Category Archives: Conferences

IAJGS – T Minus 2 Days

Today, I learned that my tablet’s power supply is, in fact, working. After trying several replacements at Radio Shack (why couldn’t we do this the day before?), Renald plugged it in to a DVD player, and it worked. Realizing I’d already voided the warranty by rooting it, I dissected it. I snuck down to the lower floors to see if the IT guys for the conference could help with a screwdriver, but ended up borrowing one from the concierge. Sadly, to have a chance to fix it, I needed to remove about a dozen more screws, so it will be a project when I get home. And I really wanted to use it this week.

It was fun to walk into each room and be greeted by someone I knew, Marlene Bishow, Anne Feder Lee, Susanna Leitner Bloch; it’s good to know people. I also saw Jeannette Rosenberg manning the pre-registration table, Todd Knowles and John Kitzmiller of FamilySearch came by while I was hanging out at said table (I see them a lot on the British floor of the FHL), Doris Nabel by the elevators, and Daniel Horowitz arrived, trading texts with Elise and phone calls with both of us until the three of us went to dinner together. I was mistaken for Susan King by someone in the elevator, and I saw a few other people whose faces were familiar but names usually escaped me. And Elise brought Pamela Weisberger back to our room to say hello while I was typing this blog entry.

I also went to lunch with Elise and we walked around a bit, finding a series of sculptures along New York Avenue from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I posted a picture of one sculpture (and my dissected tablet) to my other blog. My bandwidth is limited, so I won’t upload it again here; there were some issues with the amount of bandwidth T-Mobile thought I was using. I think I really did use almost as much as they claimed, because I found SugarSync was a huge bandwidth hog, and apparently Dropbox wasn’t much better. I shut them down but I’m still limiting myself. So far, I haven’t hit another GB yet. When the conference gets started, I’ll have that wi-fi to use, so it seems I’ll be hanging around on the conference floors more than in my hotel room, even in the off-hours.

IAJGS 2011 – T Minus 3 Days

I arrived in Washington, D.C. today. What a day. I had just bought a mobile broadband device and it still wasn’t working. While trying to get that to work during my layover, my tablet power supply stopped working. After checking into my hotel, I got out to see a bit of the city, including three Radio Shacks, a Best Buy, and a T-Mobile kiosk. The only success was the kiosk, where Dave at Fashion Center mall replaced my SIM card after more than 36 hours of waiting for T-Mobile to activate it properly, and he got it working right away. I still can’t replace my tablet power supply, which is a problem. I’ll have to work on that more.

The flights were interesting too. Apparently people are now booking their seats apart, claiming the window and the aisle and leaving the middle seat in the hopes that the flight won’t be full. Well, the flights are full. People were swapping seats all over the plane. But at least that meant I had the aisle seat on the one flight where I was stuck in the middle when making my reservations.

My roommate arrived while I was still working on my technical problems. Back at the hotel, Elise Friedman and I headed out to dinner, running into Ron Arons in the lobby and Jan and Tom Allen, who joined us for dinner, then Nancy Levin came by our table. So many people already here, and we all just happened upon each other at the same time.

Tonight, I have some sleep to catch up on. I want to get in some research time at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which I might try to do tomorrow. And next week is going to be a busy week at the conference.

Jewish Genealogy – The Anti-Cult?

Not too long ago, Kerry Scott wrote a blog post about Source Citations: Church or Cult? Most genealogists who have ever attended a conference, or wished they had, belong to one of those, with their copies of Evidence Explained and citing their sources in small print at the bottom of every client report and in their own genealogy database. More recently, Joan Miller (Luxegen) put in her two cents on the subject with Good, Better, Best, as did a few other bloggers in between.

Does that mean the world of Jewish genealogy is the anti-cult? Go to an IAJGS conference (International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies) and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has heard of Evidence Explained or knows what the Genealogical Proof Standard is. Sure, there are a few that do; those who have been in professional genealogy for a long time, the rare certified or accredited genealogist in the crowd, or someone from outside the Jewish genealogy world who’s “visiting” us that year. There might even be a vendor selling copies of EE. But the general population of attendees has no idea.

