Thursday, February 12, 2015

FGS Conference: Society Day and Librarians' Day

Here I am in lovely Salt Lake City.  It's February, but those of us here for the joint Federation of Genealogical Societies and RootsTech conferences have been enjoying relatively mild temperatures of 50's and even low 60's, rather than the snow we had been anticipating.  No complaints!

The FGS conference began on Wednesday, one day earlier than RootsTech, with Society Day.  It became clear very quickly that FGS is the red-headed stepchild in this joint-conference relationship.  Its sessions are tucked away in a far corner of the Salt Palace, much closer to JB's Restaurant than to where the RootsTech sessions will be.  If attendees actually have the audacity to want to attend sessions from both FGS and RootsTech on the same day, they're going to have quite a walk to travel between the two.  The exhibitor hall doesn't even open until Thursday — when RootsTech starts.

Getting back to Society Day, however, I figured I should attend as many sessions as possible, since I'm a board member of three genealogical groups.  I had hoped I would find helpful nuggets in at least one of the sessions, and indeed I did.  Two talks were particularly useful.

One of my boards, the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, is working on a new policies and procedures manual, and Ann Staley of the Jacksonville Genealogical Society taught an informative class on that subject to start the day. She clearly defined the purpose of a P&P manual and outlined a good process for putting together or updating one.  Though she unfortunately didn't include the URL's in her handout, she showed three good examples of other societies' manuals which are available online.  I'll be tracking those down and downloading them to use as inspiration for the SFBAJGS project.

Later in the day, genealogy tech guru Thomas MacEntee's topic was "Technology Initiatives for Genealogical Societies."  Thomas always has great information, but I had seen that his handout dealt with several topics that had come up in discussion in recent board meetings, so I was really looking forward to hearing the specifics.  One of the best pieces of advice he mentioned was that if you create a free Web site using and already have your own domain name (such as, you can transfer your newly created site to your domain, again for free.  That could be helpful not only for the society, but maybe even my own Web site!  He also mentioned that a society that sponsors a FamilySearch Wiki page no longer is required to maintain that page (though assistance is always appreciated), so it is an excellent publicity opportunity to do so, and kind of missing the boat not to.  He even described ways to use Pinterest (which I truly have never understood the point of) that may have convinced me to start using it as part of the SFBAJGS publicity efforts.  I definitely got a lot of bang for my buck from his session.  Overall, I was pretty happy with Society Day.

I actually arrived in Salt Lake on Sunday night and spent all day Monday doing research at the Family History Library.  I came fairly well prepared and retrieved/scanned about forty documents for my own family, plus about another fifty for other people.  It was a great beginning for my trip!

Even before Wednesday, though, I had begun my conference educational opportunities.  On Tuesday, I attended the Librarians' Day sponsored by ProQuest.  We enjoyed five speakers (and a great buffet lunch).  Curt Witcher from the Allen County Public Library spoke about how librarians need to change their established methods to work better with the new types of patrons who come in.  He particularly picked on what he considers to be the obsolete, old-fashioned reference desk — or, as he termed it, the "fort" — and how it divides the librarians from the patrons.  An archivist from The National Archives (of the United Kingdom, and yes, that's with a capital "T") discussed how TNA's online holdings help bring people into the archives in person to do more research.  Librarians from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio and the Tulsa (Oklahoma) City-County Library talked about genealogy tourism and how repositories can help bring tourist traffic to their areas.  Though these talks aren't directly applicable to my volunteer work in the Oakland FamilySearch Library, there were some points I'll be bringing up when I get home (such as the reference desk as a fort to hide behind).

The big news that came out of Tuesday was during the talk by Bill Forsyth from ProQuest.  He revealed that HeritageQuest Online (HQO), long a staple offering from libraries and often accessible at home by library card holders, is undergoing a major overhaul.  HQO has partnered with and is scheduled to roll out a new interface and new collections next month, in March.  The search pages on HQO will now be in the Ancestry style and will have more flexibility, such as Soundex and sounds like, instead of only exact spelling.  Several U.S. census databases will be added, such as the nonpopulation schedules.  I freely admit I have never liked the HeritageQuest interface, and I was very happy to hear that HQO hadn't gone the FindMyPast route and hired programmers to create a new, subpar interface when a good one was already available.  HQO will continue to be available through libraries, so if you have been able to use it through your local library Web site with your library card, that shouldn't change.  My only concern is that we have yet another company in bed with  "Incestuous" is becoming an understatement when describing the interrelationships in the genealogy marketplace.


Additional comments about the conference are here for Thursday and Friday and here for Saturday and my overall impressions.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the official press from HeritageQuest about the revamp and partnership was released today:


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