Wednesday 28 March 2012

Genealogy notes 28 Mar 2012 - Day One at AFFHO Congress

Well Day One is over and already my notebook (still paper and pen I'm afraid) is starting to fill up with new ideas and things to follow up. The day started with John Bannon's opening address which recalled my years with the National Archives of Australia. John is the Chair of NAA's Advisory Council and he is a good spokesperson for their achievements and future directions. It was a good introduction to the AFFHO Congress and touched on many topics that I think will be mentioned again and again in other presentations.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist, was the first keynote speaker and I really liked her dry sense of humour that came out at various times even though she was largely dealing with a very sad topic - the death of nearly 1500 people when the Titanic sank in 1912. Colleen was involved with the identification of The Unknown Child on the Titanic and it was fascinating to see what steps were involved including exhumations and tracking families backwards to find common ancestors before tracking forwards to find living descendants. For a fleeting minute or two I wondered if I could exhume a few of my more difficult to trace ancestors but I suspect it's not that practical! It was a great talk and I'm now keen to read some of her publications as were others judging by the lineup of people waiting for her to sign their copies.

Just as I was about to go in for morning tea, one of the conference organisers grabbed me and said that they didn't have a copy of my two talks and as I had previously sent copies in separate emails I was a bit puzzled. Checking with the technician my talks were indeed missing in action. This was a bit deja vu as I had got up in the middle of the night looking for my spare USB stick when I realised I had left my USB with the copies of my talks on it, in my other handbag in the caravan down at Brighton. I always have a copy with me in case something goes wrong. To my horror, I found that I didn't even have a spare USB as I had cleaned out my laptop bag. Borrowing a USB from the technician I quickly went back to the hotel, did another copy and then raced back to the speaker's room and had my talks uploaded. At least it was sorted out before my first talk later that day!

However it did mean that I missed morning tea and the first twenty minutes of Kath Ensor's presentation on Unlocking Ancestors' Stories from Mental Asylums which is a topic that I give talks on too. Many of my ancestors were in various institutions and the records are fantastic as they usually have detailed biographical information. Kath's talk was on Victorian mental asylums and Public Record Office Victoria has many of the asylum admission books and case books digitised on their website.

Then it was lunch time and a chance to chat with people and it is great to see so many Canberrans here that I knew while living in Canberra a few years back. The strong contingent is because the next AFFHO congress is in Canberra in 2015. They have already done a lot of planning and have a website up and are starting a free e-newsletter to keep interested people informed of progress. Of course, I signed up there and then!

There is also plenty of time to wander round the exhibits and I managed to chat with a number of people, Ben from Inside History magazine, Paul from FamilySearch, Vicki from FindMyPast Australasia, Alona and Anthea from Gould Genealogy and Kim from MyHeritage to mention just a few. I will do a better list of exhibitors when I'm not racing the clock in the early hours of the morning! So far I've only bought one book but temptation is strong!

After lunch Daniel Horowitz was the keynote speaker on How we Share and Preserve Memories in a Digital Era and he is the founder of MyHeritage so basically the talk was about how MyHeritage lets people record their family history and share it with other family members. I'm always a bit wary about having major sponsors give keynote addresses as it can tend to be just a promotional talk for their products which some attendees may not want to listen too. Of course the reality is that congresses need sponsorship and if it was in a concurrent session, they wouldn't get as many people. Having said that, I did enjoy Daniel's presentation and it was good to see how MyHeritage operates and while I have a few family names in it myself, I realised I am not making full use of all the social networking facilities.

I missed the next session as I always like to review my talks before giving them and take time just to gather my thoughts. I also spent a bit more time going round the exhibits before I wandered over to the room where my session was. I was pleased to see that the Chair of the session was Don Mountain a long time friend from Canberra and a fellow HAGSOC committee member back then. I hadn't done Ancestors in Church before so I was a bit nervous as to how people would receive it as it is so broad ranging and I can't cover in detail all religions and denominations. I was pleased with comments afterwards when people said it had given them new ideas to follow up which is exactly the type of feedback I like.

I also used my session to give a plug to Geniaus' blogging beads and to raise the profile of the various Geneabloggers present at this conference. We are the ones with the bright, colourful, maybe small or large, beads hanging around our necks and we are all writing up our thoughts and comments on the various speakers and other activities. I'm amazed at how quickly Geniaus (perhaps that's why she's called that?) gets all her congress photos up - see her blog for all the latest photos!

I also missed the opportunity to get together for dinner with other members of the KIVA Genealogists for Families project (founded by Judy Webster) due to other commitments but there are a few of us at Congress as well. Geniaus even has those photos up - check it out here. It's a great way to help other people in mostly developing countries to set up or run their own businesses. I've got six loans and most of those are almost paid off and with the repayments I use them to finance another loan to someone else. If you haven't heard of it before have a look!

Today is another big day starting at 8.30am so I better finish this off now and get moving!

1 comment:

  1. Nasty scare with the USB, but from all reports, you must have recovered very well! Thanks for keeping us updated with the happenings at Congress.