Sunday, September 18, 2011

Church Record Sunday: Writing Your Personal Church History

(c) 2011 Gena Philibert-Ortega
Today's Church Record Sunday is more of an idea for genealogists to consider rather than strictly a source. As genealogists we are passionate about the past but we also need to be equally passionate about the present. By writing up the present we leave behind a trail for our own descendants.

The website LDS History Blog is somewhat of an enigma. It doesn't have an About Me page, there's no telling how old the information is, and it's name is too generic. What is purports to do is provide LDS church members a place to upload ward, state, area and stake histories. There are some histories that include sources and the name of the author (I'm assuming that is the website owner as well). So for LDS church members in Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin (these are the states that have histories currently)  you may want to check out the histories posted. But I love the idea behind this website.

I would encourage genealogists who are current church goes, of any religion or denomination, to consider putting together histories of their local congregation. Even somthing simple could benefit generations years from now better understand their past. At least write up something that you can include in a history of your own life. Some ideas to write on include:

  • Background history of the local church
  • How long you've been a member there
  • People you know in the church
  • Leaders of the church
  • Regular activities you participate in
  • What a typical service is like
  • What special sacraments or ordinances have you participated in or that take place there
  • A synopsis of the denomination's beliefs
  • Where the church is located and what's near it in the neighborhood, including photos
Even just on a personal level this information will be interesting to your descendants and give them a little taste of what it was like in the "olden days."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

These are a Few of my Favorite Things: FGS 2011

Well, the FGS 2011 conference has concluded and there is a lot that can be said of it. I have to tell you, it was one of the best conferences I have been to. (Yes, I was an official blogger but they didn't tell me to say nice things or gush about them).

I don't say that lightly. Yes, there were a lot of people there. Yes, there were great presenters. Yes, the exhibtors had products and services that would help any genealogist. But there were other factors at play that made this a great experience.

Here's what I liked that you might want to consider if you are planning, and you should, to go to the  FGS 2012 conference in Alabama.

The Vendor Hall. FGS 2011 had a great vendor hall that included a diverse group of exhibitors. There were books vendors (yay!) and all kinds of libraries, archives and societies. There were new exhibitors including Catalyst Consulting, Accessible Archives, PhotoTree and HistoryGeo. And of course there were plenty of old favorites like RootsMagic, Family Tree Magazine, Family Chronicle, APG, NGS, National Institute for Genealogical Studies and more. Overall, a great vendor hall with information, services, and products.

Recorded Presentations. Let's face it, even those of us who get to go to the conference aren't able to go to all of the presentations we want to. That's the great thing about having recordings available. It's ok if there are two presentations you want to hear at the same time or that you felt ill and went to your hotel or you overslept. Recordings have the added bonus of allowing you to listen to presentations over and over again. Something that can help you absorb the information in your long term (or longer term) memory.

Didn't get to go to the conference? No problem, just order the recordings that interest you. To peruse the available recordings made at FGS 2011 see the website for Fleetwood Onsite Conference Recording. Recordings are available on a CD or as a MP3 file.

I'm a big believer in buying conference recordings and I use them in my continuing genealogical education.

There was lots to do. There was so much one could do at the FGS conference.  Presentations, luncheons, tours, live radio shows and even GenSpiration sessions that allowed participants to hold impromptu discussions on genealogical topics. Anyone could lead/moderate one of these discussions and it is a good way to get together and delve more into a topic. Official FGS blogger, Amy Coffin held a GenSpiration session and discusses it here.

There were other extras that were nice including the Cyber Cafe made possible by RootsMagic that included computers and printers for printing out handouts, checking email and surfing the web. There was even some couches for those who need a minute to sit down and chat with other conference participants.

Location. Springfield was a great place to hold a conference. Within a short walking distance of our conference hotel were major Lincoln historical sites including the Old State Capital building, Lincoln's law office and the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Other Lincoln sites included Lincoln's home and tomb. Because we flew into St. Louis, Missouri and drove to Springfield, we were able to check out the Gateway Arch and museum.

