Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 1 at the NGS Conference

Day 1 at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Salt Lake City dawned rainy and cool, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the attendees that streamed into the Salt Palace conference Center before 8 a.m. to hear the keynote speech by Jay Verkler, head of the LDS FamilySearch operation.

NGS President Jan Alpert opened the conference right at 8 a.m., introduced a short video "Paths to the Past" (which is very well done), followed by Paula Stuart-Warren's moving tribute to the late Marsha Hoffman Rising, and then Linda Suffridge announced this year's newsletter and other award winners. Jan introduced Jay at around 8:50 a.m.

Jay Verkler presented several videos, including a guided tour of the Granite Mountain Vault, and discussed the goals of FamilySearch in this age of computer-driven genealogy research. After Jay's talk, the Exhibit Hall was opened and everybody streamed in to see what "goodies" could be found among the software companies, web site developers, book sellers and genealogy societies. I ran into a number of bloggers during this time and met several new-to-me people. I picked up some nametag thingies and my "beard" now extends below my belt.

At 11 a.m., I went off to hear Craig Miller of FamilySearch talk about "Genealogy in a Cloud, Guaranteed to Turn the Genealogy World as you know it upside down." Doing Genealogy in the cloud, with many mobile device applications, will eventually disenfranchise the desktop computer (but only if most users adapt to the cloud environment), and will make information and applications independent of the user's computer platform. Craig said that, in the future, the world's records will be increasingly available, that volunteer research assistance will increase, and that smart matching will improve computerized research help.

I talked to a number of people from 12 noon to about 12:45, then went to lunch at the food court, and wandered the exhibit hall until the 2:30 p.m. presentations.

I attended Elizabeth Shown Mills talk on "Smith and Jones:How to Cope with Families of a Common Name." Wow - this was an A+ presentation - it could easily have been an all-day workshop. ESM described two challenging research problems (one for a Mary Smith in Mississippi and the other a Joshua Jones in Illinois) and how to use the Research Process Model, the Research Analysis Model, the Identity Triangulation Model and the Genealogical Proof Standard to solve difficult research problems. My main takeaway here was "when working in a public land state, order a township-range map. A second takeaway was the saying that "all elusive ancestors had their FAN club" - meaning Friends, Associates and Neighbors. At the end, ESM introduced "The Problem-Solving Spiral" to the audience. I must admit that I had not heard of several of these models!

In the final session for the day, I enjoyed The Ancestry Insider's talk on "Blog Your Way to Genelaogical Success." I met Mr. AI in January 2009 at the Ancestry Blogger Day, so was surprised by his statement that he started blogging on a suggestion from an Ancestry executive who wanted him to write a blog so that they could leak information to the public without official comment. He asked the crowd how many bloggers were in attendance and a number of hands went up - and he introduced me (and gave my URL to the crowd). He described the reasons for writing a blog, the benefits of blogging, the use of free resources to create and maintain a blog, and then demonstrated how to create a blog on Blogger - getting a Gmail address if you don't have one, making a title and URL, choosing a layout and defining recommended settings.

I hurried over to the hotel at 5 p.m. to get Linda and go down for dinner at the hotel restaurant. We then went over to the Convention Center for the reception and light dessert. I had good discussions with a number of people, including Barbara Renick, Tony Macklin, Anne Mitchell, Michelle Pfister and Eric Shoup of Ancestry, Jay Verkler of FamilySearch and Joan Hanlon, a new genea-blogger. A fun evening.

Thursday is a day with five presentation times, and topped off in the evening with a celebration of family history at the LDS Conference Center, highlighted by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.


Elyse Doerflinger said...

Randy -

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences at NGS! I am so very jealous that I was unable to attend, but I am so happy that you are having so much fun.

Sherry - Family Tree Writer said...

I sure wish I could have attended the whole session, but especially Mills' presentation on finding the Smith's and Jones' in your family tree, as my brick wall is my Jones' great-grandfather who married a Smith! Where can I find print editions of her info?

Greta Koehl said...

Oh, man! I would give anything to have attended Elizabeth Shown Mills' presentation, since my greatest brick wall is a Smith. Excellent summary; I look forward to reading more!

Patti Hobbs said...

Thanks for keeping us updated, Randy. Have a great time!

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Randy, I check in everyday looking forward to hearing the latest. Wish I was there!

ArleneVJ said...

For those folks who wish they had attended ESM's lecture, you can order it on CD from I see the website is not yet up-to-date with this conference, but I expect it soon will be.

I didn't get to hear it either and I was at the conference but had to cover a booth. I will order it!

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