Saturday, March 7, 2009

Escondido Family History Fair Summary

There were over 350 in attendance today at this one-day FREE event in the Escondido Family History Center to hear 10 speakers give 36 presentations in seven meeting rooms. There was a 138 page syllabus (it cost $12) with the summaries of the speaker's talks. There were about 20 genealogical, historical and hereditary societies in the Exhibit Hall. Since it is a Family History Center, no sales vendors were present. The staff at the Escondido FHC provided Internet access via a cable, which was much appreciated (I just wish I had taken more time to blog during the day)!

Fourteen Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) members were there to learn more about genealogy research and meet other genealogy buffs from all over Southern California. Several of the CVGS members manned our table in the Exhibit Hall - we had program flyers, society brochures and newsletter samples to hand out.

The presentations I attended included:

"This is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile - Genealogy Research in 2009" was the title of the keynote address by Leland K. Meitzler. Leland's passion for genealogy research was evident in this talk about where the industry is and where he thinks it is going. Leland thinks that the vast majority of online genealogy data will be free, and it's already happening with FamilySearch Indexing, Google books, State Archives, Rootsweb, Footnote (some databases), World Vital Records (free access for first ten days), and other sites. The commercial genealogy companies will continue to add content and compete in the marketplace, although there may be some mergers and acquisitions. His view is that volunteerism is driving genealogy at this time.

In the second hour, I attended Barbara Renick's talk on "Eleven Layers of On-line Searches." She has an excellent list of search techniques to use to find those elusive ancestors in online indexes. Barbara mainly used, and for her examples. She said that the most common mistake that many researchers make in search engines is to fill in too many blanks in a search box - often the less information provided, the more good matches are found in more record collections, because not every record contains the all of the bits of information put in the Search box. Barbara effectively demonstrated her points using examples from her own research, and noted that she has had problems finding results while working in's New Search interface. She showed us the LDS research wiki and the articles on Name Variations and Letter Substitutes in the Research Helps. These were new for me (I learn something new all the time, it seems...).

In the third hour, I was late to the Debby Horton class on "British Parish Records - Beyond the Basics." The room was full with no standing room, so I went over to hear Leland Meitzler's talk on "Flames Over the Courthouse." Leland kidded me (I think...) that I hadn't planned on seeing any of his talks after the Keynote (since I had posted my intended targets last night). His theme was that there are records available even when the records burned up or were lost. He used examples of church records, city directories, newspapers, coroner's records, tax records, voting registrations, funeral home and cemetery records, and school records. I really enjoyed this talk because Leland told so many great stories about his own research experience.

It was lunch time and I went out with several CVGS colleagues, got my box lunch ($8, sandwich, cookies, chips, apple, water) and ate it in the sunshine while discussing the morning events. We went back to our table in the exhibit hall and I started to write this post, but soon gave up because of interesting conversations with several friends from other societies.

In the 1 o'clock hour, I went off to enjoy Tom Underhill's presentation on "Digital Photography for the Family Historian" (also titled "10 Things To Do With Your Digital Camera" in the syllabus). I even got a hug and a kiss (um, a Hershey's kiss) from Tom, who loves to pass them out for a good comment or question. Tom's main point was that in order to obtain a great image we need to have not only high megapixels but also a large sensor size, and we need to use adjustable lens. He suggested checking for technical specifications on cameras. Tom suggested discarding unwanted photos quickly, keeping them in the common formats (like .jpg and .tiff, not in special formats that might survive over time), and keeping them in computer file folders labeled with the date and event, e.g. "2008-06-SCGS Jamboree." He showed us what he keeps in his "ready-for-anything photo kit" - I especially liked the pliable compact tripod - he let me play with it.

I had every intention of going to a class in the next hour, but Leland Meitzler came by the CVGS table in the exhibit hall, and we talked about blogging, conferences, magazines, politics, and blogging (did I mention blogging?) with one of my colleagues. Before I knew it, the hour was gone. He complained of being tired and a raspy throat after four presentations this morning, but he had plenty of energy to talk for another hour! I showed him some of the genealogy cartoons I've collected over the years on my laptop.

For the final hour, I went to Jean Wilcox Hibben's presentation on "New FamilySearch: Putting Together the Pieces of the BIG Puzzle." Before the talk, Jean introduced me to her "roadie," Diane Wright, a fellow Southern California genea-blogger (she has The Graveyard Rabbit Travels Wright and the The Wright Graveyard Stew blogs). We sat next to each other to hear Jean's talk about the features of New FamilySearch. Jean described the databases currently in nFS (Pedigree Resource File, Ancestral File, International Genealogical Index and LDS Church Records), how current and future genealogy software will interface with nFS, the features of the nFS genealogy wiki, etc. She demonstrated how to log-in and register, how to see your submitted data, add, edit, combine data, temple ordinance requests, etc. She encouraged users to use the tutorials provided at the nFS site to learn how to navigate the program - do it before making errors! I was quite befuddled over some of this since I am not an LDS member and therefore haven't been on the New FamilySearch site. Jean's advice was "...this program is in its infancy ... like any toddler, it will stumble a number of times before it gets completely on its feet ... Be patient ... with the program and with yourself!"

We packed up, said goodbyes and headed down Interstate 15 to Chula Vista. We chatted all the way down about the Fair and really enjoyed Gary's GPS device's instructions on the way (her name is Charlotte, apparently).

In retrospect, it's interesting that there was no mention of DNA tests and research, and very little mention about social networks and family trees (several talks mentioned the FamilySearch Wiki).

All in all, this was a relatively cheap genealogical FUN and educational day. I really learned a lot from the presentations and the syllabus, and enjoyed interacting with the speakers, colleagues, and researchers from other societies.


RS said...

Sounds like a wonderful day. Thanks for sharing!

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