Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pinteresting Family History

As social networking fads go, I am usually a late bloomer. I wait until the hype has died down, and until I know it is a product that is going to stick around long enough for me to add it to my list of e-habits. When the hype about Pinterest started reaching a fever pitch, from first glance, I was unamused. I'm not getting married, I just re-decorated my new house, and I jumped off the crafty barge years what would I use this for? I knew I was making a pre-judgement about it, and with the buzz, I decided to give it a shot. And sooooooo, I was hooked immediately. Here's why:

To my core, I am a hugely visual person. I have always loved photography and beautiful images - and collected them at an early age in the form of cuttings or souvenirs. Pinterest appealed to this nature since it is simply virtual scrapbooking. I collected images from around the internet into little albums of my subject choice - called "boards" in Pinterest. Once I started boards for the things I love, books, libraries, tea, gardening, history, etc., I found it to be a relaxing and visually stimulating game. And just FYI - this is supposed to be fun, not serious - so let's not over think this people! In short order, I was abandoning "Words With Friends" to see what neat outfits my friends had pinned, or what art work I could add to the mix. Sometimes, I even pinned photos from my blogs. Which is how an idea started to grow.

When I was a teenager, I made a real scrapbook. I can go back to that scrapbook today and view the images with a sense of nostalgia and happy or sad memories. Pinterest does the same thing. I can look at my boards and get a real sense of the things I love or enjoy. In essence, they are representations of me - in such colorful and vibrant expressions! As I looked at them and had some fun, I suddenly wished I had the same visual essence about my ancestors. After all, they loved scrapbooking too. Only a few still exist, but we have examples of the same thing in tangible form. If they could make the same visual choices, what would they pin? What would we learn about them?

Since I could not go back and ask them to pin things.....I started thinking about what images reminded me of them. Once I made a few boards in honor of a few grandparents that have passed, I soon discovered this had the potential to be a useful, teachable and shareable tool for family history. We are always searching for ways to draw in the interest of younger people, to share their heritage in engaging ways. This is a unique and fun way to do so. Let me show you a few boards, followed by what and why I pinned, plus what I learned through the pinning. I quickly discovered that the more I pinned, the more memories were coming to me, in flashes of color. Stories were being remembered, and I was happily remembering my loved ones in ways I had not done so in a long time.

Boards created: Grandpa Charles, Grandpa Roy, Grandma Freida, Great Grandma Nellie
Description for each: What I remember, and what reminds me of him/her.

Subject 1:
Grandpa Charles
What I pinned:
Cigars - I can remember him smoking these when I was little, but he stopped when I was about 10.
Benji - He and Grandma took us kids to see this Movie and then they bought a dog that looked just like Benji - and named him as such!
Military images - WWII, D-Day
France - He and the family were stationed there during the Korean War.
Delta Queen - He and Grandma took so many trips on this famous boat, I could not count them.
Trains - Both real and model. Grandpa worked for the Railroad for years - at Union Terminal (another pin) - plus he collected and showed model trains (sometimes all of us grandkids helped him with his model train shows).
Nickel - When it was his turn to baby sit, he would try to bribe us kids with a nickel to "be good"!

Subject 2:
Grandpa Roy
Cows - He was a dairy farmer in Kentucky.
Tobacco - Grew lots on the same farm.
Tractors and field images.
Old Westerns - Zane Grey Books or TV Westerns, or anything "out west" - he loved all of these!
Fireflies - He was always around when we were catching them, either on the front porch with a glass of iced tea (See Freida's pin board), or reminding us the next morning to "let those bugs go or they'll die in that jar!"
Virginia Beach - I remember him lifting me up in the air whenever a wave would hit us - I was only five, but I remember this vividly.
Amtrak - I remember the train ride from Cincinnati to Washington D.C. when I was 9 - He and I were seat buddies behind my Mom and Grandma Freida.
Border Collies - He always had these dogs on the farm - and I dearly loved each one!

Subject 3:
Grandma Freida
Iced Tea - She was making this ALL the time - and we LOVED it!
Corn on the cob - from picking it, to peeling it, to cooking it, to eating it....wonderful memories.
Books and the Bible - She was a big reader of the Bible and books in general.
Iron Skillets - For cornbread, of course.
Garter snake - She was talented at going after those things with a hoe! Got them every time!
Canning jars - She canned when I was young, and then moved to freezing when I was older, but either meant a lot of growing, picking and blanching.
Flowers, fruit - Had a large orchard, plus various flowers around the house.

