

[Author’s note: I recently relocated with my family to a suburb of Austin, Texas. Yes, I am now experiencing the sweltering heat, the suffocating humidity and the excitement of learning about a new area. But we bought a house with a pool so I will have a chance to survive! Thus, this post came out a little later than I expected. I am without internet access (except for time spent at my local Starbucks) so getting my online life back together is going to take a little while, but bear with me and thanks for reading!]

Last week the Federation of Genealogical Societies hosted their annual conference in San Antonio, TX which has to have been my favorite conference so far. And not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Here are my three favorite things from the FGS conference:

1. PERSI

One of the most exciting research tools I learned more about at this conference are the advances being made with PERSI by Find My Past (FMP). They are working to make it this elusive index more accessible to researchers. PERSI stands for the PERiodical Source Index which indexes genealogical society publications, both small and large, and contains 2.5 million indexed articles from 8k publications. The Find My Past website states:

“The PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) enables you to easily locate key information about people and places. It contains over 2.5 million entries from thousands of historical, genealogical and ethnic publications, making it an invaluable, comprehensive family history resource.”

So far 21k page have been digitized and are available to view on the site! The index is free to use with a registered account (free) and pages ordered through the ACPL. The available images can be viewed online with a FMP subscription.

FMP is focused on connecting with editors and copyright owners, not only to obtain new content but to get permission to digitize images from those items already indexed in PERSI. FMP also wants to know what geographical areas and publications you are most interested in seeing digitized next. Click here to fill out the survey!
[https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/persisurvey] To contact FMP for more information, to disucss the copyright of your society’s material or find out about societies@findmypast.com

PERSI is a resource not to be overlooked. Articles about ancestors, geographic locations, and other topics of interest were published in genealogical journals all across the United States. Without PERSI it would be impossible to know just where to look for that article that might hold the key you need in your research.

2. Preserve the Pensions

fgs totals
From D. Joshua Taylor’s blog

What a fun time I had watching how much support given to sponsor a “celebrity” walker!  The celebs got up and walked to the Alamo at 6:30 am, before the sun even came up! Judy Russell, Joshua Taylor, Kenyatta Berry and Ed Donakey competed to see who could earn the most donations for the walk. As of Saturday afternoon, the donations from the credit card portion of the campaign were as follows:
These numbers do not include all of the cash and checks supplied by generous conference attendees. Stay tuned to the Preserve the Pension site for more updates.

3. After Hours

After hours socializing is one of my favorite times during conferences. It is a time to relax, talk with friends that you only get to see once or twice each year, and make new connections. I enjoy the time I get to spend developing deeper friendships and learning about my awesome colleagues!

Had a great dinner with (clockwise) Jen Baldwin, Rorey Cathcart, Barry Kline and Deena Coutant.
Had a great dinner with (clockwise) Jen Baldwin, Rorey Cathcart, Barry Kline and Deena Coutant.

Until next time, friends!

4. The Lectures

Of course all of the lectures I attended were outstanding. Since you can’t attend ALL of the lectures at a large national conference, I rely heavily on the conference recordings to pick up the sessions I wasn’t able to attend. Conference recordings are a great thing to keep in your car for long trips or for running errands. You can purchase conference recordings through Fleetwood Onsite Conference Recordings. My favorite in-person lectures were from J. Mark Lowe, Craig R. Scott, Rev. David McDonald, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Dr. Thomas Jones, and Judy G. Russell.

If you have never had a chance to attend a national conference, it is something you should do at least once. But like potato chips, once you have one you just can’t stop! I’ll see you at the next one!

Going, Gone to Texas

Flags adorn a building in San Antonio.
Flags adorn a building in San Antonio.

I have just arrived in San Antonio for the FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) Annual Conference. I am excited to be here in Texas this year not only for the conference, but to learn more about the state I will soon call home. That’s right, Genealogy Pants’ home office will be relocating to Austin, Texas next week!

I am excited to learn more about the rich history of this state, see new sights, eat different food, experience a new climate (hot, I know it will be hot) and make some new genealogy friends. This evening I had the pleasure to attend the FGS Delegate’s reception and meet several genealogists who live in the area of my new home.

The conference begins tomorrow with the Focus on Societies Day. Thursday, along with many great-sounding sessions, the exhibit hall will open. I am looking forward to examining all of the Texas-related booths, seeing new publications and products, meeting up with old and new friends, and just generally having a good time! I am also looking forward to supporting the Preserve the Pensions campaign to raise the funds to digitize the War of 1812 pensions.

With all of the fun I anticipate this week, I will be too distracted to worry too much about my upcoming move!