Sunday, September 20, 2009

WSGS State Conference: Day Two

After four-and-a-half hours of sleep(!), I arrived at the Davenport at 7:00 AM to meet vendors who still needed to set up for the day. We had quite a well-rounded selection of vendors, all of whom were featured in posts on the EWGS blog: the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Archives in Seattle, the Washington State Digital Archives/Eastern Regional Archives of Washington State, MaKaNcy (the retro card ladies!), the DAR and SAR, the Northwest Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association, Creative Memories, Susan Faulkner (author of Finding Pasco), the Puget Sound Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, RootsMagic, Generation Maps, Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, and the Washington State Genealogical Society. Megan sold her books in the dining rooms after the meals and sold out all she brought. Unfortunately, with my responsibilities to the vendors and at our own EWGS vendor table, I didn't get an opportunity to purchase any of her books. :-(

A continental breakfast was set up buffet-style in the Marie Antoinette Room, and like dinner the night before, we had more attendees than expected. I ended up sitting in the balcony because all the tables on the main floor were full (I hadn't been able to get in at the start of breakfast to get a "good seat" since I was working with the vendors to get set up). The meal consisted of croissants and a variety of sweet breads and muffins (including gluten-free ones), as well as fruit platters of melon, berries, and grapes. Fruit juices, coffee, and tea were also available. Since I had a great view of the room from the balcony, I took out my camera with the newly-charged batteries...and it didn't work. I quickly figured out that my charger was the culprit and realized I would have to snag photos from other EWGS members to share on my blog. I didn't have long to sit and stew about the matter, because there were door and raffle prizes to hand out (another one of my duties at each meal) and then Megan began her presentation on "Reverse Genealogy: Finding Your Lost Loved Ones."

Megan explained how she uses reverse genealogy to track down living relatives of the military deceased in her job with the U.S. Army, and how these steps can be used to find missing relatives or friends, find other genealogy "playmates", attract reunion attendees, find DNA study participants, locate--or return--family heirlooms, photos and Bibles, and save lives by finding donors or warning relatives about disease predispositions. The sound system was working better in this room and we didn't have the hearing difficulties we did the evening before.

After a 15 minute break, Session A began. I chose Pat Bayonne-Johnson's African American Genealogy presentation. I had heard her presentation to EWGS in the past about her search for her roots in Louisiana, but I enjoyed being in a smaller group where we had more opportunities for Q & A. She has some great resources in the syllabus, and I was sorry more people didn't attend this session. Too many European Americans out there don't realize that in order to get past your brick walls, you must study the research strategies of those who have huge challenges from the get-go in their searches due to a dearth or the destruction of records: African-American, Jewish, Eastern European, and Native American. People with these roots are constantly having to think outside the box, use alternate sources, find unusual repositories, wade through oral histories to find nuggets of truth, learn genealogical terms in foreign languages and alphabets, and use DNA in their research; and those of us without these ethnic roots can learn so much from them!

After Session A, I had to answer some questions for some vendors. I was running late for Session B anyway, and was still pretty tired from the lack of sleep the night before. Also, not being a morning person and always needing some time to get my bearings together over a cup of coffee, I felt it would be to my advantage to just sit out that session instead of feeling frazzled all day. Originally, I had planned to attend the session on NEHGS Databases, because at that time, I did not have a membership, was curious about the website, and felt the presentation might be a good introduction. Between signing up for the session last spring and the conference opening, I had joined NEHGS on a summer special deal and am now familiar with their online databases, so I felt I could safely skip that session. I asked a couple of people afterward about it and they both said it was a fine presentation and that the syllabus had a good outline. Meanwhile, I chatted with vendors, including Carol Buswell of the National Archives in Seattle, who told me about free classes NARA offers on their virtual academy (I'll write a post on this later)!

Following Session B, we had lunch, again in the Marie Antoinette Room. This meal was also done buffet-style, and I had to admit, I was a little disappointed by the selection. It featured the same chicken, salad, and rolls we had had the evening before, with orzo instead of sticky rice. There was also some nice salmon, but since a lot of attendees probably felt the same way I did about the chicken, most of it was gone by the time I came along at the end. I was able to snag a seat near the front of the room this time, which made it much easier for me to get up to hand out prizes. Before Megan's next presentation, we had the WSGS Annual Meeting, with the appropriate society representatives standing to be acknowledged, as well as various reports being read. Then each society honored one or two volunteers, and I was honored, along with Cecily Cone Kelly, Conference Committee Chairperson, as a EWGS Volunteer of the Year.

Megan's mid-day presentation was "Trace Your Roots with DNA". She explained the different kinds of tests (Y-DNA, mtDNA, SNP, ethnic, etc.), and also shared the story of figuring out whether she was related to her husband (both her maiden and married names are Smolenyak). She also talked about the various companies that provide DNA testing, the best-known, the lesser known, and some of the "new kids on the block."

After lunch were two more sessions. I attended Bruce Buzbee's "RootsMagic Genealogy Program", and even though I'm a long-time user of RootsMagic and am familiar with the newest version (RootsMagic 4), I am glad I attended, since I learned some new things. I think it's great when you can sit down and listen to a presentation of software by the developer, because you get some real insight into the nitty-gritty of the details. RootsMagic is such a user-friendly program, and I was able to obtain a copy of the brand-new user's manual.

For Session D, I chose Steve Baylor's "Drawing and Keeping Society Members in an Internet Environment." Rather than being presented in lecture-style, it was held in a group-setting, with contributions expected from each participant! We had to introduce ourselves, tell what society we belonged to, and describe our roles within that society. Steve drew heavily on the book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, a sociologist, explaining how genealogy societies are not alone in loss of members. Nearly every social group out there, from lodges to bowling leagues to civic organizations has seen a loss of membership since their peak during the post-World War II years. We learned how society as a whole has become less civic-minded over the years and how the media (television, internet, etc.) has also left its impact. We discussed how as societies, we must learn to use social media in order to stay viable. We must also understand the personality types of individuals (machers [go-getters] vs. schmoozers [social butterflies]) who join our societies--and their strengths and weaknesses. By avoiding personal agendas, encouraging respectful dialogue, using common group wisdom, having clear goals and a common consensus on projects, societies can remain viable and even have growth. I was very impressed by this presentation.

By the end of the day, I was very weary and my mind was quite full! Dinner was to be "on your own" and although I was invited to out to dinner with the WSGS Board and EWGS Conference Committee, I declined and opted to go home and get some rest after making sure the vendors had been able to break down and clear up.

So ended Day Two!

WSGS State Conference: Day One
WSGS State Conference: Day Three
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