Friday 30 March 2012

Genealogy notes 30 Mar 2012 - Day 3 of the AFFHO Congress

Surprisingly after a great night, I'm up bright (not quite) and early and writing this at 5.15am with a strong cup of tea beside me. As I said yesterday it is so full on I haven't been keeping up with my emails or Twitter/Facebook messages nor have I had time to find/read any blogs written by other attendees. We have a group photo at 1.00pm today so I'll be able to write down names and then follow them up as I do like reading what others say about conferences.

Now for a round up of Day 3. The two plenary sessions today were both by AFFHO 2012 congress sponsors and I wrote about my thoughts on this in Day 1 and from discussions with various people yesterday and last night, I am not alone. First up was John Kitzmiller on FamilySearch Content Strategy and this was disappointing on a number of fronts. He finished his presentation twenty minutes early (almost unheard of for a keynote presentation) and then stood there chatting to fill in the time. Personally I think we should have all just had a longer morning tea.

There was no reason for the presentation to be so short - although he was giving this talk in Australia, there was no mention of what FamilySearch has done, is doing or will do in Australasia which is a real shame as there is some great material on the horizon. The other disappointing area for me was in his final slide he mentioned a number of terrific things and managed to do so in under thirty seconds. He should have given more information and he would have left the audience revved up instead of incredibly flat. I have read articles on their mass digitisation of microfilm program and the statistics are simply mind boggling but this wasn't shared nor was information on their DCAMX system which delivers new field capture images immediately to the web. Again amazing stuff, but sadly John did not achieve his keynote message and only reinforced the belief that sponsors should not give keynote presentations.

My next session was Colleen Fitzpatrick with more forensic genealogy CSI meets Roots and I was so rapt in the presentation I went out and bought the book The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone. Colleen is a great speaker, adds humour and engages the audience and I know I'll be going home to relook at all my photos to see what I've been missing.

After morning tea, I went to Roger Kershaw's talk on Tracing Criminals Transported to Australia. Roger is from the National Archives UK so he was using UK records to illustrate his talk to start with and Australian records towards the end as he traced the life of a convict. I would have liked to see him cite the sources he was using on his slides and this might have prevented some questions/comments from the audience during the presentation. It's an area that I give talks on myself so there wasn't anything new for me but I did like some of his illustrations as a picture conveys so much more than just a few words can.

At lunch time I had to quickly eat a few sandwiches and then pop out to the shops as I realised that morning I had forgotten to bring anything to wear for the conference dinner. As I usually only wear black pants and different tops all I needed to find was a nice top quickly and as someone who hates shopping, that's not always easy. In the end I bought three because I couldn't decide but I will be able to wear the others in Sydney next month when I give family history workshops at the Royal Australian Historical Society.

Just as I was about to dash out, I met up with Aimee and  her new young one who didn't look at all happy to be attending his first genealogy conference and also Sharon, a Twitter/Facebook friend and fellow Unlock the Past cruiser. We had a few quick minutes to catch up on news and then I was out into the Adelaide heat (even though it is autumn) to shop. I managed to get back just in time for the after lunch plenary session on  FindMyPast presented by Vicki Eldridge a well known Sydney genealogist.

As the session was being filmed, there was additional pressure on Vicki as well as trying to talk about all the great things available on the three FMP sites - UK, Ireland and Australasia (they call it Australia but as it also has New Zealand and the Pacific I like the broader name, I'm guessing that one day there will be a FMP NZ) and the new British Newspaper Archive. I've been fortunate to hear many talks on FMP from a variety of speakers and one of the things that always stands out for me is how much new material is going online all the time. It's almost impossible to keep up!

As principal sponsor, FMP had a big exhibit area with three staff all busy most of the time doing free searches of the various databases and explaining the features of each. For the congress there were also special subscription deals which is a great opportunity for those wanting a personal subscription they can access at home any time. For those who don't need that much access, FMP is also freely available at libraries, genealogical societies and state/national libraries. As a keynote presentation Vicki gave a thorough and professional overview of FMP which gave the audience a detailed knowledge of what is on offer. I'm looking forward to 17 April when the new website for FMP AU is launched so mark that date in your calendars!

My next session was Stephen Young on Power Point Your Family History and I found this an interesting way to present a family history or a slice of history at birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and of course funerals. My Mum's 78th is coming up and I thought I might try and put something together to show the family when I'm up in Brisbane in June. Although I'm not across all the whiz bang features that Stephen used in his demonstration, I'm willing to try and learn a few new tricks. What I would have liked is for him to mention some of the other free software eg Google Docs that is similar to PowerPoint as not everyone has it and may not want to buy it just for the odd presentation.

At afternoon tea time, I finally managed to catch up with Stephanie from State Library of Queensland who I had seen from a distance at various times. After a soothing Earl Grey tea and some tasty biscotti, I went to the session on Juvenile Emigration with Elspeth Grant previously at the Migration Museum in Adelaide. I had met Elspeth the night before at the Lord Mayor's reception. Had she warned me it was going to be such an emotional session, I might not have gone. As well as giving us the history of the various 'juvenile' schemes, Elspeth also had two people come along to tell their own personal stories. By the end of Bill and Pat's stories there wasn't a dry eye in the room and a few people were reaching for tissues. It was a great way to highlight how some of these schemes broke up families and how people have since tried to refind their families with all the emotion that brings. It was certainly a different way of looking at genealogy and family history research.

Not surprisingly that session went a bit over time so I raced back to the hotel as I wanted to get Day 2 blog out before I went to the conference dinner. Thankfully I did, managed to tweet and Facebook it for those reading about our daily adventures and then it was pre dinner drinks with Helen and Seonaid before going back to the Convention Centre for dinner. I'm not sure if it was by luck or design but most of the dinner tweeters were on my table with the exception of Liz (aka Infolass) and we managed to tweet for most of the evening.

As I seem to have a reputation for my culinary wining and dining, I should make some comment on the dinner which was a self serve at table mixed breads and continental antipasto platter. We only discovered the olive oil after we had demolished the entree. The main was a herb crust chicken roulade with fresh (overcooked) asparagus, saffron cream sauce and no potato (which was the comment I heard from most people). We must all like our spuds with dinner! Dessert was another self serve at table variety of sweets including fresh fruit tarts, strawberry pavlova, apple and almond slice and hazelnut pannacotta. There was also coffee and chocolates and without thinking I had the coffee but thankfully it didn't keep me awake. Sometimes if I have coffee that late I'm up half the night!

June Penny was the recipient of the AFFHO award for meritorious service to family history and I've known June for many years. She was an inspiration to me when I moved to Canberra and joined the HAGSOC committee and I always admired her meeting style. I hope the citation goes on the AFFHO website as it would take to long to outline all the many things June has done over the years. Well done June. A list of former recipients is here.

There was some bush dancing and music and a few congress delegates joined in including our table member Seonaid from New Zealand. Then Dan Poffenberger was the after dinner speaker and I forgot to write down the name of his talk! But it was a very funny look at odd entries from parish registers and other documents and a great way to end the evening. Then it was time to say good night and totter back across the road to the hotel.

It's hard to believe that today is Day 4 and it will all be over for another three years. I'm already looking forward to Canberra in 2015. Time to get ready and across the road for the last day of talks and to look round the exhibits (and maybe spend money)!


  1. You are spot on, Shauna. John Kitzmiller's
    attempt at a keynote was a poor effort. To only have 25 minutes worth of slides was unforgiveable. Did he have a runthrough before he presented?

    His talk should have been longer and tailored to an Australian audience.

  2. Thanks for sharing your days Shauna.....its nice to know what I missed!