At the NGS conference I attended in 2010, it seemed like half the sessions were about one of those two subjects: citing sources or the GPS. At IAJGS, the sessions are about what records are available from New York, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, etc., how to translate them, how to order them, Jewish history, Sephardic research (Jews from Spain), Rabbinic genealogy — nothing about citing sources or the GPS. There are sessions on methodology, just not the same methods apply.

Clients don’t care about source citations. I have never had a client ask me where I found a record, or where I searched and didn’t find a record. Of course, this information is already in their client reports. With the exception of the one company that requested EE-type citations (and they completed them for me), other genealogists I’ve worked for also seem to be unconcerned with detailed source citations. The most I’ve been asked (only once) was, “On what film did you find the record?”, to which I replied, “It’s in the file name.” Ever since NGS, I have added that information to all my scanned file names and been a little more specific with my sources, but still not remotely up to EE standards.

I am obsessive about keeping track of my sources for my own research and my clients. If I add a person or an event to my own database, there is a source for it. Just like everyone else, some of my earlier work had no sources, but everything was eventually given a source in one of my revisions.

While some genealogists may freak out when they read that I don’t follow these rules, I hope they realize that I do have citations for everything, just not in their style. If it wasn’t important enough to mention at the IAJGS conferences, I didn’t much pay attention even if I saw it online, and I just haven’t switched over. That doesn’t make me a bad genealogist, it just means I don’t follow all the “rules”. I can check any information in my database to find the source, whether it was from a primary document, a census, or from a relative, to compare with any new information and determine what source should be more trusted.

Will I ever change my source citations to the EE-style? Possibly. But not today.

RootsTech – Photos

Since I didn’t embed any pictures into my recaps of RootsTech posts, I’ve decided to post all the good shots together. I have a new camera that fits into my shirt pocket, but it took me a couple days to start really taking some pictures. Still, it’s better than I’ve done at other genealogy conferences, so it’s a start.

With this new camera, I haven’t yet figured out how to do a serious zoom (or even kind of a wimpy zoom) and still get a non-blurry picture, so I took a picture of the audience and the camera from the keynote on the first day. I arrived a little late and stood in the back, clearly.

I ran into Rochelle Kaplan, an officer in UJGS, in the Expo Hall the second day. She took a picture of me leaning on the red phone booth that brightsolid brought, but she didn’t get the booth in the picture. She did get all of my ribbons.

In return, I took a picture of Rochelle Kaplan while we were at the MyHeritage booth.

Minutes later, I got a nice photo of Daniel Horowitz and Shelly Dardashti and the MyHeritage booth.

Later, I spotted another UJGS member, Gary Bowen, chatting with Shelly Dardashti.

At the showing of Who Do You Think You Are? I caught Amy Coffin and Lisa Alzo tweeting. Judging by the timestamp, it looks like we had a few more minutes before the show started.

An audience picture at Who Do You Think You Are? night at the FHL.

The next day, back in Blogger’s World, I met Kerry Scott (@cluewagon), Missy Corley (@baysideresearch), and Kimberly Powell (@lovegenealogy).

Thomas MacEntee and Amy Coffin were often found at their favorite seats when in Blogger’s World.

And another shot with Laura Prescott, Kerry Scott, and Missy Corley.
[Thank you to Amy Coffin for identifying Laura.]

Tami Glatz came to Blogger’s World a few times. I was at her session, so we talked about it for a bit and then I asked for a picture.

I stopped standing at their booth and finally sat down inside, where I got another shot of Daniel Horowitz. (I needed to make sure a got a decent picture of him. He just spoke at his second UJGS meeting and I still didn’t have one.)

I learned something from Jill Ball (@geniaus), who is from Australia. Apparently, down under, they pronounce the A in genealogy, unlike how it’s sometimes misspelled as geneology around these parts.

Steve Morse visited Blogger’s World after his DNA presentation. I also captured Shelly Dardashti (@TracingTheTribe) and Lorine McGinnis Schultze (@LorineMS) in this one. I believe that’s Lorine’s husband, Reg, in the hat.
[I have learned from another blog that the backpack was standing in for the @AncestryInsider; no wonder it wouldn’t get out of the way, it was posing!]

