For my second conference or webinar I decided to attend the UGA South Davis Family History Fair on 26 Apr 2014. I believe this is the 3rd year that the Utah Genealogical Association has sponsored this Family History Fair. The official attendance count was 400 people. The cost is very reasonable, $15 for UGA members and $20 for non-members so the low attendance is surprising, considering they used to have 1,200 attendees. The conference was held at the Wood Cross High School, which is a great facility with accessible classrooms. I like this location much better than when it was in the Bountiful High School with all those stairs. I think the lack of attendance is multi-faceted, it’s no longer free, its at a different location, and RootsTech was earlier in the year.
I observed that when instructors polled the class on their level of expertise, more people in attendance were experienced genealogists. When I attended the South Davis Family History Fair in the Bountiful High School, the majority were beginners to genealogy. I think many beginners or tinkers go to only one conference a year. In reality, if I were to pick just one conference a year I would choose RootsTech. It totally sounds crazy to me to just go to one conference a year. I am so glad there are many opportunities to attend different genealogy conferences here in Utah.
The selection of classes to choose from were excellent. I noticed that after attending the SLCC genealogy course this semester and learning about all these different records types, I felt no desire to sit though a class on them. If I compared how much I typically learn in a one-hour class at a conference vs. how in depth the subject was covered in the college course, I knew scratching the surface would not be a productive use of my time. You simply cannot go as in-depth on a subject in a one-hour class. Now maybe if I was doing a refresher on the subject, that would be different, but right now, I am not ready for a refresher. I’m in the mood for practical experience not review.
The classes I looked for focused on how to use technology differently, or how other genealogist applied it in doing their research.
Of course, I attended the keynote by Diane C. Loosle who is the Director of the Family History Library. Her lecture was very similar to the one I heard in January at the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG). What I love about Diane is how motivational she is. She gives heartfelt emotion during her presentation as she describes her journey of discovery for her ancestors. You walk away understanding why it’s important to Keep, Protect and Share the stories and lives of our ancestors so they can live forever. She told us family stories are lost in just 3 generations. We need to record our ancestors and our lives so that does not happen. Just trying to write the biographical sketch on my grandmother Julia (Bentley) Weatherwax this semester taught me that. Memories fade over time and family members remember events differently.
1st Class: Getting GenOrganized: Technology for the Organized Genealogist by Valerie Elkins. This was THE best organizing class I have ever attended at a conference. Valerie really stressed the point that organizing is very personal. She gave us tons of ideas, but recommended that we pick and choose from them to develop our own style. The latest edition of Family Tree Magazine had a great article on organizing. It showed how the offices of several professional genealogists were set up and worked. I had read that article but I found Valerie picked up on things I didn’t realize.
Valerie is really big on developing a SOP – Standard Operating Procedure – cheat sheet. For example, when you do an activity, like scan with your Flip-Pal, include the step to put the SD card back in the device or case after you download the images. I have never written my SOP’s down, but I do mentally have a ton of them. So, I know that is a useful idea for people new to organizing.
As Valerie was talking, I wrote down several ideas that popped into my head on how I could organize things better. That is one of the great things about attending conferences; my mind will fill with ideas and impressions triggered by what the lecturer is presenting. I usually come away with way more than just what the lecturer talked about. One thing I figured out is how I am going to organize in Evernote all the class PDFs that I have. They are on my computer stored by presenter name. I am going to move them into Evernote and tag them by presenter, conference and subjects.
Valerie also mentioned why she has both a tablet and a dedicated Reader, like the Kindle. I have only used an iPad or Android tablet. She explained how the battery life on the Kindle lasted much longer so it was better on trips, etc. I saw some really good discounts at the store on the Kindle and Nook Readers recently. I think I will go buy one after this class.
She also discussed Search Engines and I had never heard of DuckDuckGo. I am going to give that one a try. While she was talking about that, I thought of a new thing to do with organizing in RootsMagic. I have To-Do Items that I setup for standard items I want in my Research Log. I can move them over from the To-Do’s to the Research Log as needed. I am going to make a bunch of different To-Do Items for the various Search Engines. Then I can move them over to my Research Log so I don’t forget to try them when looking for things. I should probably add them to WebSearch too, just to speed things up.
Another good idea Valerie had was to take a picture of an item and then note where it is stored. I am going to do that will all my boxes and store the information about the box in Evernote. Then when I want to find something I can just search in Evernote for the item and know right where to go to find it. Evernote really half my brain.
2nd Class: “What’s New at FamilySearch” by Devin Ashby. Honestly, I didn’t really discover anything new, at least to me. He did mention that you could personalize your login page. I haven't seen that, so I need to tinker with it. I am not sure, if he meant that was coming or if maybe I am just missing the spot that you customize it. I did not realize you could batch upload photos to Family Tree. While he was talking, I came up with a couple of items I would like RootsMagic to do. I already shared them with my boss so I am not sharing them here. Only because I don’t want any competitors to get wind of it.
Some of the new things coming:
- By the end of the summer there will be a browser based FamilySearch Indexing app available for the iPhone and tablets, but not for phones.
- The goal is to have 100 million names indexed from obituaries by the end of the year.
- The FamilySearch App will have an audio tab so you can upload your recordings to the Family Tree.
OK, so maybe I lied and really did learn a few new things.
3rd Class: “Adding a Dimension to Your Research” by Peg Ivanyo. This was my favorite class of the conference. Peg showed different techniques to display your research so you could analysis it in a different way. She used so many different tools. The one that really got me excited was Mind Mapping. I had seen it but I did not really understand it. Wow, when Peg showed how you could map out what you knew and then what you wanted to know, and then what you learned, it all made sense to me. I am so going to start Mind Mapping.
Peg also showed us how she color-coded her spreadsheet results. My goodness, I never thought to do that. Not only was it pretty it was also really easy to see where the differences stood out. Have to start doing this too. She had many other tools she talked about, but these are the ones I am going to focus on for now.
4th Class: “Search Engine Optimization for Online Gathering Places” by Michael Huntsman. I was actually the only student in the class so its really not fair for me to judge this one. We basically gabbed about the differences in websites and why they possibly ranked higher in search engine results. My motive for taking this was not to help me do genealogy better but to make a better website.
5th Class: “Cleaning Up Family Tree: Creating a Record Worthy of all Acceptation” by Peg Ivanyo. I just wanted to sit and listen to a motivation lecture about the Family Tree. I know it was divinely inspired to build this record of humankind. OK, so maybe its not without Acceptation right now, but that will come. Peg did not disappoint. She had loads of wonderful quotes that I requested copies of.
The other part of the conference was the vendors. There wasn’t very many, but I managed to spend money there. I only carry my debt card now and the places I wanted to purchase from don’t take debit cards. I didn’t think to bring my checkbook or cash. So, I had to run to Kmart at lunchtime to get some money to buy things. It was pouring rain outside so that was not a great experience.
I purchased a new Mother’s bracelet that just came out for $10. Last year I bought a family bracelet they sold. Then I got a twin pack stylus for my tablet for only $3. I wish I knew the name of the company but I didn't get a receipt.
There was a new genealogy board game I bought for $12, called "Your Family Tree - The Game". It's really cool because it has questions you can ask family members. I can use that for a family reunion.
The last item I bought was a Treasured Souls to Keep hinged box for $20 plus tax. Therefore, it was a very productive conference for me. I can hardly wait for next year.
See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!