Category Archives: Conferences

RootsTech 2018

RootsTech took place last week. I have attended every year; living in Salt Lake County makes that easy. In the early years, I was a regular attendee and probably blogged a lot more. In more recent years, I have spent most of my time in the Expo Hall in the IAJGS booth. (Last year, I was in the Innovator Showdown and had my own booth for CSI.)

Robinn Magid and Ken Bravo, IAJGS
Robinn Magid and Ken Bravo, IAJGS

This year, I again spent the week in the IAJGS booth. Once again, many people approached our booth with stories of finding that one Jewish ancestor and wanting to know where to go, or they have a small percentage of Jewish DNA. A few of those stood out and I wanted to share them.

One of the first people to approach us Wednesday night said she had .2% Jewish DNA. She went on to say that a bunch of cousins had the same percentage, and it may have been 2% rather than the two-tenths the story started with.

Another one had some interesting results where she showed me that her father was 2% Ashkenazi, her mother was 11% Mizrahi (Iraqi/Iranian Jew), and she was 6.4% Ashkenazi. I recommended she ask at the MyHeritage booth, since those results came from their site, and I went over to ask about it myself.

One person said that her father had 2% and her mother had none, and she had 4% Jewish, so it must have skipped a generation. We tried to explain that that’s not possible. You can’t inherit DNA that your parents didn’t have, but she insisted it was like other traits that not everyone gets (like hair color).

The Tree came by our aisle a few times
The Tree came by our aisle a few times

I was invited by MyHeritage to a focus group session to talk about DNA testing. We had a small group of four participants. We ended up speaking more about the ethnicities than the matches, but I have had some great match results. It’s just how we answered the questions.

I visited a few of the other vendors for various reasons, including the Italian Genealogy Group, where I made sure to mention that I had 3% Italian DNA, according to MyHeritage. :-)

All in all, we had a good time talking to people about their possible Jewish family and trying to help them, directing them to our upcoming conferences and their local societies. As always, many Utahns stopped by and we hope to see them someday at Utah JGS meetings.

I attended the closing performance at the conference center, which was lovely. And the blogger party at DearMyrtle’s is always a great way to unwind at the end of a hectic week.

Pretty good seats in the Conference Center
Pretty good seats in the Conference Center

And then, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the live streamed videos were available immediately after the conference. They had eliminated the Innovator Showdown for an Innovation Showcase, which was nothing like what they advertised it as. I didn’t see them showcasing any programs but instead they had conversations about technology. I ended up skimming and skipping much of it.

I didn’t see the new DNA Innovator Showdown in the videos, so maybe they didn’t stream it. I watched the main keynotes first and enjoyed them. Henry Gates had a similar presentation to what he did last year at IAJGS. Scott Hamilton told a wonderful story.

I plan to watch a few more of the videos from various lectures, but it was time to finally publish this post.

DearMyrtle's Blogger After Party
DearMyrtle’s Blogger After Party

 

PWMF Innovation Award – Thank you Gesher Galicia

In my haste to write a conference blog post, I missed one of the big highlights of the week.

PWML Innovation AwardAt the IAJGS Conference in Orlando, I received the Pamela Weisberger Memorial Fund Innovation Award from Gesher Galicia for CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing.

“The Innovation Award given in her memory is to recognize outstanding individual contributions that shape the future of genealogy research.”

I am honored to be the first recipient of this award, which is a $2,500 prize in addition to the lovely trophy in the photo.

Pam Weisberger was a friend of mine since 2006 and she is greatly missed.

IAJGS 2017

I intended to blog a few times during the week, but here I am, back home from the conference.

As usual, I didn’t really make it to very many presentations this year. I went to my own, the two major keynotes, several meetings, a couple films, and I popped into a couple sessions briefly.

I think my lectures went well. The crowd was a reasonable size for my presentation about CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing, which was immediately followed by the IAJGS Management Series session where I spoke about the same thing along with Daniel Horowitz and Shipley Munson who both spoke about indexing. My presentation on Search as an Art went well, though it had a smaller crowd than the previous two years.

