It was great!
I have never chaired a conference before and this past week (11-14 August) I was chair of the Ostfriesen* Genealogical Society of America (OGSA) biennial conference held in Rockford IL with 132 attendees. I had a great crew of folks to help and there were only a couple of glitches. Not bad, I thought for a first timer like me. The Board even moved the entire collection of Ostfriesen materials from the Minnesota Historical Society Library, where they are normally kept, to the conference location! This takes a U-Haul truck and lots of labor.
Saturday: Attendee’s tea. Ostfriesens are a “tea culture,” not a coffee culture. I discovered this after I had become a committed tea drinker; I decided that the propensity towards tea must be genetic! Lin and I gave a presentation on “An Overview of Ostfriesen Genealogy.” The group has a lot of newbies and so it’s always good to reacquaint them with the many unique sources they will be using for the week.
Sunday: (This was the day I was most worried about.) We took everyone who wanted to go to church in one of three familial churches and then brought them back to one of the three for a community picnic. Over 200 people were in attendance! It was great fun and so well organized by the ladies of the church. They were thrilled as it was a good money maker for them. One of our Society’s big project (7 years in the making) was the compilation of the parish records into a book, The Ostfriesen Families of German Valley. This was dedicated and presented to the two participating churches. After the picnic we had two buses do a circuit to three of the cemeteries in the area and the local historical museum. I was afraid we might leave someone behind but the last bus picked a couple up who had thought they had been left behind! That night we had three concurrent sessions.
Monday: Wayne Brouwer, a distant cousin of mine, was the plenary speaker and talk to us on three different occasions during the conference. He presented an overview of the Ostfriesens in Illinois, the personality characteristics of Ostfriesens and role of the German Reformed Church and its schism. In addition to the three plenaries and the library, we had 5 sessions, three tracks per session. (I can attest that that is a lot of teachers to find. I was in charge of the program!)
Tuesday: This day was another set of concurrent sessions and a banquet that night. Since it was the organization’s 15th year we celebrated with party hats and birthday cake. Seeing Ostfriesens (INFJ’s) with party hats on is quite a treat!
After the banquet everyone chipped in and packed the library and contrary to our usual expectations of driving away at noon on Wednesday, the truck was on it’s way back to Minnesota three hours early because of all the great help.
Of course this stopped all client work for two weeks! And I made a promise to Karen I would go “on the clock” after the conference. Stay tuned; I will let you know when that happens.
* Ostfriesland is a small area of Germany contiguous with Holland and the North Sea. they speak a unique language, a mix of Dutch, German, and English and have the same dike culture as the Dutch.
What I have done since the last posting: The two weeks or so seem like a blur. Right up until I boarded the plane for Chicago, I was working on the details of the tours and the program. Upon sitting in my seat, I promptly fell asleep (even missed the safety announcements) for the duration of the flight. I got in 3 days of personal research in the community where my mother’s family first settled (1850’s) and met some great people and got some very interesting information. (See next posting) and managed and attended the Ostfriesen Family Reunion: 2012 OGSA Genealogical Conference. I also agreed to do it again in 2014!