Subject 4:
Great Grandma Nellie
Gone with the Wind Lamps, Moon & Star Glassware - She was a huge antique collector!
Kittens - Always hiding around her porch.
Cotton aprons - Always had one on when I visited.
Sugar cookies!
Hollyhocks and Hollyhock Dolls - She taught me how to make these.
Old school bus in the back, used for storage - but full of bumble bees in the summer!
Letters - She wrote letters all the time.
Family Tree - She was the gatherer of family history and photographs and let me play among them at a young age - letting me ask loads of questions. She was the one who inspired me to research the family and pass on our legacy.
After all of this, I realized that the more I looked at the images I pinned, the more they were drawing even more memories out of my psyche. I also drew some conclusions about the people I remembered. Grandma Freida was such a minimalist, and as I tried to go back through her house in memory, I was having a hard time picking out things she liked - because I do not have one memory of her buying something just because she liked it. She was always buying things for others and living life centered on what happened outside the house on the farm. This is in contrast to Grandpa Charles, who loved collecting things and taking enjoyment in frivolous novelties - two very different ways of life!

Oh! And don't forget, the beauty of Pinterest, is that the memories are not just yours. You can open up your boards to other family members to invite them to post their favorite images about the loved will soon learn that though we have some similar memories, many of us have very different ones, which adds a dimension to the life that was. This is a great way to get families talking about memories. As they post an image, remind them to try and give a caption that explains what this image conjures for them. This can be done anytime of the year, or just after a loved one dies as a celebration, or just before a family reunion! The possibilities are endless - but the fun and lessons learned are far reaching!

A last note about copyright. There is some current stink swirling around about copyright and Pinterest. I will post a link to an article about it - but some people are upset that it pulls in images for sharing with thousands of people without proper credit given. My take on this - as long as you are pinning an image from the direct url source, the image becomes a visual url - clicking on it should take me to the original source. I cannot steal the low-rez image and reproduce for profit, I am sharing visual links with friends - which happens in multiple ways all over the internet. Some places, like Flickr, are starting to block their image content from being pinned - which is ridiculous since they are freely sharing the images with the world already by posting to Flickr - with the understanding that I am only visually enjoying them, not stealing them nor re-using them in an abusive way - I hope the rest of the world does not take this drastic and silly stance. I have purposely visited some of my favorite blogs to pin images knowing people will track back to the blog and give my favorite authors some more, and well deserved traffic. I also pin a few desired products complete with pricing - this is the evolving nature of social media - as long as we use this correctly (and pin from the original source), people are getting credit. But then, hey Pinterest - why not pull in the citation info with an image to include as a caption? Just a thought!

Article from PCWorld:

Positively Splendid Article about proper Pinterest Etiquette:

At the moment, Pinterest is invite only, so if anyone needs an invite, just shoot me an e-mail. If you want to follow my boards as the memories evolve - I am Pastology on Pinterest.
Happy pinning!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

52 Weeks - Genealogy Libraries

I am woefully behind on this year's 52 Weeks blogging challenge. Last year's 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy was a fun trip down memory lane when I was able to jump in. This year, the new prompts are more about sharing your favorite genealogy tips or resources. With a new job and RootsTech this year, I am just now getting back into my blogging groove. a Librarian, I cannot let this week's challenge go by without a comment or two about my favorite libraries. So, as I sneak in just under the wire for this week's challenge, I will begin by confessing that a couple of these are shameless plugs as I have been very affiliated with two out of the four Libraries I am going to post about. Also these small profiles are about Genealogy Libraries in the Central Kentucky area - PLUS, they are Libraries I am familiar with. If I leave out any special places in this area, this is not intentional, and one can only give an opinion of those places one is knowledgeable about - so feel free to comment if you have experience in other Central Kentucky Genealogy Libraries that I missed.

The Kentucky Historical Society, Martin F. Schmidt Research Library, Frankfort, KY:
This is one of my plugs as I am currently the Senior Librarian/Reference Specialist with this Library. But I must say, I fell in love with this Library the moment they built it, ten+ years ago. When I started my true genealogy journey, many years ago, I begin seeking out genealogy specific Libraries and I have to say this one was the number two spot on my hit list. Back then, they were housed in the Old State Capitol annex and even though it was cramped, it was the place I was first introduced to Ship Passenger Lists and Census records - before ANYTHING was online! When they decided to build the new Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, they hit a home run! This Center conducts amazing educational programs, houses a wonderful museum area and has the largest Genealogy Library in the state! Among the many features, as quoted from their site:

"Located on the second floor of the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Kentucky Historical Society Martin F. Schmidt Research Library houses over 90,000 published works, dealing primarily with history and genealogy, as well as more than 16,000 reels of microfilm and over 30,000 vertical files of collected and contributed research."

Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, KY:
Whenever I talk about genealogy research in Kentucky, I always include this Library as well. While the previous Library houses the most genealogy specific material (published genealogies, family history files, special collections, etc), this Library houses the most official records on the state/county level. They are THE official repository for the records of Kentucky and should NOT be missed when conducting research in the area or the State! They too have a wonderful facility just up the hill on the Connector in Frankfort - and might I add, both facilities have GREAT parking!

University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington, KY:
This is my second plug as I worked for this Library system for over 11 years. Now, I know this is not thought of as a genealogy specific Library, but it houses a collection that should be on EVERY Kentucky genealogist's list. They maintain, and reproduce for sale, the largest collection of Kentucky newspapers on microfilm. I detailed how to access their collection in this previous post about newspapers in Kentucky. Might I also add, that they do have a decent collection of genealogy material both in the form of published genealogies (many on the shelf in the main Library) and county compiled records (in their Special Collections Library). They also have wonderful map and photograph collections! I will be speaking on their collection as well as how to access it at the next 2nd Saturday Genealogy Workshop Program on March 10th at the Kentucky Historical Society. BTW, I always like to mention that UK loans these newspapers to Libraries all over the world via Interlibrary Loan, so even those out of state should look into this option!

The John Fox Jr. Genealogical Library, Paris KY:
This little gem is on my list for sentimental reasons. It was the FIRST genealogy Library I visited when I began my research trek. It is very small by comparison, but it is housed in the state headquarters for the Daughters of the American Revolution. The hours are very unpredictable since it is run solely by volunteers, but it is one of those old-school genealogy hubs that provides solid expertise and research help by the dedicated volunteers that are willing to assist. They were very kind and patient when I visited as a budding genealogist in my early 20s, which places them on my list of favorite genealogy Libraries in my area!

Get researching folks! These places will keep you busy!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Little Tablet Went To.....

When the end of the year tablet debates were swirling around, I was quietly gaining some of my own experience in this area. I really didn't have an opinion, and to be honest, it's still a work in progress. This is an entirely new technology concept for me, but since I love technology and new gadgets to help me get things done, I knew I needed to explore this further. After initiating this new toy, uh, I mean tool, at RootsTech, I thought I would fill you in on my progress so far.

Once upon a time.....
I was searching for a tablet to call my own, yet EXTREMELY hesitant to fork out $600-$800 on one of the most popular brands. I was a veteran iPhone user, having had one for about 3 years, which naturally meant  my leaning towards and iPad. The price was my main beef. Once that obstacle was in my way, I was very ready to begin looking at other options.

I knew the size of an iPad, and had seen it in use among my colleagues. Even my preacher looks pretty swanky up there using his instead of a paper notepad - but then, he looks cool all the time! The size was a concern for me. I knew it was large, and I wondered how I would carry it around despite it's thin and light-weight nature. I also knew it had some limitations, such as not being able to read Flash sites or not easily handling documents. But, you can't argue with the streamline nature of iPad: it's video, music, visual and app strength. We both know Apple and Android fight over the app market, but there really isn't any contest - Apple won that one long ago. (I will talk a bit more on that in a minute)

Since my budget was just not going to give on the price, and since I wasn't willing to settle for a version that was tied to wireless only, I started shopping all of the options. My debate was between 7 or 10 inch, and anything in between - and I was busy doing my homework on the subject. As long as the tablet was Android at least, I figured I could get by. But, that is when it happened....I found a SALE!!

 Since I am a tethered ATT&T customer, and since I knew I could get the data plan from them, I thought I would take a look at their offerings beyond the iPad. I was not convinced I had to go with them, but I needed to see what their plans looked like, etc. This was about a week and a half before Thanksgiving, and just prior to the release of the Kindle Fire, which I had on my radar as an opti
on. I stumbled upon a "deal" they had online at the time - a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab for $70! You read that right - SEVENTY DOLLARS! Yes, I know, refurbished is not the same, but I am a sale sucker and most of my pcs have been refurbished - with no adverse effects. Refurbished did not bother me in the least, and the only string attached was the commitment to start a 2 year contract for the data plan at $35 dollars a month. Since I was already prepared to begin a new data plan, I was happy with the whole arrangement, and figured this was a great way for me try out the tablet experience for a couple of years to see what I think, and to decide whether the size I am getting is too small for my needs. I purchased the 7 inch that they were offering and my tablet adventures began.