The keynotes were excellent. I missed the mid-week one, which I was told wasn’t so great anyway. It was on Live!, so I can watch that later if I want. (It’s good to be the IAJGS webmaster.)

Avrami Groll did about a day of history presentations. I caught most of the one he did last year where he told a folklore story that I wanted to hear again. I amazingly happened into his session this year just before he told it again.

I had a few films in my schedule this year, which I haven’t paid much attention to for years. I ended up seeing two of about four or five I had marked, so that was good.

A late night visit to the Resource Room (which wasn’t even locked that night, whoops) revealed a gravestone for someone I’d been searching for. I need to follow up to verify it’s the right person, but I’m pretty sure it is.

Tuesday was my birthday and I got lots of birthday wishes throughout the day. A group of us headed to EPCOT that evening and that was a blast.

After the conference, I hung out with my best friend from college. He brought me to karaoke the first evening and an escape room the next day before dropping me at the airport. What a great ending to the week!

I owe photos to people so here are some of the best ones. Plus a few bonus ones from Facebook.

I had fun.

I’m Still Here

Did you miss me? Holy cow, have I been busy.

A woman approached me rather oddly a month or more ago at the Family History Library. She returned a couple times and finally figured out she recognized me from my blog, and mentioned she liked reading it.

“Thank you. I haven’t written in a while.”

But that was OK with her.

I wanted to write just after that, and yet I didn’t. One of the difficulties I have with this blog is that I often write posts that take a long time, like the Nitpicker’s Guides to WDYTYA, but I feel guilty spending so much time writing on my blog when I’m behind on my client work, most especially writing their reports. I haven’t been behind for a bit, but I’ve been busy helping the IAJGS Conference.

That’s right, they pulled me in again.

So tonight is my flight to that conference. I’m just taking a random few minutes in the middle of packing and last minute prep to write a quick note to my readers. I’m sure I have some left. You wouldn’t have deleted me from your feed if I disappeared from it. :-)

And, as always when this happens, I will try to write more. I have a conference next week, so that should give me something to write about. Maybe some short bits. Those are easier to write and publish anyway.

OK, back to the prep work. My main computer is a desktop, so there are things I can’t do once I leave. See some of you in Orlando.

RootsTech 2017 Wrap-Up

I have attended every RootsTech conference. For the past couple years, I’ve mostly spent my time in the Expo Hall at the IAJGS booth. This year’s RootsTech experience was quite different for me than all other years.

This year, I was a semifinalist in the Innovator Showdown for CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing.

I spent much of Tuesday in Provo at BYU for the Family History Technology Workshop. It was my first time attending that one-day workshop and I spoke about CSI. That evening was the RootsTech Media Dinner. I’d never been invited before. The semifinalists were set up around the room to demonstrate our entries, but I didn’t feel like a lot of people were interested in that. We had some showdown rehearsal time afterwards.

The next morning, we started at 7am. I was joking about being up at the crack of dawn, but it was actually before dawn. And just for fun, I ended up on the red train and got my morning exercise, running around in the dark to get to the convention center. We received a schedule that morning which filled the entire day.

The semifinalist showdown was at noon. While it seemed like they were hyping it up to make us more nervous, I was only worried about going over my two minute time limit. I put my entire script right into the Powerpoint and just read it. If I started improvising, I always went well over the time. When I finished, I finally looked down at the clock and it was at 0:00. I have no idea how long I may have gone over, but judging by my practice runs, it was probably only seconds at most.

The finalists were to be officially announced at the party that night, but we had a secret meeting at 2:30. Where I previously had the entire afternoon full, I was suddenly free, as I was not chosen as a finalist. It was good that I had another booth to help with to get me out of the convention center; I only had to deal with a couple people who asked me what was next for the showdown, when I knew it was already over for me.

I spent the next three days at my table in the Innovator’s Alley talking about CSI. I had a lot of comments from people saying I should have been in the finals. I agreed with them. :-) Many asked about the program and if it could do certain things. I already had a lot in mind to add to the program and they gave me so many more ideas.