Seems that by the third day, I was finally behaving more like a shutterbug. Moments later, I captured Lorine, Illya D’Addezio (@illyadaddezio), and Jill Ball.

Oh no, I didn’t get a picture of Pat Richley. Someone took one of me and her together, so I hope that shows up somewhere.

RootsTech – Day 3

I thought I’d make it to the keynote on time finally, but didn’t. Twitter was buzzing about the keynote as I prepared to leave, so I watched for maybe ten minutes then headed out to make a 9:45 session.

I went to hear Christopher Starr speaking about Family Social Graphs. From the syllabus, it sounded like he would be speaking about an idea I had for the Developer’s Challenge. Unfortunately, he was having trouble getting his laptop to work with the projector; tech support finally got it somewhat after 20 minutes. I stuck it out for another 20 minutes but lost interest, as the topic didn’t seem to be what I thought it would.

More Blogger’s World Perks

Back at Blogger’s World, I met Missy Corley (@baysideresearch), chatted again with Pat Richley and Dick Eastman (who I’d seen in the Radisson lobby the day before), and then Kerry Scott (@cluewagon) and Kimberly Powell (@lovegenealogy) came around too.

Grant Brunner from Geni came over to talk to us, bringing T-shirts. I had a conversation with him for a bit about the privacy issues on his site and the private and public trees, and he informed me that the GEDCOM upload which I’d once had trouble with wasn’t even available anymore. Really? I’d have to add all my 3000 names manually? Not likely to happen, sorry. He said they were also working on supporting adoptions too, which was their biggest priority.

What’s a Blog?

Visiting my friends at the MyHeritage booth again (yes, I was there more often than I’ve mentioned, if you hadn’t already noticed), we saw Steve Morse sitting in Blogger’s World. So I asked him about his blog, he said, “What’s a blog?” I then relayed a question from Schelly Dardashti, inquiring when he was coming out with the one-step tool for being in two places at once. He explained that that was a two step tool, and he didn’t cover those.

Blogger’s World seemed a little nuttier each day. It was a blast.

A new set of bloggers had sat down including Jill Ball (@geniaus) and Illya D’Addezio (@illyadaddezio), who I’d seen for two days before, but I finally engaged him in a bit of conversation.

A quick lunch before the next session with my previous dinner companions Schelly and Christine, and I took off for the Developer’s Challenge Presentations.

Session 1 – Dev Challenge

This was kind of sad. There were only three people who had done enough to present something for the challenge. I had an idea that I think was better than two of the three. If only I hadn’t wanted to attend the conference and sleep for 8 hours (spread out over 2 days), I probably could have won one of the prizes. But even though I read about it just before RootsTech started, I knew I didn’t want to take the time to try to program something for it. Sadly, I probably should have.

That’s All Folks

The closing session gave away a bunch of prizes, announced the winners of the best speaker votes (which I had forgotten about) and the developer’s challenge (the results were exactly as I thought they should be).

Conclusions

Unlike NGS, a lot of the Twitterers/bloggers that I chat with online attended, so I got to meet and talk with them in person. Blogger’s World was a fantastic idea; we loved hanging out in there together.

Tech support was sadly lacking for a conference that should have been about half “tech”. With each presenter needing to hook up their own laptop, they needed more tech support at the start of every presentation in every room to be sure things worked smoothly.

Wi-fi was also badly missed. We did figured out that there was wi-fi in the session rooms but not in the expo hall. That was just goofy. Blogger’s World had wired coverage, which I used with my laptop the one day I lugged it around.

I had lunch twice in the expo hall, so that was convenient to have a huge area of tables and a few choices for lunch. It was pricey, but that was to be expected for the convenience.

The MicroSoft Playground was a great idea. I didn’t use it much but wanted to.

Repeating myself here, I thought the Developer’s Challenge had sad results. I might have participated, but I had this silly notion of actually participating in the conference instead. I saw it in the syllabus just before the conference started, but was it anywhere on the site sooner? Maybe next time, they’ll start that a week earlier so we have some time to formulate a clever idea and get working on it.

There were other things going on that I didn’t pay attention to like the uncoferencing and product demos. There was just so much happening at once sometimes that I focused in on a few things to keep from being completely overwhelmed.

