Sunday, August 1, 2010

Midwest Family History Expo - Session Highlights - Day 1

Now that I've covered the social aspects of the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City, it's time to get down to the business of providing a few highlights from the sessions I attended.

The FHE folks compiled a wonderful syllabus (can you say 360 pages?) for the event. What's nice about this is that the web sites and resources the speakers referred to in their presentations are already in the book for later reference. I was able to use my net book computer for taking notes in many of the sessions, so as a speaker talked about a web site, I could access it and add it to my bookmarks right on the spot. I just scrolled through those bookmarks and I have a LOT of sites to visit and search. And that doesn't even come close to everything in the syllabus.

Day 1 - Friday

Sources and Citations: Just Do It
Carol Cooke Darrow, CG

Carol emphasized the importance of identifying your sources and compared primary information and secondary information. One of the books she talked about was Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Mills, a book I have in my personal library. It was also interesting to learn ways to document online sources.

Mapping Madness
Ron Arons, Author

Ron is a very entertaining presenter - I loved his sense of humor! He compared the differences between Google maps and Microsoft's maps (Bing).

One of the online tools he discussed was MapCruncher by Microsoft. This allows you to layer maps to emphasize or make comparisons in an area you want to show. For example, a historical map can be layered on top of a contemporary map for a comparison of then and now. Here are some examples of what this tool can do.

Everything You Wanted to Know About
Justin Schroepfer

One thing I learned from this session is that genealogists are forgiving people. It's a little tough to do a live presentation about an internet web site when the wireless connection isn't working. But Justin was a real pro and continued to inform and entertain the audience about his product until web connectivity was restored. As a presenter myself, I know how frustrating it can be when the technology doesn't cooperate. Justin - and the audience - handled it all very well.

That said . . . I chose this session because I've been a Footnote subscriber for more than a year and have found their search and navigation a bit cumbersome. And I am far from being a web novice. One thing Justin did was to give me a better feel for the type and breadth - and volume - of information that is on the site. The information that I'm looking for most likely is there; I just need to look deeper and refine my search methodology so I can find it.

He shared information about setting up pages about our ancestors. I'd done a few pages in the past. When I came across information on deceased relatives, I added some photographs. Most of my online genealogy activity is on Ancestry, but I can see the value of adding pages to Footnote, just to throw the net out over a wider area.

Colonial Immigration Genealogy
Beth Foulk

You know what it's like when you buy a new car, then suddenly it seems like all you see on the streets is that make of car? I'm beginning to feel that way as new (new to me, anyway) sources of genealogy resources keep showing up again and again.

One of the resources Beth mentioned is one that entered my life in the last week. That is the vast amount of information on colonial immigrants available at the New England Historic Genealogical Society library. This source is definitely becoming one of my new best friends. Another recommended web site waiting for me to explore is

Combining Historical Research with Your Genealogy
Gena Philibert Ortega

Gena's session was a great way to end the day! She is an enthusiastic and engaging presenter. And she overcame the adversity of a very loud air conditioning system in the meeting room to share a wealth of information with eager learners. Her book, Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra (Images of America) is one I definitely want to read.

Gena focused on techniques to help us fill in the spaces between those major life events by studying the history of the times our ancestors lived in and understanding how history effected their lives. One of the books she recommended was Hidden Sources (much of which is available on Google Books).

My summary of Saturday's sessions will be in a separate post.

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