When I got the new toy/tool, I was a little disappointed in the size, but it sure was pretty! We played together a while as I learned this new Android system, but we weren't exactly bonding as I had hoped. I did like that it was small enough to fit in my purse very easily - and cute enough to be seen its new leather case that resembles a book! I found the Android system to be clunky and not as intuitive as the Apple platform I was used to. The hidden or pop-up menus are still proving to be an adjustment. I was also disappointed in the app availability with the Android. Some of my iPhone favs were not there, and even the rest of the offerings seemed sparse. I expect, as time goes by, to see Android and Apple become more even in the app department, but as of now, there is still a great divide, in my opinion. I did LOVE the reading apps. I have both the Kindle and Nook loaded, and have enjoyed buying some e-books for the flight to SLC - this part worked beautifully!

Beyond using it to surf or read before bed, I found I was not using it as much as I had hoped. I took it to work one evening, and found it to be a great tool for helping patrons at the reference desk in the Library! If we were looking for something in particular, I could take the tablet along to the stacks and search for the next item without having to go back to a pc for another search. This was VERY helpful. I also appreciated its ability to read Flash sites. I was not so convinced that I could use this for blogging very easily, but I was willing to give that a try.
In preparation for RootsTech, I was going to try using the tablet only while traveling. After hauling around my laptop last year, I was ready to fly with only a tablet. In anticipation of this new plan, I purchased a Samsung dock keyboard to aid in my blogging (about $50). The semi-full-sized keyboard is the bomb! I love this ability which really extends the usefullness of this tool! However, despite this additional gem that allowed me to blog on the fly without a laptop, there was no USB port to allow me to upload pics from my camera.  There is a micro SD card slot in the Tab, but this means I would have to buy a special micro converter for my camera, advice, try to get a Tab with a USB port! With this latest complication, I was forced to bring along the laptop anyway (besides, I had other work duties I needed to perform while away which involved the full Office Suite, and which is way beyond a Tablet's ability). 
During the conference, I chose to bring along only the tablet and left the laptop in the room. While my colleagues were getting out their laptops to type notes, I was forcing myself to use the Tablet, usually without the keyboard. At first, this was clunky, and I found myself wanting to reach for the dock, or lusting over small netbooks that could type easily, but so lightweight they didn't weigh you down as a laptop would. But then it happened.....she and I found our groove!

I am a session hopper when it comes to conferences. Especially at RootsTech when there are so many concurrent sessions for each time slot. When I go into a session, I sit or stand at the back, ready to leave if the session is not quite what I was expecting - of after half of it, I dash out to catch a snippet from another going on down the hall. As I walk around, I suddenly realized that I could easily stand or walk and have the tablet open, typing very fast with both thumbs like speed texting on my iPhone - yet much easier! As a side note, I was using EverNote for my note taking which meant everything was already waiting for me back home or on my laptop as soon as I hit the sync button - glorious! By the end of the conference, I was no longer jealous of the laptops around me and smugly got out my new best friend for note taking when we were in a lab session where laptops could not fit!
After I purchased my Tab, I loaded genealogy apps on there - the free ones only - but they are very inadequate so far. They will read Gedcoms - which was helpful when researching at the Family History Library in SLC - but you cannot alter them or add to them in any way. I attended Jill Ball's presentation on her experience with the Galaxy Tab and genealogy, but she had not reviewed the paid genealogy apps either, so maybe after they all work their bugs out, we can purchase these apps with confidence. I have heard RootsMagic has one coming soon, but I am waiting for Legacy to get one going - hurry up please!
To wrap things up for now, she and I are good buddies. I still don't use her as often as I should, but she has earned her keep! I can't wait to partner up with her again for NGS in Cincy or to take her on a real vacation - not only for her reading abilities - but for the blogging function I love with the additional keyboard. There is another option for an outside keyboard - a bluetooth keyboard instead of a dock - but they are thinner and smaller, and roughly the size of the tablet since they are designed to fit in the same cover. I have also heard that the other carrier companies block the bluetooth feature with the Galaxy Tabs, but ATT&T allows this function. 

