Tuesday, August 6, 2013

IAJGS Conference - Days 2 and 3

I was caught in a bit of a quandary yesterday.  I wanted to post about both my Monday at the IAJGS conference and finish my review of the Christina Applegate episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, but I had two problems.  I really didn't think I was going to be able to stay awake long enough to do both, and I didn't have the most informative day at the conference, so I wasn't sure how much I could say that was positive.  I settled for only finishing the WDYTYA post and hoped that Tuesday would be a better day at the conference.  Today was a vast improvement, so I guess I made the right decision.

The best session I attended Monday was learning about the resources at the City of Boston Archives.  Marta Crilly, an archivist there, gave an outstanding, well organized presentation.  The archives has a fantastic collection of resources for Boston research -- records of taxes, voter registrations, the almshouse, a correctional institution, children's institutions, the lunatic hospital, business registration certificates (including ones for married women; they had to register their businesses separately to protect their husbands' assets if the business went bankrupt), school transcripts and publications, teacher lists, city employees, maps, and photos.  A lot of the photographs have been digitized and are online, but most records are available only at the archives.  Luckily, you don't have to go in person; they have a friendly and knowledgeable staff who can help people who are not local.  I didn't bring information about my half-sister's family (who lived in Boston for several years) with me to the conference, but when I return home I think I'll have to take a look and see what kinds of questions the archives can help me with.

Another useful session was on postwar resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Reference librarian Megan Lewis gave an overview of the resources available, which include photographs, oral histories, films, and transcripts.  The museum has merged what once were separate catalogs for each collection into a unified catalog that covers most of the museum's holdings.  There is also a search page for part of the ITS inventory.  The other good part of the day was a roundtable session that I coordinated for Jewish genealogical society newsletter/journal editors.  We had some productive discussions about what different societies are publishing in journals and newsletters, and how there is now much more of an intersection between those publications and digital communications.

The disappointing part of the day was that the three sessions I attended that were focused on my own personal family research, in Latvia and Belarus, were all duds.  The descriptions in the program didn't really match what the presenters talked about, and I took away very, very little useful information.  I felt that half my day was wasted.

Board of Special Inquiry transcript
On the positive side, Tuesday I learned quite a bit.  The best session was on Jewish family history research in Australia.  Since there are few Jewish-specific archival collections, the talk covered several general resources as well.  Robyn Dryen of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society, the presenter, knew her material well.  The fact that much of the information is online was nice to learn.  And I can try to find records from when my family lived Australia in the early 1970's!  I heard Genie Milgrom talk about her research into her family's converso roots in Inquisition Spain.  She did deep research and made some incredible discoveries about her family and the town of Fermoselle, where they were from.  She has now traced her female ancestral line back 22 generations.  Gladys Friedman Paulin followed up her Sunday talk about U.S. ports of arrival with a presentation on the Immigration Service Board of Special Inquiry, which could decide whether a potential immigrant was allowed to remain in the U.S. or be deported.  Even though the process was highly political and there was almost no training for the men conducting the inquiries, about 98% of immigrants were eventually allowed into the country.  Unfortunately, the only ports for which board records still exist are New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, but that is better than nothing.  And Israel Pickholtz gave a very entertaining presentation about recent DNA testing he has encouraged several family members to do in conjunction with his Pikholz family research.  He explained several possible family connections he had hypothesized and was hoping to confirm with the testing.  As far as I could tell, so far none of the results they got turned out as expected, but he and his cousin Jacob Laor are still hopeful some useful information will come out of it.

The other really good part of the day was that my new presentation about online Jewish historical newspapers was very well received.  The room was packed to overflowing (okay, it was a really small room; apparently the programming committee didn't think the session would attract many people).  Later in the afternoon I had several people who were at the talk come up and tell me they thought it was a great talk and that they found the information very useful.  And someone from a Florida genealogical society said she wants to have her group bring me out there to give a presentation!

I was particularly proud, because this was the first time a family member was able to come to one of my talks.  My cousin Janis wasn't able to come after all, but her husband George took some time off from work to come and listen to me.  Plus my cousin Yoni volunteered to help look over the PowerPoint file ahead of time to make sure I didn't have any grammatical errors in the slides; he decided it looked good.  He did admit, however, that he had been hoping to find a mistake just so he could correct me.

And I just looked at the clock and noticed it's 1:30 a.m.!  I better get to bed; the first session starts at 8:15 ....

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments on this blog will be previewed by the author to prevent spammers and unkind visitors to the site. The blog is open to everyone, particularly those interested in family history and genealogy.