Overall, I enjoyed this conference immensely and I’m looking forward to next year. Hopefully with the feedback from this year, and a few more than seven months for planning, it will be even better. Twitter is full of people declaring their attendance in 2012 already. We should probably warn the committee that Blogger’s World may need to be even bigger.

RootsTech – Day 2

It felt like a good five hours of sleep, but the lack of sleep caught up to me in the afternoon. I woke up two hours before my alarm, did my morning catching up online, and even wrote another blog post.

I almost made it downtown in time for the keynote speech. I missed the beginning, but Curt Witcher, of the Allen County Public Library,¬† had plenty more to say, going overtime, with The Changing Face of Genealogy. He was great to listen to, but one of the funniest lines for me was when he recalled a conversation where he claimed that his library “had just become the largest genealogical library in the Milky Way galaxy… [with] our pretty decent collection of stuff in Fort Wayne. And then we have our remote storage facility in Salt Lake.” Being in the room, I paid more attention to what he said than the previous day from home.

I stopped in to a session about API Development, but it turned out to be FamilySearch API specifically, which was a new title from the syllabus. I couldn’t get into it that early in the morning, so I chatted with someone at random in the hallway and headed back to Blogger’s World, where I got to speak to a couple people before I headed out for the next session.

Session 1 – One Step

All those years going to IAJGS conferences and I never heard Steve Morse speak. I finally changed that today when I went to his session on Creating One-Step Search Tools. He was finished in 20 minutes. “That’s all. We’re finished. That’s all you have do to… Really, I’ve told you everything you need to know about how to do this.” Then he continued explaining about more options and customization. I had never tried his one-step creation tool, knowing I could program such a thing myself and didn’t need it, but I may just use it someday. At the very least, I’ll take a look at his search algorithms and learn something from them, I’m sure.

Wandering back to Blogger’s World, I was hungry an hour earlier and eventually had lunch with Sue Maxwell (@geneasue) and Renee Zamora (@rzamor1). Then I headed off for my volunteer time.

Session 2 – Stories Online

Tami Glatz’s Finding Your Family’s Stories Online was next. She had been recently relocated to the big room where the keynote was given, and she had quite a crowd in there. I’m not even sure I read the description, and just before going, I predicted it would be about online newspapers. To my surprise and delight, it was about finding online books, journals, libraries, other things, and newspapers weren’t mentioned until at least about half way through.

Session 3 – Wikitext

Another FamilySearch themed session that wasn’t named as one, Don Stringham presented Building Programming Libraries Using Wikitext. About a year ago, I was beginning to put all my genealogy data into a wiki, and I eventually gave up because the old wiki and newer version (of TikiWiki) weren’t so compatible. The wikitext Don spoke of was specifically for MediaWiki, the same wiki used by Wikipedia, and specifically the FamilySearch wiki. I found it unexpectedly interesting, considering I was interested in their wiki when I first learned about it, though I haven’t been back to it in quite a while.

Evening Entertainment

Returning to the vendor room and Blogger’s World, I spoke with Pat Richley (@DearMyrtle), Joan Miller (@luxegen), Lorine McGinnis Schulze (@LorineMS), and Lisa Alzo (@lisaalzo). I know I’m probably leaving out at least one person here. I’m not good at remembering people in bulk.

Dinner with Schelly Dardashti and Christine Mueller, then to the FHL for the party.

Watching Who Do You Think You Are? with all those genealogists was a blast. There were a few great moments where Tim McGraw asked a specific question, and so conveniently, the genealogist/historian said¬† “I have this other record…” and everyone laughed.

A bit of research, then a much later dinner with Daniel Horowitz and Ran Peled, and back at home and I’m blogging again.

I was also happy to see three UJGS members so far. One walked by me quickly on day one, and I saw two in the expo hall on day two; one was just visiting the expo hall, which was free to the public.

RootsTech – Day 1

I just got home, after 10pm, from the first day of RootsTech. I didn’t sleep last night, knowing I’d never be able to wake up early enough, and I still didn’t make it downtown as early as I wanted. I watched the webcast of the keynotes.

