Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Power of Conferences To Increase Your Genealogical Skills

As a former teacher and a life-long learner, I really enjoy the academic aspects of genealogy, including: understanding the fundamentals of DNA, becoming familiar with the historical periods our ancestors lived in, and learning more about methods of research. Genealogy conferences provide a great opportunity to sharpen our skills in these areas.
I just got back from the day and a half Family History Expo (Nov 11-12) in nearby Duluth, GA, sponsored by FamilySearch. I was really fortunate that they had four workshops devoted to German research to help me with my Kreis line. The presenter was Tamra Stansfield, a German Research Consultant at the Family History Library in UT, who is accredited in German Research though The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen). I was able to attend three of the workshops:
1.    "Historical Events and Their Impact on German Research" -- good snapshot of major events in German history
2.    "Hansel and Gretel: Finding and Following the Trail Home to Our German Ancestors" -- summary of US and German record sources (I learned about the Evangelical Lutheran Church of American archives.)
3.    German Records Other Than Parish and Vital – including citizenship, city, and emigration records

I also took a workshop on DNA. I figure if I take enough classes on this subject, maybe, maybe, I'll understand it! I learned that over 1,000,000 people have been tested in the last 12 years since the test was first available. 

A great thing about conferences is that part of the registration fee covers a CD with the hand-outs for all the workshops. This gives you a chance to look over materials from workshops that you weren’t able to attend.

The exhibit area was only one room since it was a local event (much smaller than the exhibit area at the National Genealogical Society National Conference in May 2011 in Charleston, SC), but it had some great materials which I am adding to my genealogical library:
  1. a large colorful chart of “Kinship Connections” showing relationships back seven generations
  2.  a guide, Understanding Meyers Orts by Fay S. Dearden, a gazetteer for Germany that I learned at two conferences is absolutely essential for locating towns and places in the old German Empire. You can learn more about Meyers Orts from a FamilySearch wiki.
  3. Witter’s German-English Primer for Public Schools to learn how to decipher old German script that you find in German records.
Another thing that I love about attending conferences is that you often leave with a clarion call to action. My spur to action came from the presenter, Anna Swayne, of the DNA workshop, “The Power of DNA in Unlocking Family Relationships”, said that there are two paths people take after they get their DNA results: sit and wait for possible matches to contact you or be proactive and upload your results to different 3rd party databases. Well, I came home and immediately started scouring the internet to see how this can be done. In a future post I will discuss how this process works.

Categories: genealogy education, DNA

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