I went to the showdown finals but just long enough to vote for the People’s Choice. I heard who won a little later. I think it says something when the People’s Choice did not win any other prize. The people and the judges were not judging by the same rules. The questions from most of the judges were about business structures and money, and some really basic things about the genealogy industry that they didn’t understand, but the contest is called Innovator’s Showdown. I think FamilySearch needs more genealogists among the judges and fewer random entrepreneurs who know nothing about what is innovative in genealogy.

I enjoyed the evening events, the Wednesday night party, the Thursday night music event at the Conference Center, the MyHeritage party Friday night, and the blogger dinner hosted by DearMyrtle to finish off the week on Saturday.

All in all, even though I didn’t win, it was a good experience. I got some good exposure for CSI and a lot of people are interested in using it. That said, I have a lot of programming to do.

Introducing CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing

CSIL Crowd Sourced IndexingI’d like to introduce my readers to, well, part of the reason I haven’t been blogging much for the past couple of months. I’ve been programming instead. In fact, this was also my NaNoWriMo project, where I rebelled.

CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing is written for genealogy societies, special interest groups, and other smaller research groups to manage their indexing projects.

It’s great for indexers because anyone can sign up to index and log in any time they feel like indexing. It puts the record image and the fields for indexing in the same window and it’s a pleasure to not have to juggle the image and Excel to get that done. There’s no sending or downloading of images from the project administrator or waiting for the next batch when you’ve completed the last one. Everything is on the web site waiting for the indexers. When they finish an image, they can do the next one. Tired of the project? Try another project instead.

CSI: Crowd Sourced IndexingBut CSI is especially built for project management. The project administrator can set up a project by providing basic information, uploading the files to be indexed, choosing the fields to be indexed, and then they can invite members of their society or group to index. CSI takes care of most of the administrative work of running the project from that point on. Just as the indexers don’t have to wait for new batches, the admin doesn’t have to send them out, track who has which images, keep track of which are yet to be indexed and which are completed, or determine when to give up on an indexer and send the same images to another indexer. Just keeping up with the indexers is most of the work.

CSI is written in UTF-8 so it’s compatible with every language. Right now, there are several projects going on in Hebrew, thanks to my collaborator bringing projects from IGRA. And the entire site is translatable (the code is in place, translations are coming soon).

And to top it off, I submitted CSI to the 2017 RootsTech Innovator Showdown and I have been named a semifinalist! There were 41 entries and only 10 are semifinalists, so I’m honored to be among them.

RootsTech Innovator Showdown 2017

Would you like to try it out? Visit http://csi.idogenealogy.com/ to sign up and index a little. The easiest project is the NYC Staten Island Marriage Index, downloaded from the Internet Archive, provided by Reclaim the Records. The images are easy to read and generally don’t have too many records per page. Similarly the Queens Marriage Index is available, but that one is a little harder to read the handwriting and the pages are generally longer, some with 100 names. For these particular indexes, when they’re complete, they’ll be made available just like the images.

You can read more about CSI on Devpost where the official entry took place, along with watching my commercial. (Check out those older screenshots. It has already changed a little.)

So give it a try because indexing with CSI is fun and easy.

I’m programming more for CSI every day, so there are more features still to come. Let me know what you think of CSI. And don’t forget to vote for me for the People’s Choice award during the Innovator’s Showdown.

The URL of this post is: http://idogenealogy.com/2016/12/16/introducing-csi-crowd-sourced-indexing/.

IAJGS 2016 Wrap-Up

This year’s IAJGS Conference was held in Seattle. I started blogging a couple times during the week, but those didn’t get posted. Instead, here is one long blog post for the whole week.

This year, I was the webmaster for the conference, but that didn’t involve any work during the week. I was rooming with the app person, so I helped a little with that, and I did have some webmaster duties for the IAJGS site during the week. But mostly the week was my own to do what I wanted. I still didn’t go to a lot of sessions. I knew I’d be taking home the recordings for LIVE! sessions (because I’m webmaster), so I could watch all those later.