When you go to a conference, budget some extra days to either play tourist or to research. We had added an additional two days to see the sites and they didn't disappoint. There were also numerous research opportunities that were available. It's easier to take advantage of these opportunities when you are already there than to say "well, I will do it one day...."

Do your homework in advance of the conference by calling the convention and visitor's bureau. They can tell you about local restaurants, discounts to attractions and other insider info.  They will even send you maps and other brochures. A special thanks to the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau who helped me with directions and information.

Food. Ok, this really doesn't have much to do with the conference per se. But just a side note, when you travel try to experience something new, try the local food. In this case Springfield is known for the Horseshoe Sandwich (for those who can't tackle a whole sandwich there is the Pony Shoe).  The Horseshoe is an open faced sandwich with  meat (like hamburger, roast beef, chicken, etc.) and then french fries and a cheese sauce. If you go to an Italian restaurant than they will have an Italian Horseshoe (in one restaurant we went to that was garlic bread topped with spaghetti and meatballs and marinara sauce or garlic bread topped with chicken fettuccine.) We also saw a Greek Horseshoe and a Breakfast Horseshoe . The Horseshoe is a big deal and we even had someone who, as we were leaving Springfield, wanted to make sure we knew all about it.

I also found out later that Springfield has made other important food contributions including being the home of where corn dogs were first served on a stick. Unfortunately, I only found out  about The Cozy Dog and it's role in hot dog history when I got home.

In Conclusion. So what would I change about the conference? Really, nothing. I think the conference organizers did a fabulous job. Things were well done and it looked like everyone had a great conference experience. A lot of work goes on before a conference happens from staff to volunteers to local groups.  Conferences are a lot of hard work and I appreciate everything that was done.

I think my only enhancement suggestion is to help those who  are overwhelmed with all the information they have heard in presentations. Have a room with a genealogy video/videos playing on a loop where people can sit, relax, still learn about genealogy but chill for a bit. Hey, there can even be popcorn. Maybe this would be something FamilySearch can sponsor and use some of their research courses or other videos. (hint, hint).

Yes, a conference is an all around experience. Of course it's an important time to network, learn and discover but it is also a time to explore new places, foods and sights.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Getting the Most out of Genealogical Conferences Redux

Back in the summer of 2009, I was getting ready to go to the FGS conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was fortunate to be asked to be on a social networking panel and was looking forward to the conference. Since then I have been to many conferences and always enjoy the opportunity to learn. 

 The following is a reworking of a  post from  this blog back in the summer of 2009 about going to conferences. For those looking forward to attending the FGS 2011 conference, these are just a few of my ideas about getting the most out of attending.

My opinion is that genealogy conferences are vital to the life-long learning that a genealogist must spend time acquiring. Without this learning, you miss out on new resources, websites and techniques that can help you find your ancestors.

How do you make the most of the opportunities you do have to go to a conference? Here are some ideas:

Network, Network, Network
When I am at a conference I’m scanning participant’s name tags for ancestral surnames. I’m talking to other conference goers in between sessions, asking what presentations they went to and what they learned. I'm networking with other genealogists and learning from their experiences.

I even use this chance to speak to my "genealogical heroes." I approach them and tell them how I love their book or ask a specific question about research that I think they may be able to provide some insight. No, I don’t sit there and grill them about my grandfather’s land grants. I may ask a quick question but it's important to remember that speakers are busy so you don’t want to tie up all of their time as they prepare for presentations, but there’s nothing wrong with asking a quick to the point question.

Exhibit Hall
Use your time at the conference to visit genealogy vendors and have them demonstrate their products, ask for help with their search engine, check out the books for sale and purchase resources that are hard to find. During conferences, exhibitors tend to place items on sale as a "conference special." Use this time to get a discount on an item that you have been wanting. This is a great time to compare products and ask questions of staff members who know their product.

Don’t Skip Sessions
It can be tempting to go use the hotel pool or see the local sites  but don’t skip sessions. This is your opportunity to invest in your genealogical education-use it. Even when you think that you know everything about the subjects being presented. I have sat in on many  genealogy lectures, even lectures that I present to groups, and picked up additional ideas or websites. Everyone approaches a topic differently. I would also recommend attending lectures on topics that might stretch your current knowledge. 