Keynotes from Home

I found my mind wandering quite a few times during Shane Robison’s (of HP) talk on A World of Information, but I think I got most of it. That was followed by the “cool-down” from Jay Verkler, CEO of FamilySearch International, Turning Roots, Branches, Trees into Nodes, Links, Graphs. My favorite part was near then end when he listed the similarities between technologists and genealogists. I am both!

Arrival!

I arrived downtown a bit after 11am, checked in as a volunteer quite a bit early, then wandered around the vendor room. I stopped to say hello to Daniel Horowitz at his MyHeritage booth, then headed for Blogger Central. I saw Thomas MacEntee, Schelly Dardashti, a couple others I didn’t actually speak to yet, and met Amy Coffin. Yeah, I’ve met another one of my geneatweeps! (I have two more days to meet more. Oh, and now I’m officially listed on GeneaBloggers, finally!) I collected some ribbons from Thomas’s stash and headed around the rest of the vendor room, finally making it to the FamilySearch booth, where they have you visit all the sponsors to get a free T-shirt and enter the iPad drawing, so I had to go back to a few, finishing just in time to get a shirt and get to my afternoon session.

Volunteering is Sometimes the Way To Go

Having decided there were only a few sessions I really wanted to attend a month ago, I asked if there was a possibility of volunteering for entrance to those, which there was! I found out when I arrived that they were quite short on volunteers. If I had known a few days sooner, I would have tried to recruit from UJGS.

Session 1 – TreePad

So my first session was to oversee the computer workshop from Jan Gow, Create Your Own Family Reference Library. Having finally read the description, unfortunately the title sounded more appealing to me than the actual topic — how to use a certain program. I had a list of pre-registrations and a crowd of about 30 people. The three on the list got in first, then I just let the rest pile in and it was standing room only. I didn’t catch much of the presentation, but Jan was teaching what she loved about the program TreePad. Unfortunately, Jan is so excited about the program, she spent 45 minutes on her PowerPoint and only 15 on the hands-on stuff. She had to repeat it later, so I hope she switched the times a little.

Session 2 – Browser Plug-ins

I was told to stay on watch at that room, so I was there for David Lifferth’s Lessons from Building Browser Plug-ins. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t supposed to be a computer lab, even though the topic was programming. I actually found his talk very informative, though it wasn’t on my must-hear list. Some people found it a little beyond their skill level. In my previous life, I was a computer programmer, so I followed along just fine. (OK, yes, I’m still a programmer now.)

Session 3 – No SQL

From there, I went to another technical presentation. When I registered, I chose technology “user”, but I think I chose wrong, especially given my lecture choices. Jimmy Zimmerman was teaching about No SQL – Exploring the Super Powers of Graph and Document DBs. He mentioned they were kind of new, but I somehow recall vague mentions from college, making them not quite so new. He reviewed three document databases and one graph database, then listed a few others that he wasn’t so familiar with. Some of the information from the document databases sounded interesting for genealogy use, but I don’t know that I want to reprogram my entire database. But I may keep it in mind for the future.

Fun Time!

From there, I collected Daniel Horowitz and we arrived at the planetarium at 6:30. He had the 5:30 ticket and I had the 7:30, so we were right on time. Hubble 3D was first. I know my brother hasn’t gotten that close to a shuttle launch and he lives in Orlando and has gone to them often. We were actually in the steam as the shuttle lifted off! Yeah, it was a good film. The second film was about Saturn, but after over-stuffing the larger theater before, the smaller theater couldn’t hold all the people who wanted to see the film. The only other option at that time was Hubble 3D again, so we grabbed a bit of food and walked over to Gateway so Daniel could do some shopping for his kids. (Sweet, right? He bought them shoes.)

We made it back just in time to run upstairs to the Laser Light Show, Rock on Demand, again in the smaller theater. It wasn’t crowded that time. I enjoyed that one too, but not as much. The crowd got to choose the artists. At one point, someone yelled out “Justin Bieber”, to which the host replied, “I’m sorry sir, but I’ll have to ask you to leave now.” They played a lot of classic rock.

I must say that for the problems they are encountering, which isn’t bad after only having seven months to plan this conference, if nothing else, doing the planetarium night was awesome.