I gave three presentations this year. The first was a computer lab on Sunday morning called Publish or Perish about using Publisher for family newsletters. Four people were signed up but only two made it. They both wanted to use Publisher for books instead of newsletters, so I went more in that direction.

That afternoon, I presented Seattle’s Colorful Jewish History (A Course in Basic Methodology). I felt bad later calling it basic, but I was stuck with it. I started out with a few people and ended with two, one of them telling me when I was out of time. I had a great time doing the research and rushing to get it into a PowerPoint in time, when I kept researching instead of prepping. It was an unfortunate class size, because I was looking forward to doing another one each year based on our meeting location, but if people don’t show up, then it’s not going to happen.

Wednesday morning was my third lecture, Search as an Art. I had a full house, standing room only, which felt really good. It was a repeat from Israel, but I had to make it longer, and it ended with many compliments. One person was crazy about it because I made it humorous, but I had a subject that worked for that; I was showing examples of bad indexing and some were kind of nutty.

I went to all three lunches I was invited to, Media, Tech, and NextGen. Marlis started these for the SLC conference and brought them back for Seattle. It’s just a small-ish gathering of folks, sometimes some of them not even fitting the demographic, discussing the topics and how they relate to future conferences and the IAJGS in general. I fit all the categories, plus, free lunch. And we have some interesting conversations sometimes too.

I usually go to a few SIG and BOF meetings as well. Webmasters’ Roundtable was extra fun because we sat around a round table. We discussed some things about society web sites and it looks like IAJGS will soon be hosting the site for another society like we do now for Illiana.

I stopped in for the end of the Newsletter Editors BOF, something I helped to get started, but UJGS doesn’t have a newsletter anymore. I’m glad I did because some of that discussion came up later in the tech lunch.

I was warned to expect drama at the Sub-Carpathia SIG meeting, but there wasn’t all that much. Brooke spoke about some of what our previous leader was doing, which got him booted from the SIG, but some folks had no idea. Mostly, someone new was taking over and we were going to actually make progress like we should have all along.

I went to only a few of the regular sessions, including Reclaim the Records from Brooke Ganz. I already knew what she was doing, but she was a great presenter and her PowerPoint was really creative. I caught the end of Kathy Kirkpatrick’s session about Proving the Jewish Heritage of a Catholic Sicilian Family. I really mostly just heard the question and answer session, but it was interesting too. It was her first IAJGS conference, but I met her in SLC years ago.

I enjoyed Judy Russell presenting Don’t Forget the Ladies at the banquet. I watched social media very little during the week, but I managed to see her blog post about the serendipity in the session, even though I already knew about it. Emily Garber saw her great-grandmother’s death certificate in the presentation; Emily was sitting next to me. And I ended with Ron Arons’s Critical and Creative Thinking for Genealogists.

I also enjoyed the evening play from the Seattle Jewish Theater Company, From Door to Door.

The Annual Meeting was a little more interesting than usual with issues regarding the election. We have an election every year, but this year had some new issues. I had already kept Marlis awake for two hours the night before with my concerns about it, along with other things we discuss like the web site, so I didn’t add to the length of the meeting.

Also at the banquet, I was happy to collect the Volunteer of the Year award on behalf of Marelynn Zipser, a Utah JGS founding member. We’ve been trying to get her an award for a few years. The award mentions the stats we had from 2011, so they’re a little old, but we got her recognized.

MyHeritage had a drawing each day and I wasn’t usually around for it. On the last day, not only did I draw one of the early winners, but I won the big prize. I now possess an iPad. I’m still trying to figure out how to use it. I’ve been an Android for years.

I also went out to see Seattle while I was in town. It was my first visit. I didn’t get to see my cousins, who actually live in Tacoma rather than Seattle. It’s difficult to arrange those visits. On my first day, I saw the Space Needle (and never saw it again beyond the tall buildings) and the Chihuly Garden and Glass. So now I know the name of the artist for the piece in Abravanel Hall. After the conference, I visited the waterfront a couple times, Pike Place Market, and went on the Underground Tour.

