Friday, August 9, 2013

IAJGS 2013 Conference - Second Half Report

IAJGS 2013 is a five and a half day conference. I wrote about my first three days of learning here. I took a break on Wednesday, and returned for more on Thursday and Friday.

Following are the sessions I attended on the last two days of the conference and my comments on them. I heard mostly very good things about this conference and the speakers. I am glad that I was able to take advantage of attending such an extraordinary conference so close to home.

The Coming "Big Bang" in Genealogical Research: Automated Matching of Databases and Family Trees with Adam Brown & Randy Schoenberg, who are actively involved with, an online collaborative family tree.
Adam and Randy talked about, a moderated online family tree and resource for collaborative genealogy research. This website also provides opportunities for researchers to set  up a Geni project and invite researchers to collaborate.

Who the Heck is Ida Gerskill: Some Challenges of Researching Jewish Names with Meredith Hoffman, a professional genealogist with a degree in linguistics.
This session built on the session I attended on Monday, with Warren Blatt, on Jewish surnames. The take away is to remember that spelling doesn't count when you're trying to research your Jewish ancestors - there are a ton of reasons why names appear differently in all these records. Meredith also provided a few ideas about looking for a mother's maiden name and an ancestral town name.

Immigrant Clues in Photographs with Maureen Taylor, an internationally-known photography expert. Her knowledge complements that of Ava Cohn, whom I heard at the start of the conference.
Her talk focused on late 19th century and early 20th century photographs, of which she had many examples. She used these examples to explain what to look for to help identify the date, location and reason for the photo.

Best Search Strategies on with Crista Cowan, whom I heard speak on Monday.
I enjoy listening to Crista speak (she handles a crowd very well), but I realize that I know how to explore pretty well now. I did hear a couple of good reminders that I will share with you. First, a user can set the Collection Priority when doing a search; scroll down to the bottom of the Advanced Search page to find the Collection Priority box. (See an example of the drop-down box at right; you can see that "Jewish" is one of the choices.) Also, when you have done a search and have that results page, RIGHT-CLICK to open a the result in a new tab so you don't lose that initial results page if you want to systematically work through the results.
And in some cases, you might want to search by location: where you see "Any Event," enter a location with no name - this will give results for that location. As you may guess, this only works well for smaller locations in the U.S. and in some foreign collections.

Interestingly, in her introduction, Crista emphasized that if you have your tree on, it remains yours; you collaborate with other users only if you want to. This, of course, is in contrast to, the collaborative family tree site. Neither system is "right" or "wrong" and I appreciate that there are multiple options out there for researchers, depending on how one views his or her research.

Mapped! Jewish populations in Europe and beyond - a resource for your research with Sandra Crystall, a genealogist with experience using computer mapping software as a wetland scientist.
This was a fascinating look at what she and another researcher, Laurence Leitenberg, have been working on to create an online map showing not only 20th century border changes, but graphically displaying the Jewish population in European cities between 1750 and 1930. She hopes to have the project completed by this fall where it will be found at the website for the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy.

Evidence Analysis: Determining the "Right" Record with Rhoda Miller, who I heard speak on Monday about organizing your paper and digital files.
Rhoda went through the Genealogical Proof Standard (which you can read about at the BCG website and other sites) with several examples from her own research. I have been hearing about the "GPS" for quite awhile now and thought I had a pretty good handle on it, but seeing her examples of sources (original or derivative), information (primary or secondary), and evidence (direct, indirect or negative) was extremely instructive. The tables she uses in her examples to analyze evidence were a great way to help a researcher visualize the necessary analysis.

My Grandfather Came from Poison with Meredith Hoffman, who held an initial session on Thursday (see above) about researching Jewish names.
Again, the big lesson with regards to Jewish genealogy is that spelling doesn't count. (Of course, this also applies to U.S. genealogy research, if you are working with records from the 19th century and earlier.) Meredith reviewed the resources at JewishGen, including the Given Names Database and the Communities Database. Surnames / family names can be explored in the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index (CJSI), hosted (for free) at

My brain is exploding (in a good way) with all of the new things I have learned during this past week. As experienced genealogists know, not everything (not by a long shot) is online, but there are a lot of learning resources available online, including JewishGen,'s Learning Center, and Steve Morse's About the One-Step website and How to Use It, that even experienced genealogists should visit or revisit periodically to brush up their research skills.


  1. Hi Elizabeth, I read about this conference and am so glad that you were able to go and learn so much. I'm always finding new ways to use, often finding that there are tools right under the nose that I never thought to use before.

    Speaking of which, I wanted to thank you for posting about JewishGen's ViewMate-- I finally uploaded a couple of photos I got (through JewishGen) of two great-uncles' tombstones. SOme very nice people responded, and one of them was able to give me accurate (and extremely touching) translations! Just posted about that, in fact-- quite exciting.

    1. Karen, I saw your post about how JewishGen helped you out - wonderful inscriptions! I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at the IAJGS conference. Thanks for commenting.

    2. I did enjoy reading about it, Elizabeth, thanks. And yes, I found the inscriptions so beautiful, they made me tear up.