Wednesday, August 7, 2013

IAJGS 2013 Conference - First Half Report

IAJGS 2013 is the first major genealogy conference I have attended and it has been an incredible learning experience. Not only have I learned that I already know a lot, but that there is always more to learn. Below I list the sessions I have attended and a bit of what I learned from each one.

Finding Genealogy Data in U.S. Court Records with Diane Freilich JD, who has been a licensed Michigan attorney for 40 years.
I learned that I should call the county courthouse where I believe records might be (for example, the legal name change for Max Levitas to Max Levitt very possibly happened in Cape May County, New Jersey) to find out the best time to visit. I should not be afraid to ask questions of the court personnel and I should not take no for an answer.

It's News to Me! Online Historical Newspaper Research for Genealogists with Pamela Weisberger, a professional genealogist and internationally-known lecturer who specializes in map and newspaper resources.
I learned about some additional online newspaper resources beyond GenealogyBank and's Historical Newspapers and was reminded of some I have used in the past. For example, Old Fulton NY Post Cards website can be a challenge to search, but it is a great resource for New York news items that may not be in the New York Times.

Clued-In: The Stories are in the Details with Ava Cohn (a.k.a. Sherlock Cohn), The Photo Genealogist with a specialty in Jewish family photographs.
I learned how to look at a photo with the eyes of the different people involved, not only those sitting for the photo, but the photographer, the keeper of the photo, and the genealogist. As a genealogist, I need to look closely at all the details in a photo including facial expressions and positioning of those in the photo, as well as their clothing and hairstyles.

One-Step Website: A Potpourri and Hodgepodge of Genealogical Search Tools with Stephen Morse, the brilliant creator of the One-Step website.
I learned that there is a lot more to Steve Morse's One-Step website than just finding enumeration districts for the 1920, 1930, and 1940 U.S. Censuses. If you are already somewhat familiar with his website and it looks really full of information (it is), scroll all the way to the bottom and click on where it says you can "click here to close all the folders." Then you can more easily explore one folder of tools at a time. If you want to get a sense of what his talk covered (as well as a taste of his sense of humor) read About This Website and How to Use It, which is a link just about at the top of the home page.

Organizit: Reducing Your Paper and Digital Clutter with Rhoda Miller, a Certified Genealogist who has been an educator for over 40 years.
My take-away from this session was that I need to recognize that I can't organize everything in one day and I need to think small and break the organizing down into small 15-30 minute tasks.

All of the attendees wear large name tags that include the primary surnames and locations they are researching, so everyone is walking around looking at others' name tags. Before the next session, I recognized a name of a reader of my blog and we discussed our respective Handler families in Ohio. We are not sure if there is a relation here or not.

Introduction to Jewish Surnames with Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen, a tremendously important website for Jewish genealogists.
This session started with four myths about Jewish surnames:
#1 that there are Jewish surnames (most Jews took or were given surnames in the late 18th or 19th century)
#2 everyone with the same surname is related (note parenthetical comment to #1)
#3 names were changed at Ellis Island (Dick Eastman wrote a great article about this myth in 2012.)
#4 most surnames are meaningful (no, not really)
And then he went on to describe how Jews might have received their surnames.

After I ate lunch and before the next session, I had Ava Cohn, the Photo Genealogist whom I had heard speak on Sunday, take a look at a couple of photos I have from the Handler / Hollander branch of the family. I will write about that separately.

Introduction to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Records for Genealogists with Zack Wilske, a Historian for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
I learned that there are many more files at the USCIS and National Archives than just the naturalization papers you usually find.

Understanding, Interpretation and Use of DNA Results (Sponsored by Family Tree DNA) with Bennett Greenspan, founder and president of Family Tree DNA.
Although I have read about it before, it is always good to hear someone experienced with DNA testing explain the difference between Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA testing, and as founder and president of Family Tree DNA, Bennett is a good one to explain this. Although I have had my DNA tested at Family Tree DNA, I am now inspired to have many more family members get tested.

Finding Your Jewish Roots on Ancestry (Sponsored by with Crista Cowan, who has been with since 2004, and has been interested in family history since childhood.
I have been an subscriber for a few years and am pretty familiar with the website, but I really wanted to hear Crista speak in person and I did pick up a few new things in her talk. I learned that I need to explore the Learning Center (see drop down box at right) more. And for those of you who can't afford to pay's subscription rates, there are quite a few free items there, the Learning Center being one.

Mapping Madness with Ron Arons, a researcher and author who specializes in researching criminals.
I learned about a few features in Google Maps and Microsoft's Bing Maps that I didn't know about before. Ron also talked about a variety of other mapping websites from historical maps to InMaps, a feature of LinkedIn that can visually display your LinkedIn connections.

Haplogroups - What They Are and What They Mean for Jews (Sponsored by Family Tree DNA) with Bennett Greenspan, whom I heard on Monday and came back for more.
In this session, I learned more about Haplogroups. A Haplogroup is the branch of the tree of mankind from which you descend. There are Y-DNA Haplogroups and mtDNA Haplogroups. When I test more family members, I may share more about the results at this blog.

Navigating the New York Census with Fewer Tears with Stephen Morse, whom I heard on Sunday and came back for more.
I learned more about the five boroughs of New York City, (each borough is in its own county - I didn't know that before!). I learned more about the 1905, 1915 and 1925 New York State Censuses and how to use his One-Step website to search NYC's five boroughs for family either by name or by address (which is useful when you know where your ancestor lived, but the surname is one that is easily mangled by a census enumerator or a later indexer).

I have also met Lara of Lara's Genealogy Blog (who is blogging twice daily about the conference) and Emily Garber of (going) The Extra Yad, whose talk I missed (8:15 was too early for me to get into the city), but was quite popular from what I heard.

I took a break today (Wednesday) and will be back in Boston Thursday and Friday for more learning.

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