We took Trax back to the Radisson and parted ways for the night. Day two is tomorrow and I need to catch up for skipping a day of sleep. I want to meet some more of my tweeps, so be visible. I’m hosting 1:30-4pm, but the rest of my time is mine.

Disclaimer, because I think it’s one of those rare posts that I need one: I am attending the conference for free because I have volunteered my time to help. I am not otherwise being paid for my service or for promoting anything on my blog.

JGSLA 2010 – Day 6 Recap

Friday is always a short day at the conference, with everything ending at 12:30, but it was even shorter for me. There were two sessions I was interested in but missed both while waiting for breakfast. Then I went to the one place I found where my cell phone works well, called a certain mechanic in Salt Lake City about my car, signed up for AAA online to cash in on the towing when I get back to Utah.

No, that has nothing to do with the conference, but that’s what I did.

I then sat it on Seth Front’s The Jewish Zodiac: A Culinary History of Jews in America. I had already spoken to him in the vendor room when he noticed I was the JGS President and from Salt Lake City. After his talk, I told him that my JGS members might not appreciate his talk as much as the synagogue audience probably would.

And that was the end of the conference. I headed out to Junior’s to meet my cousin, Howard Miller, then returned to the hotel where I’m writing to my blog. Tomorrow after check-out, I’ll go to Hidden Hills to meet Ron and Monica Wolfe and any of their kids who might be around; I’m not sure if there are any right now.

JGSLA 2010 – Day 5 Recap

The day started with another IAJGS Management Session on Affordable Creative Programming led by Jan Meisels Allen. She mostly mentioned things I have already tried or thought about, but I came away with a few new ideas.

I ended up at a restaurant in the lobby for lunch with Judi and two people she knew from Arizona, only to rush to the next session and still show up late. Hal Bookbinder presented Why Did Our Ancestors Leave a Nice Place Like the Pale? I was tired and couldn’t concentrate on his session, though it sounded very interesting. I’ll have to listen again to the recording.

I was signed up to meet with someone from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and headed to the Resource Room. I was told they were searching the ITS records, but apparently they weren’t or the person I spoke to didn’t think of it. It seems unlikely that she’d skip over a source like that. She mentioned a couple things I didn’t know but didn’t help me with any new information for now.

Having first procrastinated then later forgetting to purchase a ticket, I didn’t go to the banquet. Mark Heckman took me to Pink’s in Hollywood, as an earlier email from him said, “I’ll have to take you”. We arrived back in time to see another added showing of Who Cares Who Do You Think You Are? which Mark had missed during the opening session.

JGSLA 2010 – Day 4 Recap

Wednesday was a day for IAJGS business. The first session I attended was the panel on Celebrating Jewish Genealogy Month led by Schelly Dardashti in which we discussed programming and other things that weren’t necessarily related to IJGeMo (International Jewish Genealogy Month, as it will now be called) but left me with a few interesting ideas.

Lunch was a repeated restaurant with Bob Wascou and Rochelle Kaplan.

The IAJGS Annual Meeting was not long after lunch. The meeting wasn’t as bad as some people let on last year when they told me I should be happy I missed it. (I was supposed to represent Utah, though I wasn’t yet the president, but my computer lab was scheduled at the same time.)

I went with Barbara Hershey to Daniel Horowitz’s session on How Do We Share and Preserve Memories in a Digital Era? but didn’t stay long. It naturally turned into a talk about MyHeritage.com, which neither of us was interested in hearing at the time.

After a quick visit to the concierge lounge, I did a bit of bookkeeping in my room and missed the next presentation, then arrived a few minutes late to Zvi Gitelman’s What’s in a Name? The Origins and Meanings of Jewish Family Names. There was a fun moment in that one when he mentioned that some Jews bought their names to get good ones. Just as I whispered to Judi sitting next to me that my Rosenthals did that, he listed a few names that were usually purchased and the first one he said was Rosenthal.

I finally made it to the Film Festival room after that (having seen a film earlier in one of the other lecture rooms) where I saw the very end of Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg and Genealogy Goes to the Movies before I headed back to my room to turn in for the night.