FGS has provided those who pre-registered for the conference with the syllabus, available as a download. Use this time,  pre-conference,  to figure out which presentations are your must-sees.

Read The Syllabus, All Of It
When you are waiting in between sessions, eating lunch or even relaxing in the hotel at the end of the day, read the handouts from all of the sessions. These handouts provide valuable insights including bibliographies and websites. Even in sessions that have nothing to do with the research you are doing, you may find an approach, a technique or a website that may be of help. I spend time, before during and after the conference reading the entire syllabus. It's a great way to review the presentations you heard and learn from the presentations you couldn't go to.

Follow Up
When you get home, make sure you follow up on those new websites you learned about. Check them out and share what you learned with others through your genealogical society newsletter, Twitter, blogging, Facebook, GenealogyWise or just by telling your friends. Sharing information also helps you to remember it.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

What if You Can't Go To FGS 2011?

It's always exciting the weeks before a genealogy conference.  Bloggers start posting about conference activities. Announcements are made about speakers, vendors, and even prizes. The conference organizers promote all the great things that are scheduled.

But, what if you can't go?

For some, the excitement about an upcoming conference can be a source of disappointment because they are not able to go. There are lots of reasons that stop a person from attending. Obviously, finances might play a part. Maybe you are the sole caretaker for  younger or older family members. Maybe your health stops you from traveling. Or you may lack resources.

First, know that we have all been there. So even though you may be hearing a lot about a conference, it doesn't mean that everyone can attend. And even when you can't attend, there are ways to participate.

1. Follow Social Media: Conference attendees, organizers, staff and volunteers take to social media in the weeks before, during and right after a conference. Follow social media outlets to see what those who are attending/volunteering/organizing are talking about. On Twitter, follow the #FGS2011 hashtag for posts about the FGS conference. On Facebook, you can follow FGS on their page or on the FGS Conference page .

2. Follow the Blogs: FGS is one of the conferences that has picked Official Bloggers to help keep readers in the loop about conference events. The Official Bloggers for the conference are:

Amy Coffin from We Tree
Schelly Talalay Dardashti from Tracing the Tribe
Dear Myrtle from Dear Myrtle
Dick Eastman from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
Jennifer Holik from Generations
Linda McCauley from  Documenting the Details
Caroline Pointer from Family Stories
Randy Seaver from Genea-Musings
Ginger Smith from Genealogy by Ginger's Blog

and me.

In addition to the Official Bloggers, you can also read the FGS Voice Blog   and the FGS Conference News Blog . All of these blogs provide you with an opportunity to learn more prior to and during the conference. Also, look for recap postings after the conference from Official Bloggers and from those who attended. You can do a Google Blog Search for the words "FGS Conference" to find additional blog postings.

3. Take the Conference with you: Typically, with a conference there is some recording of conference sessions. These CDs or audio files can be purchased at the conference or even afterwards from the vendor who provided the service. I don't know if the FGS conference is being recorded but if it is I will post that information.

I can tell you that I use these recording as continuing education. I listen to them at the gym, on long trips and anytime I have some quiet time. I also listen to them multiple times. These recording are a great way to learn something new, review what you heard in person and advance your genealogical education. Even if you buy all of the recordings that were done at a conference, it is still less expensive than attending. So consider budgeting for that.

4. Plan for Next Year: The FGS conference is yearly,  start planning now to attend next year. With 12 months until the next conference you can work on finances, clearing your calendar and arranging for someone to take care of family members or even bring them with you. (Those who know me often see my kids trailing behind me.) I have written before on this blog and also in an article for Internet Genealogy about saving money so you can do more genealogy.  And I mean it. Yes, I use coupons, specials and discounts so that I can save money and go to conferences. Save money now to store away but also consider ways to save during the conference like finding a roommate, shopping for travel deals, etc. Start now, it's always great to have something to look forward to.