Strategy: Conference Session Selections

2017-04-28 16.15.27The Ohio Genealogical Society Conference for 2017 was a wonderful learning experience for me and I hope for the eager learners I had in my classes. But, if you have ever attended a multi-day conference you know that they give you so many choices for a single time slot that to pick the few that you attend is a challenge.

Here are a few of the ways I decide on one session over another. I choose my sessions in this priority rank. The presentations where:

  1. I am the speaker! 🙂 It’s kinda “mandatory.”
  2. the topic is one I need to know more about for my own research or for that of a client
  3. the presentation is given by a really knowledgable and skilled speaker. They are always worth listening to, even if you have heard him/her before. I especially gravitate towards those who teach intermediate to advanced skills
  4. a new speaker or a new topic is being presented. These are just for fun!

At this conference I did a little of all four.

Group 1: to teach others

I gave three talks and I showed up for all three!  [I heard at least one presenter did not show for his workshop. That is my new nightmare.]

Group 2: to learn something new
Ohio GS had a very nice collection of African American presentations and I attended as many as I could. In addition, there were a few other presentations that were germane as well.

  • “Researching African Americans in the Wake of the Civil War,” a Case Study by Weyonneda Minis
    This was a good overview of records that relate to the African American experience. More importantly, I had a wonderful conversation after the presentation with the speaker and two other attendees.
  • “Researching Libraries and Archives of Historical Black Colleges & Universities” by Deborah Abbott
    I was very interested in knowing what types of collections they might have and how those may differ from other predominantly white institutions. This could have been under Group 4 as I have not heard her speak before. At the end of the conference we had dinner together.
  • “The Wild Terrain of Plantation Papers for Research on Enslaved People” by Andi Combs-Floyd
    I was unaware of this rich resource for the enslaved and the owner. Later, Ari Wilkins helped me find out where to access the records and our own UW Library has the set of microfilms and index! Field Trip! Andi wrote a book about her experience and I will review it here after I have read it.
  • “My Father’s War: WW II Research” by Gagel
    In July, I will attend Gen-Fed, a week-long institute focusing only on the records held at the National Archives in Washington DC. I thought attending this session might help me as I prepare for that institute and in finding my father’s Office of the Secret Service records.
  • “Urban Research: Finding City-Dwelling Ancestors in Ohio and Beyond,” by Sonny Morton
    I know nothing about urban research because all of my ancestors were farmers or residents of very small towns in the Midwest. The resources discussed were ones I was already familiar with. I recognize that in some ways that was reassuring.
  • “Did Great-Grandmother Really Disappear Without a Trace? Using State Asylum Records”
    Wevonneda Minis focused primarily on the 1900s, an era I only cover superficially in my talk about “Finding Dirk: Insanity in the 19th century.” She did however, mention the presence of Civil War soldiers in asylums and is going to send me her link to where she read about that.
  • “Finding Former Slaves and Freedman Marriage Records,” J. Mark Lowe. My biggest “takeaway” was that the individuals from different states invested in the Freedman’s Bank with differing levels of participation and it is important to know if you are trying to find something that will not be in the record.

Group 3: to learn new speaking techniques from a solid presenter

  • “The Gone, the Missing and the Misindexed: Finding Lost Families,” by J. Mark Lowe.
    Mark is a consummate story teller. I love how he weaves the story into what could be a dry topic—indexing challenges. I tell somewhat of a story, but the integration is lacking. Mark is a master.
  • “Focusing on Pathways across the Arkansas Territory,” by J. Mark Lowe
    This presentation could also have fallen into Group 2 above as Mark focused on the middle south and the colonial to the 1850s, an area and an era I rarely research.
  • “He Used to Be My Ancestor: Seven Common Research Mistakes” by Chris Staats (that’s Chris in the photo above)
    Chris shared seven research mistakes that he has made with “wonderful” examples. The last mistake was research bias: he discovered, and had to tell his mother that her father was not her biological father. Chris then proceeded to identify his grandfather using DNA. As he said, “Overnight one-fourth of my family tree was lopped off.” I had never heard Chris speak before.

Group 4: to listen to a speaker about whom I know nothing

  • “Trolling the Virtual Cemeteries and Using Cemetery Records,” by Amie Tennant
    I wouldn’t have normally stopped in to hear about FindAGrave, and BillionGraves, but I had never heard Amie speak. She and Sonny Morton (“Urban Research”, above) have similar presentation styles—very personable and approachable, peppy and bouncy.
  • “Introduction to Tracing your Roots in Eastern Europe” by Amie Wachs (This also could have been in Group 2, as one line of my husband’s family (Frisch) comes from the Czech Republic, just south of Prague.) Again this is a topic I know very little about and a speaker I only knew by reputation. Amie is a solid presenter who moves through her slide transitions easily.

I love conferences! They provide the opportunity to teach, and the opportunity to learn. And, an opportunity to expand my Genea-buddies around the entire US. I certainly did all of these this past week! So, “hat’s off” to the many volunteers and the speakers involved in the conference. It takes many to put on a large regional conference like this. They all were friendly and helpful. And, thanks for inviting me.

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last blog: I hadn’t realized it had been so long since the last blog posting. I certainly hope in the coming months I can improve my frequency. I like to post about once a week. Since the last blog…or thereabouts, I have been working on presentations for Federation of Genealogical Societies—two new ones, and applying for conferences in 2018, including Jamboree, Florida Virtual and National Genealogical Society. The latter will be held in Grand Rapids and I have cousins and an archive that I want to see there (my fingers are crossed on that one!). This month the OGS proposals are due for the next conference in 2018 and I will submit for that as well. May is slow–may make a trip to CO to write!