Methods in the MadnessThe contrast between International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conferences and other non-Jewish national genealogy conferences is interesting. Understandably after years of record deprivation, Jewish genealogists are obsessed with finding new records. Sometimes this is almost to the exclusion of discussions about what one might do with them once one has them. Times are changing. There is just not enough talk about methodology.
My impression after my attendance at the National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas in 2013 and RootsTech in 2011 was that presentations and interest in methodology give those conferences a completely different feel.
Now, there was definitely excitement at IAJGS. For Jim Tanner of Genealogy's Star blog, who has attended and taught at several national genealogy conferences, the IAJGS was an eye-opening experience. He told me that not only were our presenters highly qualified, but also attendees seemed to have an admirable fervor for their pastime.
To me, however, the excitement still seems oriented toward new record groups, and not enough to problem solving and evidence analysis. I noticed that the printed conference Daily Planner (which I never once looked at during the conference because I was using the conference app on my iPad) identified "program focus codes" for each presentation. This told people whether a presentation was deemed beginning, intermediate or advanced and whether it was focused on archives, databases, technology, Holocaust, Sephardic research, etc., and methodology. Unfortunately, these codes did not appear on the app. So, if one wanted to select sessions with a particular theme, it was not easily accomplish.
Several like-minded genealogists would like to see more emphasis on methodology at IAJGS conferences. I agree. I think the best way to achieve such a goal is for more presenters to provide interesting talks on the joys (and results) of methodologically sound research. My presentation, "Beyond the Manifest: Methods for Confirming One's Ancestral Origins," was well-attended last year in Boston and this year in Salt Lake City. After my talk, I was very pleased that many people approached me during the next several days to tell me how excited they were about what I had presented.
If you agree that the IAJGS conference would benefit from additional presentations geared to evidence analysis and methodology, let's make sure to provide bunches of presentation proposals for IAJGS 2015 (Israel) and 2016 (Seattle). Research success is the most eloquent speaker.
Ukraine Special Interest GroupMake no mistake, I do get excited when there are new records for my eastern European geographical research areas, too. Ukraine SIG has about 12,000 lines of data translated and in the pipeline for sharing within JewishGen databases. That's promised this fall on JewishGen.org.
In addition, the SIG has an incredible backlog of records needing translating/indexing to make them accessible for researchers. These include Kiev Gubernia records that are on Family History Library microfilm and record collections from Khmelnitskyy, Zhitomyr and Kiev Archives that have been acquired by the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. These are exciting times [full disclosure, I am a Ukraine SIG board member]. If your community is listed among those with records, take the lead to volunteer or donate and help move these record acquisition projects forward.
HiccupsConference organizers chose to make the ever-popular Family Finder available early (weeks before the conference), but only online. This bothered some conference attendees. Perhaps the answer would be to make the Family Finder accessible via the conference app? The app, available for the last two conferences, has been a clear winner. Including access to the Family Finder would be sublime.
The biggest problem I encountered during the conference was poor Internet access. I could not access the Internet for email, blogging or the conference app on any of my electronic devises upstairs in my hotel room. I could use the Internet on the first and second floor conference venues. The upstairs situation was unacceptable.
One for the BooksWhat's a conference without booksellers?! There were no book sellers as exhibitors. Avotaynu, was represented by the Mokotoffs and Sallyann Sack at the conference, but they were not selling books. I did not speak to them about that, but I assume that transporting inventory to Salt Lake City from the east coast was deemed uneconomical - although I do recall at least two or three booksellers at the Los Angeles IAJGS conference in 2011, including Avotaynu.
IAJGS: Stretching and Building MuscleIAJGS under Marlis Humphreys' leadership is thinking big - and I like that. They have been taking a cue from other high-profile genealogy organization partnerships by reaching out to people in other organizations who have skills that may benefit IAJGS in both the long- and short-term. Shipley Munson of FamilySearch, for example, has marketing genius. His team at FamilySearch has, in a very short time, turned the Rootstech Conference into a juggernaut that has eclipsed the NGS conference and the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in terms of attendance. In fact, FGS is combining their annual conference with RootsTech in early 2015.
Whether Munson sets his sights on the IAJGS conference or on providing services to member societies, or both, is yet to be seen. Regardless, I think we are in for some exciting times. Moribund societies may be challenged to think differently about defining their audience and developing instruments and methods for sharing and communicating genealogically relevant information. As a new JGS chair, I am sitting at attention hoping to catch as many words of wisdom as possible.
IAJGS2014 - Success!I'm not sure why attendance was a bit down this year at the conference. Surely the quality and variety of presentations was excellent. Overall, the conference was quite well done.
I cannot even imagine the two+ years of obsession that was required to make this event a success. My congratulations to all for providing a wonderful experience in Salt Lake City last week. "Hiccups" aside, I would not have missed it.
Don't forget to review individual presentations on you app. Most speakers do value your opinions (I know I do).