Thursday, September 24, 2015

My First Genealogical Conference (NYSFHC 2015)

Climbing My Family Tree: My conference bag and name tag
My conference bag and name tag
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I attended my first genealogical conference, the New York Family History Conference 2015, on Friday, September 18 and Saturday, September 19, 2015. It was very interesting, very well organized, and the attendees and presenters were friendly. I had a good time – actually, a better time than I had honestly anticipated.

As the classes started early on Friday, I only worked a half day Thursday and then drove to Syracuse that afternoon to check into the hotel where the conference was held. The organizers were obviously dead set on no one getting lost, as the conference venue/hotel was directly across the street from the end of the exit ramp off of I-90. I spent part of the evening wandering around the vendors/exhibitors hall (where I bought quite a stash of books over the course of the next two days), stopped into the evening reception and chatted with a few folks who have come to the conference for years, and then went to find dinner before heading to my room for the night.

It’s a good thing that I remembered to set my alarm clock on my phone as a backup since the motel alarm clock did not work. The first class each day was at 8:30 AM. Now, folks who know me know that I normally work 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM (medical accommodation) so I’m not remotely used to being presentable for human company and interaction at 8:30 AM. ;-) That being said, two of my favorite classes were held at 8:30 AM, so it was well worth being up and about at that hour.

I really needed to be three people, though, as the conference offered three classes at the same time throughout the day, and I often wished I could attend all three. I developed a methodology for choosing when I just couldn’t choose, and attended the choice for which the syllabus was the least detailed and hoped that I could learn just from the syllabus for the other class(es) I had wished I could also attend.

I ended up attending on Friday: “Fingerprinting Our Families: Using Ancestral Origins As a Genealogical Research Key” by Curt Witcher (which I found completely fascinating and inspiring); “Introduction to Family History Revealed in Maps” by Matthew Knutzen (– unfortunately I received a call I had to take and had to leave the lecture early); “’No Person Shall… Gallop Horses in the Street’: Using Court Records to Tell the Stories of Our Ancestors Lives” by Judy Russell (a totally fun and fascinating lecture), lunch with a talk by Dick Eastman on finding genealogical books online (I do both e-books and regular books); “Colonial New York Research” with Henry B. Hoff (which covered in an amazing amount of detail/possible sources); and “Tips for Using Most Effectively" (I use for research, but I really appreciated learning ways to use it better). There was a bonus session offered at 4:45 PM, but at that point I was so exhausted that I just went upstairs to my room and stared into space for a while. I did come back downstairs for dinner and a talk by Judy Russell, “Blackguards and Black Sheep: The Lighter Side of the Law” – I don’t remember when I have laughed so much as during that talk; it was great!

I had dinner with a very nice woman from Hastings NY, who I had sat beside at lunch by happenstance and we hit it off, another nice woman from the Capital Region Genealogical Society who I’d been speaking to in the buffet line, and a gentleman who turned out to be the speaker at one of the sessions I attended the next day and his wife.

On Saturday, I attended: “Hidden Gems at FindMyPast: PERSI, Newspapers and More” by Jen Baldwin (she’s convinced me: I really need to join FindMyPast, I would love PERSI.); “DNA and the Golden Rule: The Law and Ethics of Genetic Genealogy” by Judy Russell (fascinating and thought-provoking); “What Is the Genealogical Proof Standard?” By Thomas W. Jones, one of my dinner time table-mates (I also found this fascinating and thought-provoking – it’s a bit like how I have to think in my day job as an ALJ, only on a more drawn out scale – and it hit two of my passions, research analysis and jigsaws. I really liked this class. I know that I don’t have the time/stamina to meet this standard before I retire, but the lecture really drew me in.) D. Joshua Taylor spoke at lunch on “Crossing the Pond: Finding Those Elusive English Origins” (I really need to join FindMyPast … even though I’m not certain I have any English ancestors.” In the afternoon, I attended “Using Autosomal DNA to Explore Your Ancestry” by Blaine Bettinger (who was a good speaker but it was a difficult topic, particularly right after lunch, and I’m afraid I got a bit lost) and the last class I attended was “Finding American Women’s Voices through the Centuries: Letters, Journals, Newspapers and Court Records” by Jane E. Wilcox (this lecture was presented with examples based on her own family research, which sparked ideas of places to look for details about my female ancestors as I go back in time, to bring their stories to life).

Climbing My Family Tree: My Calling Card
My Calling Card - isn't it pretty?
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In the course of the classes, I met and spoke with several very nice people. I even got to exchange cards with a few of them.  (The Olive Tree Genealogy Blog had run a post in the week before the conference, “How to Introduce Yourself to Other Genealogists at a Genealogy Conference”, in which she suggested that each person should have their own calling card/business card listing their website, email address, and Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/whichever social media information desired on it. I had calling cards made up at Staples in one day prior to going to the conference – I have enough to last the rest of my life, LOL!) Two women, from Central Square and Hastings, helped me figure out my next adventure of finding my third great-grandparents graves after the conference, which I wrote about earlier in the week. And I bought a bunch of new books at the vendor’s hall. This was a very worthwhile conference.


I may do this again next year. With that thought, I thought to look at their website again and discovered that they already have information up about the New York State Family History Conference for 2016, to be held concurrently with the annual conference of the Association for Public Historians of New York State (registrants to the NYSFHC conference will be able to attend lectures and field trips organized by APHNYS, and vice versa) and they’ve already listed discount pricing for early registration. Amazing!

Climbing My Family Tree: Books Bought at Vender's Hall
Books Bought at Vender's Hall
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  1. Love your card! And, it looks like you have a lot of reading to do. :)

    1. Thanks! My books at home have exceeded my shelf space, but somehow I always buy more. ;)


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