We will give an update if our relationship develops further, but for now, we are still learning about each other. BTW, the week after I purchased my Galaxy, the Kindle Fire was released for $199. That same day, ATT&T raised the price of the refurbished Galaxy Tab to match at $199. I was a little surprised, but then, not really. I have not checked to see if they lowered them again - but keep your eye out for special deals! Mine functions exactly as a new one would - so I am very happy with the reduced price!
Toodles for now!
C and the GT

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love According to Jack & Thelma

A couple of years ago I got a little addicted to buying original letters and photos at Ebay. My addiction was partly a result of the bidding wars that took place for the WWII letters of Jack (George) Hunt and Thelma Barnes. Apparently, this collection was sold at an estate sale, but subsequently separated into batches for the online auction market. I have not investigated Jack Hunt's War record yet, but I do know he began his service in 1942 and served well into 1945. During this time, he was engaged to his hometown sweetheart, Thelma Barnes. Unfortunately, I was unable to win all of the batches of letters written between these two, but I managed to snag about 100. The separation of this collection was conducted in a mercenary fashion as usual. Batches of 10 were parcelled out in date order, with the exception of a few singled out to be sold on their own when the content was particularly interesting or rare. It was doubly sad that no one seemed to want Thelma's letters since she was writing from the homefront - hers went very cheap. Yet, their story is only half known if we only read one side of the exchange.
The wonderful thing about these letters is the prolific prose found inside. Jack was a very engaged writer! He was articulate, his penmanship was clear, he was detailed, and he was funny! He was not the most grammatically correct writer, but his sweet affections expressed for Thelma are some of the most adorable I have ever read. Instead of the standard (and often boring) letters back home, Jack actually described what he was doing, how he was training, what movies he saw, and how much he wanted to spend the rest of his life with dear Thelma. As I went through the letters, these two expected some sort of leave within 1943 or so to get married, but the War kept getting in the way. The more they wrote, the more they expressed their desire to marry and have a happy life with children. I also noticed that as the War drug on, Jack's letters became much more solemn in nature - but he never waned from his desire to marry Thelma. By the last letters in 1945, I did not know if he made it home to marry his sweetheart, but then I stumbled upon Thelma's obit from 2008. I was very excited to see that they did get married as soon as he got home in 1945 and had several children. Jack died in 1971, but Thelma remained true and never remarried. After reading their passionate love letters, I am not surprised in the least!
These are some excerpts from their February letters.

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone! (P.S. Don't you love her pink stationary?!)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

RootsTech Round-Up

I know it's pretty odd to skip posts from RootsTech Day 1 to a final Round-Up, but I have an explanation. I'm totally frazzled after this trip! After the Day 1 post, I had every intention of completing a Day 2 and Day 3, but if you have never been to RootsTech, you must understand that the schedule is intense! Besides, not only did I get sick during the conference and am trying to recover, but I have taken so many notes about the sessions themselves that I want to devote single posts to some of the issues brought up during each one. This post will include some of the highlights, my experiences and a brief review of how things went.

For those of you who were not able to attend, and for those of you who did, but could not get to every session (ie: you are not a super hero able to be in 13 places at once), be sure to check into the main RootsTech web site and view the recorded sessions that are available, as well as searching for RootsTech on YouTube.

For now, let me give you my top 10 highlights of RootsTech 2012:

1. Keynotes: Fantastic this year and really put what we learned into a future-minded perspective! They were energetic, informative and reminded us all of why we were there! It also helped us see where we were headed as an industry!
2. Unconferencing Sessions: The TRUE way to collaborate with each other on the varying levels. These sessions are greatly needed to work through issues that hamper us all.
3. The Mobile App: I LOVED this feature! Despite its bugginess at times, it really helped me keep on track and let me quickly review other sessions on the fly! Awesome addition!
4. Twitter Feed: Again, one of my favorite features from last year. This year it was made even better with more attendees, integration into the Mobile App, and big screens throughout the conference halls that let us watch the Twitter stream! It is a communication tool that lets us quickly view the impressions of fellow attendees, and lets us share our impressions with the rest of the genealogy community!
5. Meeting and collaborating with fellow genealogists/bloggers! This was great fun! Made new friends, enjoyed wonderful social events and laughed til my sides hurt! The pics below are from the Kentuckian dinner and the WDYTYA viewing event at the Peery Hotel Bar. Notice all the bloggers tweeting when the commercials came on!

