Monday, October 29, 2012

The Genealogy Event

I spent Friday and Saturday of this weekend at The Genealogy Event in NYC, and had a fantastic time. Although it wasn't quite on the scale of what I understand something like RootsTech or Genealogy Jamboree to be, it was the first event of its kind that I was able to attend, as the West Coast conferences aren't really a feasible option for me.

Although I'd been looking forward to The Genealogy Event for a while, I neglected to register until last week, and so was unable to preregister for any of the speaker sessions. This had me really worried, but I needn't have been. On-site registration on Friday was limited to 3 session per person, but after the rush subsided, I was able to go back to the registration table and get tickets for all of the other sessions I wanted to attend, too.

My only complaint would be that the "30-minute power learning sessions" didn't offer enough time to explore topics in depth. I would have preferred that the sessions be longer, or that there be offered both quick overviews and in-depth explorations of various topics in different sessions.

On Friday, one of the best sessions I attended was Judy G. Russell's talk on The ABCs of DNA. It was a good, engaging, and informative overview of DNA research. Although there wasn't much presented that I didn't know, she did make one point that was revelatory: because autosomal DNA isn't associated with surnames, you shouldn't be trying to match surnames, but rather times and places. This seems self-evident - I wanted to slap myself in the forehead and say "Duh!" when I heard it - but I had never come across it stated so plainly. I got home that night and immediately sent an e-mail to my closest match on FamilyTreeDNA, with whom I haven't yet been able to document a connection. (Still no luck, but we're working on it.)

I also attended Maureen Taylor's session, Photo Stories - Following the Clues; Shellee Morehead's session on Italian Genealogy; Terry Koch-Bostic's session, Read All About It! Finding Spicy Stories of New York Ancestors in Newspapers Online; and Joe Buggy's session on Planning a Genealogy Trip to Ireland. (God willing, we'll be able to take a trip to Ireland one of these days, though it may be years before we can accumulate enough vacation time to even see all the ancestral hometowns we'd like to visit, much less to have enough time to research all of those lines while we're there!)

One interesting-looking resource that was included in this last talk on Irish Genealogy was the website, home of the Federation of Local History Societies in Ireland. These local groups are listed by county, and several exist for most counties. I imagine many are terrific resources to use when you've pinpointed your Irish ancestral hometown. I was also able to talk to Joe after the session to get a remedial lesson on Irish geopolitical divisions (Registration District vs. Civil Parish vs. Townland and so forth), because no matter how often I look this up, I can never keep them straight. The book he referenced for me was A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, Second Edition by Brian Mitchell, and it went straight on my "genealogy" wish list.

After attending alone on Friday, I was joined by my husband on Saturday. Saturday was a longer day, but, I thought, somewhat better organized. The three session limit for on-site registration had been lifted, but I didn't want to seem greedy, so I only registered for 4 in the morning, and then went back a little later to get tickets to a few more sessions, because I didn't want to worry about closing other attendees out.

I attended Lou Szucs's session Castle Garden, Ellis Island and NYC: Their Impact on Your Family History as well as her session Hidden Sources. The former seemed to be directed more towards people who had ancestors come through NY than those of us who spend every waking minute researching our NYC ancestors, but it still reminded me of any number of sources that went on my lists as places that need to be checked again, more thoroughly, or in a more organized fashion. I really enjoyed the session on How to Plan and Organize a Family History Book by Nancy and Biff Barnes. While I'm not an author, I've got a handful of half-baked ideas rolling around in my brain, covering everything from wanting to put my research into book form to make it more palatable to relatives, to having come across one story that's interesting enough to maybe be attractive to the general public, to trying to type up a couple of family stories in a booklet in time for this Christmas. Never having given much though to the how, when, or why or any of these projects, the information in this session was invaluable. I also attended Michael Worrell's session on Irish Based Genealogical Resources; Laura G. Prescott's session, Timelines: Putting Your History into Historical Perspective; and Maira Liriano's session on Genealogy at the New York Public Library.

I had tried to register late for the Timelines session, and they were already out of tickets by then, so I almost didn't go. Luckily, there were extra seats available, and I was able to get in anyway, because it was a particularly interesting session. I walked out with a list of timelines I need to make, including a Brooklyn history timeline, for general comparison with my family's history and an Italian history timeline, to back up (or not) the stories about why my great-grandfather immigrated to this country.

The NYPL talk didn't present much that I didn't already know, but it reminded me of some things I had forgotten, and it got me really fired up to get back to the library, a resource in my own backyard that I have been seriously underutilizing.

One of the best parts of the weekend were the vendors and booths. Although the DNA session wasn't an in-depth look at issues in genetic genealogy, I was able to meet the folks from FamilyTreeDNA at their booth and ask them some specific questions I had about my test results and matches. I was introduced to the Irish Family History Forum, a local Irish-focused genealogical society that meets right on Long Island, and that I'm now seriously considering joining. (But they meet on Saturdays, and my weekends tend to be so busy I'm afraid I'd never make it!) And, perhaps most exciting to me, the NYG&B provided me with on-site, online access to an article in their database about a topic I was interested in, which cleared up something I'd been wondering about for ages. (19th century New York "Bodies in Transit" records were created for any bodies being moved into NYC, not for those being moved out of NYC, which means that they were not created for the many, many, many individuals who died in Manhattan but were transported across the East River to be buried in the cemeteries in Brooklyn and Queens.)

All-in-all, I thought it was a terrific weekend, and I hope that the organizers found to be as successful as I did, because I'm really hoping that this becomes an annual event.

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1 comment:

Michelle said...

Wow, it sounds like a huge event! Glad you had fun!