Monday, March 11, 2013

Mt. Hood Family History Conference and Serendipity

This past Friday and Saturday the Mt. Hood Family History Center held it's first conference, opening the doors to about 400 people each day. Literally, as one stepped up to the doors there were greeters there welcoming each person to the most fantastic genealogy event to be held in Oregon for some time. Patti Paxton took on the challenge of putting together this wonderful opportunity and she did an excellent job. It was apparent that her local leaders were in full support of the event.

Some wondered how she could perform this miracle in a few short months, from gathering twenty-five speakers from all over Oregon to advertising through all types of media. The speakers were treated as true VIPs, with a room for us to use for eating luscious foods that they prepared, having some quiet down time between classes and storing our equipment in a safe place. Our nametags were laid out along with copies of the schedules. There were volunteers everywhere willing to assist anyone, but those who introduced speakers and helped with tech support were especially appreciated.

Of the speakers eight are members of the Association of Professional Genealogists. Most of the seventeen others I know personally, with only five being new to me. They are hard workers who are willing to donate their time in giving back to the community. These people can be found speaking both locally in Oregon and some nationally. They offered a broad range of topics, with fifty-six classes. The keynote speaker taught six classes. Five of us taught four classes. It is interesting that about half of the speakers are not members of the LDS church. The hardest part for me is being limited on the classes that we can attend.

The first day we arrived a little later than the crowd, as I was to speak after the first two-hour session. In the process of setting up I glanced out into the hall and could hardly believe who was walking by. Doing a double take, I quickly go after my relative who we had not seen in four years. She is not a member of the church and I had no idea she has an interest in family history. After class she joined us for lunch and we did a lot of catching up.

We attended the next class together, "Looking at Census Schedules" by Beverly Rice. This was a great class for a beginner. Then we moved to the Family Search Center and used the computer to look for some of her relatives. Earlier she spent some time with Dianna in the cultural hall where they had a bank of computers set up. They located some information and in the center we were able to print some copies for her. Then it was time for me to teach again so we parted ways. For the last class of the day we attended "Clues for Finding Females" by Cindy Webb. This proved to be another excellent choice for her as she is just starting out in doing research.

On Saturday I attended "Discovering the Treasures of Family Search" by Tom O'Brien. We worked together over the years and I wanted to see this wonderful website through the eyes of a non-LDS member. He covered the website in great detail. I even picked up on some things that were knew or used in different ways. From there I was off to "Wagons West, Major Migration Trails of the Western U.S." by JoAnne Haugen. She is a delightful presenter and it was captivating.

For lunch that day I gathered some food and ate in the cultural hall with other attendees. Hearing others share their research stories is a great mealtime prize. In talking with someone they mentioned that my relative was in the Family Search Center. In entering the center there she was working with the Director of the Center Brian McCann. The night before instead of sleeping like I should have, the computer compelled me to look for her people who were being evasive. It felt like stepping into the exact serendipity moment of time, handing her about ten pages of information and all three census where these people could be found. They were struggling to find these records and they were a challenge to find.

Then I was off to the class "Mistaken Identity, How Do I Know I Have the Right Family?" by JoAnne Haugen. It was very hard to leave the class early, but it was time to set up for my last two classes. It was the end of the day, the end of the conference, would anybody still be around to listen? All four of my classes were well attended, and the interaction with participants was wonderful. At the conclusion of the last class I was worn out. With my health issues it was questionable if I would be able to make it to the end. It truly is a testimony of the work that we do that my body held up for these two very busy days.

That night as I sat down to dinner I could hardly keep my head up. The minute I hit the bed I was out, but only for a quick nap. Still feeling compelled to help my relative, it was back to the computer. Yesterday we talked and now there is more family to work on. What a blessing to encounter her and so many of my friends and acquaintances from the past. You see this was a coming home experience for me. For twelve years our family attended church with the congregation that meets in this beautiful new church. It had been over twenty years since we have been back and it felt so good to be in familiar territory.

Thank you so much to the wonderful volunteers, hosts, speakers, and the general attendees who contribute in creating a bonding spirit as we work together to understand our ancestors and heritage. This event will be a great forever memory. To those in charge you deserve a large pat on the back for succeeding in bringing together so many and ensuring the every comfort of each person.

1 comment:

  1. Susan, what a delightful post! It sounds like this was a very successful event. How I wish I could have been there, too! Will they be posting any of the handouts online?