6. Metadata and GedcomX: If you do not know what these are, review the recorded sessions and syllabus material. These were two major issues that were addressed this year - and in my opinion, the two most important issues in the industry today. Great sessions and plans for future discussions! I will post more about these later!

7. Live streaming and recorded sessions: I didn't get to take part in these, but knowing the rest of the genealogy world could enjoy some of these wonderful sessions, the more I felt comfortable with the overall conference. A must for all future RootsTech conferences!
8. 1940 Census: The hype was great and the explanations about the community indexing projects were very helpful. The information learned at the various census partners booths will be invaluable as I relay some of the info to my local genealogist groups.
9. Exhibit Hall: Much improved and a hot-bed of activity. I loved the energy here, the celebrity watching, the interviews, the info, and the swag that went with the whole experience!
10. Late night at the LDS Library: Always one of my favorite things! Despite my exhaustion and sensory overload, the energy at this event always brings me back to what all of this is about - genealogy and finding our ancestors. As I search through the records, it always makes me wonder what they would have thought about all of these advances and products designed to help us find and document their existence!
Overall, I would readily consider this year's RootsTech to be a success. Compared to last year, it has expanded and made some improvements that gave the conference a lighter and more vibrant feel. The increased number of attendees was evident, and greatly enhanced the knowledge base! There are a few things they improved upon and a few things they should have improved upon:

Win: More couches/seating in the Exhibit Hall - great improvement! They had several sections of long comfortable couches and benches around the Cyber Cafe and Playground areas. As a testament to these being a great addition, they were ALWAYS in use, no matter what time of day!
Fail: Too many sessions going on at once. We complained about this last year. On average there were 13 sessions going on at once, and that did NOT include the number of unconferencing sessions that were scheduled concurrently. This was soooo frustrating since many of the unconferencing sessions sounded just as awesome as the regular sessions! "Too much input!", not enough time! Since they haven't developed cloning yet, they may want to examine this issue...please!!
Win: Larger Exhibit Hall area. Last year, the Exhibit Hall was sectioned off and not quite as fluid. The flow was much better this year which also allowed for more exhibitors - always a win! Oh, and I noticed the book seller booths were always busy...just sayin!
Fail: Divided sessions. This was a huge complaint of mine last year, and I didn't see too much of a difference this year. The sessions were divided between user and developer. Not many users attended developer sessions and not too many developers attended user sessions. We still had a large segment flocking together per their species. The exception has always been the unconferencing sessions. There were some larger unconferencing sessions that fit EXACTLY my idea of collaboration effectiveness! I attended one that covered metadata, which consisted of a panel of developers, that was bombarded with user questions from the audience. This type of interaction answered questions for both sides, and sent both groups away thinking about some new approaches. In my perfect RootsTech experience, they would significantly reduce the number of regular, BASIC user level sessions, and make one whole day full of nothing but unconferencing sessions. THIS is the only way to ensure wide-spread collaboration and really get a conference that brings the users and developers together in a manner that impacts the industry to the levels we are seeking!

Win: Syllabus material. MUCH better than last year! More complete, and readily available online instead of just on a CD. My only area for improvement here would have been including it in the App somehow, but I know the files were large, so they get a pass on that one.

Fail: Hands-on Workshops. Ok, so I attended three of these, and from beginning to end, they were awkward. The initial sign-up for these before the conference filled seats up within 3 hours - please get larger labs for these! They are in high demand and very helpful! One hands-on workshop was not hands-on at all. This was one of the most highly anticipated workshops - the 1940 census indexing sneak peek - only it wasn't. Once we got in there, it was just a presentation about Family Search Indexing in general, how the 1940 census would go live, timelines about indexing, and a history of the 1940 census. This one could have been presented in the main large hall as a lecture/presentation and they would have filled up the place! There was NO hands-on portion - so why limit this when it was a main theme of the conference and could have been given a standard lecture room?! The other hands-on workshops were fine and instructional, but with the varying skill levels of participants, it slows things down and makes the flow hard for the presenter.
Big WIN: The live streaming and recorded sessions to allow for industry-wide participation! This is a must for any tech conference in my opinion. I know some non-genealogists would see this and think they are being silly for live streaming or providing sessions for free to those who could not attend, but if they ever want to charge for the live stream/recorded session access at some point - I would be fine with that. They have to earn money to continue this type of conference, and a pay option for home attendance would be a great option to maintain the impact level of this conference industry-wide!

