15 February 2015

FGS/RootsTech conference 2015, Day 4

Donny Osmond

For most genealogists of a certain age (and most of of us are of that age), a retrospective of Donny Osmond's career brings back memories. Multi-talented Donny played to a respectful and awed house during the opening session. Seems to me he must be Utah's favorite son - and there were definitely many fans in the audience. I was impressed that the woman next to me knew Donny's wife's name before he mentioned it.

I thought going in that Donny's link to genealogy might be a bit thin. But, in fact, several years ago his mother turned her 40-year family research project over to him, now the family historian. Donny shared some of his family history: linking ancestors whose own stories of perseverance seemed to preordain his own. His message to us? While much of his story is easily told via public record, we all have stories to tell. We need to be recording our lives in ways that we may share with our families and descendants. 

Global Family Tree

A.J. Jacobs is ubiquitous. His Global Family Reunion (to be held June 2015 at the New York Hall of Science on the site of the 1964 World's Fair) has, obviously, struck a chord and garnered a partnerships with FamilySearch, Geni, WikiTree, New York Family, MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA. As far as I can tell, A.J. has already been interviewed on nearly every genealogy podcast and featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles and radio and television interviews and completed a TED talk (that one may view on his website). 

A.J. is fascinated by Geni-style genealogy and is gathering "cousins" at an amazing rate. His definition of cousin is inclusive and he has stated that the more inclusive the definition of family, the better. He sees this inclusiveness as a method of increasing connectedness. 

Dare I say it? It sounds like he's working for world peace. I'm afraid my genealogical goals are usually far less lofty: who was my great grandfather's brother? I know it was not Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King nor Mahatma Gandhi - no world peace for me!
I am amused when people list relationships that meander across several in-law relationships and over many generations. That is neither blood nor genes. But, I am definitely a cousin: my paternal first cousin and first cousin once-removed are in mitochondrial DNA (maternal) haplogroup H7e - one step in genetic distance from A.J. Jacobs. And I am related to my cousins via their mothers' lines.

I won't be attending the Global Family Reunion in person but, more power to A.J. for generating genealogy buzz. Perhaps some of those newly enthused will stick around to do the difficult work in genealogy research that the basis for all this connectivity.

Regular Sessions

I attended just two sessions during the last day of the conference because the last flight out of Salt Lake City that would get me home Saturday evening was just after 5 P.M. I lucked out, however, in that I took in two of the best talks I'd heard at the conference.

While I am impressed with Donny Osmond's huge talent, I am completely in awe of those who present complex case studies! I find reading a complex case study in the National Genealogical Quarterly exhilarating. The work involved; the brilliance of the solutions.  

Dr. Michael Lacopo's presentation, "She Came From Nowhere: A Case Study Approach to Solving a Difficult Genealogical Problem," was just such an awe-inspiring case study. He has yet to publish it, but I think, once he finds the few original records he has yet to acquire, he'll be ready - and I'll be reading.

Dr. Lacopo studied a Virginia area woman who was mentioned infrequently and incorrectly in records he initially consulted. A reasonably exhaustive search, written histories of the area, and understanding of social history and local naming traditions aided his search. Inspirational! 

I have been doing some client research in German Jewish family history, so I had to take in Warren Bittner's "Meyer's Gazetteer: Gateway to Germany." I have read several articles by Bittner (including award-winning pieces) and heard him speak at the National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. My impression in Las Vegas was similar to my impression of Dr. Lacopo earlier in the day. So, I knew I could learn something from this excellent researcher. 

Bittner provided a useful hand-out for transliterating German Fraktur typeface letters and a key to understanding the structure of and abbreviations in this early twentieth century German gazetteer. One may find Meyer's Gazetteer online and searchable on Ancestry. It is also available in two parts on FamilySearch, here and here; and on HathiTrust, here and here.

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