All in all, it was a good week. I really enjoy this conference and all the people I get to see. And even some of the genealogy stuff I learn, chatting with other people about our research, and presenting (to the big crowds are the best).

Additional: I almost forgot to mention the blogger breakfast, scheduled one morning at 6:30am. Can you believe I made it to that? It was good to meet Judy Russell in person and have breakfast with several other bloggers at the conference. Our picture was already posted to the official conference blog.

I guess it’s time for some pictures now.

 

I’ve Been Doing Genealogy

What’s been happening at IDoGenealogy.com? I’ve been doing genealogy. I haven’t blogged in a while, so I figured I should say something.

1. I’ve been trying to finish up my Bernie Sanders research. I’m very sad he lost the primary. I think I’ll survive. I was trying to get one last piece of information before finishing up that post, when I realized that there was more for me to do in Polish records. I still have to do that.

2. I wanted to write about WDYTYA. Rather than a blog post for each episode, I had things I felt like I needed to say about the last three episodes of the last season. I still need to write that.

3. I’ve been busy with some client work. I’ve gotten a few clients lately that needed research (as opposed to digitizing or just look-ups) so I’m happy about that, but I don’t blog about their families. I still have one waiting for a report and another waiting until next month for me to get started.

4. I’ve been trying to get a new family newsletter issue put together. I have so much stuff for it, but I haven’t gotten it all neatened up yet. I don’t know if that will happen this week, and then it will have to wait a few more weeks until I can get back to it.

5. I’ve been doing unpaid work for the past few weeks in preparation for the IAJGS Conference. I am quite behind in my prep for the lectures I need to give. One of them needed a whole lot of genealogy research conducted, and I’m still working on it.

6. And next week is IAJGS. Of course I go to that conference every year. I’ve been researching for it (see #5) and I need to get things finished up and my presentations put together in the next three days. I think I can do it.

And that’s where I am now. I expect I’ll be blogging from the conference as I usually do, so my blog will finally be active again. Hopefully that will get me going with the other blog posts I need to get written. But at least now, anyone following my blog knows I’m still here and where I’ve been lately.

Israel 2015 – Days 15-21

It was easy to fall out of the practice of blogging, so now it’s time to finish up. I did keep up a little better than this seems, but I didn’t publish it.

Except for one night at Daniel’s after the conference, I stayed with my cousins in Haifa the rest of the trip, taking it easy. Some people would baulk at how I wasted time, but I enjoyed myself. I don’t feel the need to spend all my waking moments on tours and seeing historic sites. I have seen quite a bit and I think it will still be here when I come back in the future.

Here’s a quick family tree, as I will mention their names. Lea is my second cousin, once removed. Her husband is Odi. Her kids: Dikla, Tomer, and Lior. Dikla is married to Ido and Carmel is their daughter. Tomer is married to Michal and Noga is their daughter. Lior lives with her parents presently and Daniel is her boyfriend.

So what have I done all these days? Let’s see if I can remember.

We visited the cemetery in Nesher where Lea’s parents and grandmother are buried. Then there was a party. Lea invited about 40 people on her mother’s side of the family. (I’m on her father’s side.) It was a welcome home to Lior, the youngest daughter, who just got back from eight months in South America after serving her time in the IDF. I also met Lea’s brother Israel and his family at the party.

On other days, Lea, Carmel, and I went to the local zoo. Then we met Lior and Daniel for lunch. Lea, Odi, and I went to see HaMinyonim. Lea had mentioned needing some time to stop by her work (she was on vacation my whole visit) and I told her to drop me at the movie, but they said we should all go. They even found it playing in English, though I would’ve been happy with it in Hebrew for fun. It was adorable. The only drawback was that much of the cutest parts were in the trailers. However, the one phrase Minions speak that is Hebrew was worth it to see in Israel.

A long drive brought Lea, Odi, and I to the Switzerland forest above Lake Kinneret. We visited Yardenit and watched people being baptized where they thought Jesus was baptized but not quite in the same place; that was a weird one. We drove through Tiberias without really stopping. Visited the Magdala church and the synagogue ruins in front of it that were 2000 years old. And finally we stopped at Kibbutz Amir. This was where Lea’s parents lived until just after she was born. She still has an aunt there. It’s also where the family picture was taken that helped me find them.

