Saturday 31 March 2012

Genealogy notes 31 March 2012 - Day 4 of AFFHO Congress

The 2012 AFFHO Congress is over and the last four days have gone incredibly quick. An update on yesterday's blog - I forgot to mention that the conference dinner was sponsored by NSW BDMs although they didn't present any papers at the Congress. A representative whose name escapes me now did do a very short speech which prompted a few tweets to 'bring back the wildcard'. Other sponsors I've chatted to over the last few days not previously mentioned include Ancestry, Openbook Howden Design and Print, Abbott Printers and Stationers, State Records South Australia, State Library South Australia and the Adelaide office of the National Archives of Australia. A full list of Congress sponsors is here.

I collected my very weighty conference proceedings first up and I hate to think how many trees were cut down! It's good to get the other papers as with four concurrent sessions you miss so much. I haven't had a chance to look through it yet but the weight was noticeable in my handbag all day!

Now to the last day's sessions. As usual the day started with a plenary session - Stephen Young on Descendancy Research - When You Can't Climb Up Your Family Tree, Branch Out. Stephen is a good speaker and I enjoyed the talk which was well illustrated with his own family history examples. But his message could have been delivered in five minutes and is really something that most of us do anyway, although I know I'm not as lucky in contacting distant family members and finding treasure troves of photos and documents. I guess what I'm coming to is that this shouldn't have been a plenary session and that seemed to be the general feeling of those I talked to at morning tea time.

The next session I went to was Mike Murray's Ten Top Tips for Finding Your 'hard to find' UK ancestors on the Internet and while I already do a lot of the things Mike mentioned, I still managed to pick up a few tips on using the big subscription databases such as Ancestry and FindMyPast. Mike is a good speaker and his ten points were covered well in the time period.

Then it was the trek back to the exhibition area for morning tea and the trek back afterwards - I found this good because at some conferences if everything is close together you can find yourself sitting for most of the day without a chance to walk and stretch out. Almost like enforced exercise to walk off those delicious chocolate cookies!

This next session I was really torn between Roger Kershaw talking about the National Archives UK and David Holman's Source for Mr Goose and Mrs Gander: Overview of UK Repositories (and I wondered if David's should have been a plenary session as others had the same dilemma). Anyway I ended up at Roger's session where he took us through the website explaining various features and outlining changes and future plans. It was most useful as I often get a bit lost on the site but his delivery style is very dry and a few more jokes/humour wouldn't go astray.

At 1.00pm Geniaus organised  a photo session for all Congress geneabloggers so you can see what A Social Media Mob looks like with our beads and put faces to names. Over the next few days/weeks we should get lots of blog reports to read as most haven't had the time to do it during the Congress and Geniaus is coordinating this. Stay tuned!

After lunch there was the final plenary and this was Dan Poffenberger talking about FamilySearch 2012 and Beyond and again this plenary fell into my category of product promotion by a sponsor (and why FamilySearch had more plenary sessions than the principal sponsor FindMyPast made me ponder). Dan is an entertaining speaker and his walk through the FamilySearch website was informative but I would have liked to see more time spent on some of the features like the Learning resources and the wiki.

For the very last session of the Congress I took the final opportunity to listen to Colleen Fitzpatrick talk about another one of her cases - The Curious Case of James/Jake/Smithers/Gray and I will never think of my family history as complicated again. My problems are simple compared to others! As usual Colleen was entertaining and it would be great to work on cases like that.

Then it was raffle draw time and there were some very excited winners. Kerry Farmer from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies gave a brief blurb on NIGS which is more in keeping with my idea of sponsorship promotions at conferences (also similar to the brief speech from NSW BDMs at the congress dinner). Although I guess it depends on what organisers offer to potential sponsors in the congress sponsorship package and it is always a vexed question at archive and library conferences I've attended over the years.

David Holman as Chair of the Federation of Family History Societies had one more role to play and that was to hand out the annual awards to Australasian winners. In the Best Websites Awards the overall winner was the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, with NZSG taking out first, and the Genealogical Society of Queensland second and Genealogical Society of Victoria third in the Overseas websites category. The overall winner of the Elizabeth Simpson Award for best family history journal went to Ancestor and the Genealogical Society of Victoria. Very exciting that New Zealand and Victoria took out the overall winners awards and well done to all the others.

Thanking the Adelaide organising committee was next and I think they did a very good job of organising a smoothly run congress with very few hiccups that I could see. As usual I will do a conference overview blog and my overall thoughts will be in that after I've done some more pondering.

The final task was the handover to the Canberra 2015 Congress and the Convenor gave a few highlights on the venues which include the National Convention Centre, the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House, all former haunts of mine so I've definitely put it into the calendar.

Now it's time for me to pack up here at the hotel, move back into the caravan and head off to Berri, South Australia Max's home town (although he was born in Port Lincoln). From there we will travel back along the Murray River and should be home in time for Easter. It's been a great few days and I will be sad not to see all my congress friends today. Safe travels home everyone!


  1. Thanks for the synopsis each day Shauna...much appreciated and look forward to detailed reports fm bloggers. With you all onnthe missing wildcards fm NSW BDM...invaluable with German research especially. Re the branching out, I'm not sure I agree. ong time researchers do this but think newbies probably don't. Thanks agin. Enjoy the drive home.

  2. Di Christensen1 April 2012 at 16:16

    thanks for blogging the Congress.Your comments on some speakers most interesting.
    Hopefully attendees found the next Victorian Conference Bookmarks in their satchels and are making plans to attend Ballarat next May

  3. Thanks Pauleen - Stephen Young's paper has more methodology in it than the show and tell he did in the plenary session so hopefully attendees will also read the paper.

  4. Thanks Shauna -will follow up the proceedings. Glad you could understand my cryptic comments typed on the ipad,sorry ;-0