Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy 2011

The 43rd Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy was a delightful experience for me. Now that I have been back in Oregon for two days I have somewhat recovered from the intense brain overload of so many classes in so many days. Even though I was exhausted when it was over, there was nothing that I would change. As I read through almost 400 emails (I took ten days off from my computer), I reflected back on the experiences and the renewal I feel from attending a conference with so many like minded genealogists. Susan Farrell Bankhead and James Tanner shared their gleanings from attending the conference in their blogs, and I enjoyed reading their comments. It was nice to read about the classes I could not attend. We all came away with a heightened sense of the rapid change of family history research and the tools that we work with.

As a presenter there were a few things that probably affected me differently. Many of the classes that I attended were presented by people that I consider role models and friends. Each day I went to the opening session. These always are very informative and provide highlights to future developments. In the various classes I was able to observe presentation techniques of each of the presenters. As a new AG I was also interested in putting names to faces of fellow accredited genealogists.

The first day I attended four classes and presented one in the afternoon. The first class was done by George Ryskamp, one of my BYU professors. His presentation on Catholic Church Records was helpful in understanding the types of records that are available. For the second class I attended Karen Clifford's class on the use of census tic marks. We have known each for some time and it is always amazing to watch her teach. For lunch this day I went to the presenter's room and became acquainted with some of those presenting that day. Then I attended the class of Jennifer P. Hansen on beginning research outside the U.S. Her teaching style is refreshing. The next hour I presented on Research Strategies and had a wonderful time. The class sang Happy Birthday to me, which was a great way to begin. This was a special moment for me, as I was celebrating recovery from surgeries and a life threatening illness that had prevented me from attending the conference for the last two years. For the last class of the day I went to Stephen Kent Ehat's class on Brick Wall-Busting Techniques. His enthusiasm for in depth research was very motivating for me.

On the second day I first went to C. Lynn Anderson's class on Online Resources to Solve Your Mid-South States Research Problems. This class interested me, as I have been working on a long-term research project focused in these records. Her syllabus material is a wonderful research tool. The second class was Family History Websites You May Have Missed by Kenneth L. Alford. This was probably one of the most amazing classes of the conference. Again, he provided great syllabus materials. For lunch this day I went to the covered outdoor patio and looked for someone sitting alone. I met the most amazing person, Melody Sandy. Susan Farrell Bankhead joined us, and informed me that my blog post of the week had been featured by Randy Seaver. Susan is also a blogger and I enjoyed getting to meet her in person. Then Veronica from El Salvador joined us. We had so much fun talking about our various stages of genealogy research. After lunch I went to another class by Kenneth L. Alford on Deciphering Military Service Records. This class was very informative, as Ken has gleaned a lot of knowledge in his years of military service. Next I went to a class on US Military Pension Files by Loretta Evans. I enjoyed her insights into this type of research. For the last class of the day I attended Beyond Keyword Searching: Finding Materials in Online Library Catalogs by D. Joshua Taylor. He is an amazing young man that I met in 2005 at the FGS Conference. At age 25 he is truly on the road to being a renowned genealogist. With his research insights we can all enhance the work we do.

The third day I started off with a class by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen on Migration Trails to the Ohio. Being from Ohio, she has a wonderful perspective on these travel patterns. For the second class I attended Cut 10 Years off Your Learning Curve by Barry J. Ewell. I enjoyed learning of his strategies for effective research. Again, I met Melody for lunch and others joined us. This day we did not linger as they had inserted another class on Google+ by Daniel M. Lynch. The amazing thing about this class was that the room with a capacity of 300 was packed and there were about 600 total attendees for the conference. He asked how many were using facebook and about half the audience raised their hands. We are definitely in an age of social networking. That class was so good that I went to his next class on Google News Archive and News Timeline. There are so many tools out there to enhance the work that we do. The next hour I went to Barbara Ann Renick's class on Overcoming Idiosyncrasies of Genealogy Database Sites. She taught how she works around online databases to accomplish her research goals. For the final class of the day I attended D. Joshua Taylor's class Printed Legends and Missing Footnotes: Dissecting 19th and 20th Century Compiled Genealogies.
He makes everyone wish they were back in Boston or onsite wherever he is working. It is fun to share in the highlights of his work.

For the final day I started off with the class by Merrill White of familysearch. He discussed the databases accessible through the Portal and then gave some hints to the future use of Family History Centers. The second hour I taught my class on Writing a Family History That Your Children Will Enjoy Reading. I was very grateful to a very kind attendee who informed me the day before that the wrong class material was in the syllabus. I have no idea how this happened, but gratefully I had the handout on my flash drive. They printed 35 copies, I sent for 10 more and then they printed more after that. It was gratifying that the class was full, as there were many other great classes offered that same hour. The next hour I went to Apryl Cox's class on Not All Evidence is Created Equal, Evaluating Evidence. By the time it was over I was ready for a lunch break. I met Melody and others joined us. We had a discussion about doing client work and writing client reports. That is one area that the conference does seem to be lacking in. After lunch I went to D. Joshua Taylor's class on Bridging the Gap, Tracing U.S. Ancestors between 1780 and 1830. He provides very good suggestions for resources to use in this work. For the final class of the conference I attended Travis Jordan's presentation on To Turn the Hearts: Working with Priesthood Leaders. This is obviously a challenge throughout the church. The new video is very inspiring.

If you have read to this point it is probably obvious how hard it is to take all of this information and incorporate it into a research plan. A great help is the 620 page syllabus that contains even more reading material for the coming months. I am excited to share the information with our Family History Center staff and fellow researchers. This conference is open to the general public. The wonderful air-conditioned conference center, with meals at the Morris Center and the Creamery next door help to make this a very comfortable conference. The wide variety of vendors present additional learning materials. Leland Metzler was there as the book vendor and I was very glad to see him. So, to all of my genealogy friends who shared this experience with me, I hope we meet again next year.

1 comment:

  1. Great summary - you really make me wish I could have been there! Also great to hear about some of these classes from a personal perspective, as I already registered for a couple of them (the one on Mid-South States, for example) at the UGA conference in Sandy, UT, in just a few weeks. Good to know I made the right choice! Thanks!