A shorter trip brought Lea and I to the Israel Valley where we met Lior and Michal for lunch, with Carmel and Noga. Then the two of us drove around to see Nahalal, the first moshav, another moshav, Beit Shearim, and Bet Lekhem HaGalili, or what Google Map calls Bethlehem of Galilee. The Hebrew name is more interesting to me. They sell all kinds of spices and some foods. You can walk through their farm, but it was hot so we just took the quick walk in the front.

Genealogy day began in the evening, typical of the Jewish calendar. Lea went through boxes of photos, then I scanned them on their computer. Many were unlabelled and a good collection were mystery people. Under other circumstances, I might have done her mother’s family and even her husband’s, but there was so much.

Next, Lea and I went through the family methodically like we did at the beginning and this time she typed it in Hebrew. We still did not finish. But I was able to finish up the family for my database, which I now need to add.

I ended my visit with the cousins by visiting Caesarea in the evening. I’m pretty sure a lot of that wasn’t there 30 years ago.

The next day, Lea dropped me off at the train station where I headed back south to Tel Aviv. I visited Beit Hatfutsot and waited for Daniel to arrive. He showed me to the secret room in the basement, after mentioning the urban legend that says they have some of the LDS Polish microfilms, but they never let anyone see them. We mostly spent the day at the Mediterranean Sea. I mentioned to him that I had seen all three major bodies of water, but hadn’t been in any of them. So we walked along the boardwalk for a bit and ended up at the beach. We just hung out there until after the sun went down and I walked into the water a bunch of times. We didn’t change into bathing suits, so I could only walk a little ways in.

And that’s about it. Daniel dropped me off at the airport. Security was pretty easy. The baggage check took so much longer; I don’t know why they couldn’t check the bags of the people in front of me in line for so long. The flights home were brutal. I need to learn how to sleep sitting up I guess. I couldn’t stay awake but I definitely didn’t sleep.

My mom informed me today that we did swim in the Dead Sea 30 years ago. We don’t have pictures because our tour guide was off eating lunch and we didn’t bring the cameras onto the lake. We had the huge hotel breakfast, but he didn’t. I have no recollection of this, but I remember so little of that trip. I scanned in all of my photos and I had a total of 52 for that three week trip. I joked that I wanted to take at least 2000 on this trip. I made that number easily.

So now that I’m home, I guess I have a little more blogging to do about the trip, mostly sharing some of the photos, I think. Watch for those in the near future, but give me a little time. I have to catch up on everything after a three week vacation.

But since it’s easier to upload pictures from home… here’s my last sunset in Israel over the Mediterranean Sea.

Last Sunset in Israel

Israel 2015 – Day 13-14

Lea took me to a Druze village for a little shopping, then up to a church for a view. I forget the name of the church, but I have pictures to tell me later. There was a statue of Elijah, believed to be where he had to take down the false prophets. They had a compass on the ground of the lookout pointing off towards major cities and some minor ones more nearby. Unfortuantely, the sky wasn’t as clear as the day before, so we couldn’t see too terribly far.

Next up, we went north. Rosh Hanikrah was beautiful. We walked right up to the border fence with Lebanon. Some army VIPs showed up and even they went through some inspection to cross through. Then we took the cable car down to see the grottoes and the old tunnels where the British built their railroad.

We stopped in Akko on the way back where we walked through the old city and the shuk. Many shops were closed and we realized eventually that it was still Ramadan. We had lunch at Said, supposedly the best humus in Israel, certainly in Akko. (I even looked it up online.) Another unfortunate stop was at the Tunisian synagogue, which was also closed at the time, so we couldn’t go in.

I finally emailed all of my other known Israeli cousins, so we’ll see if I have a chance to meet with any of them before I leave. If not, it’s just another reason to come back again. I have a few other reasons that are piling up of things I didn’t get to do yet. I should come back more often than every 30 years.