Fail: Session quality. I know this is a controversial opinion, but I just have to say that the amount of basic user level sessions was disappointing. Some of the sessions presented were on the same level as intro tech sessions seen at NGS or FGS. This is THE tech conference for the industry. I would have much rather seen some serious instructional sessions on the advanced user levels, rather than overviews or lists of what can be used. I attended one of the few sessions on e-book publication and was disappointed to learn it was a session on how to publish through one company - no, I want to learn best practices, review of the various ways to do this, and who has the best interface, etc. We really need to step up the level of some of the sessions for next year. After talking with several attendees, I was not alone in this feeling.

Well, that's it for this year! I will be creating individual posts later to discuss various tech issues and things learned during the conference, but as so many of us have declared - RootsTech takes a lot of post-processing time! I'm not sure I will be attending next year, but this second year has confirmed for me that this conference is on a strong ride with no signs of diminishing anytime soon. However, with the live streaming, Twitter feeds, Blogs, syllabi and recorded sessions, none of us have to miss out if we can't make it every year! Despite any criticisms above, it was a great conference this year and we all thank the organizers for a great time! It was a HUGE success!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

RootsTech Day 1

So here we are again for another year of genea-tech-nirvana! The anticipation for this conference has been even more intense than last year - and attended by a lot more people! Rumors have reported over 4200 attendees this year, which is over a thousand more than the first RootsTech! I recognized many faces from last year, but have already met some new ones and am very glad to have two more days to increase those numbers! So far, the most amazing thing about this conference is its focus on the future. You wouldn't naturally think of a heightened atmosphere that was this future centric at a genealogy conference, but it is inspirational. Here's how I'm interpreting this:

During the keynote speech, we were introduced to a research concept that is about 50 years in the making. This concept revolved around the research patterns of a teenager in the year 2060. While some of the technology used was familiar, the methodology was new, yet, not surprising. In a nutshell, this teenager was able to ask Siri who her great grandparents were, and it would then begin reciting, or display a picture of, her family tree. Then she would be shown photos of them and other ancestors, plus given a snapshot of what the historic timeline in which they lived looked like- complete with residence profiles. While we were all amazed and completely jealous of a generation we haven't even met yet, I think it gave the whole conference a focus. We aren't at RootsTech to merely find our ancestors in databases, nor make more records available digitally.....we are there to do all of those things PLUS make things available for the next generation. Time is a very palpable attendee, and as we move rapidly from tweet to blog to cloud, we are constantly reminded of the temporal nature of our current formats. The tweet we posted in response to a session statement is out of date within 30 seconds. This of course fits right at home with the fragility of life, and potential loss of family history if we do not preserve it.

Which means our genealogical responsibilities have changed. We no longer have the duty and honor of gathering the facts/stories and writing them down, but we now have to monitor how we maintain our new digital records as well as try to anticipate how the next generation will access them. Will my tree and all of the data associated with it exist after all of my hard work has produced an accessible version? And even more importantly, how do I leave a legacy that speaks to that future generation that is learning in a fundamentally different way than I was taught? To take it one step further: If we consistently look to the future and plan for its coming, can we open a new door of opportunity that speaks to that generation in a way that our generation has only recently begun to learn? I like to think that if we continue in this multi-generational direction we may succeed in drawing the long-term attention of a much younger set to the world we have been dedicated to for decades.

The RootsTech 2012 atmosphere is charged with this excitement for the new and wonderful technologies we are receiving today, mixed with the heady knowledge that we are making a difference in the lives of future researchers. Hopefully the tools we learn to use and implement this February will yield a wealth of results in the form of inspired interest in our growing youth. I am very proud to be a part of a profession/industry that is embracing this future seeking/planning behavior! As I continue to blog a bit while here in SLC, this is only a small portion of the things I am learning, plus the issues that are coming to mind as I learn. I am taking copious notes and will blog about more specific sessions/issues in the coming months. I will also be responding to comments I hear throughout the sessions, as well as reviewing some of the changes I witnessed or did not witness with the passing of one year. One important change we have heard already - conversation on the elevator - the conference will be moving to March for 2013. The reason? Better weather hopefully AND the need for more space! If this conference grows to 5000+ next year, they will need to reserve more of the Salt Palace to accommodate. At present, they are only using the back or side portion. Ok, that's enough for now.....I'm exhausted.....but eager for another day!
Goodnight all,


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