Thursday, July 27, 2017

IAJGS Conference, Days 3 and 4

It really is amazing how much you can cram into a conference schedule when you try.  Between speaker sessions, volunteer activities, and networking, I've been going steadily all day long every day.  But oh!, the things I'm learning!

Tuesday began with a Jewish bloggers brown bag breakfast.  It's a pleasure to meet people whose words you read in cyberspace and put faces to names.  I had a lovely time chatting with Lara Diamond (Lara's Jewnealogy), Emily Garber ([going] The Extra Yad), Israel Pickholtz (All My Foreparents), Ann Rabinowitz (JewishGen blog), Mary-Jane Roth (Memory Keeper's Notebook), Marian Wood (Climbing My Family Tree), and Barbara Zabitz (blog in progress).  Then it was off to learn more!

Well, it should have been.  In the first session I headed to, the speaker kept his head down and read directly from prepared notes, without looking up at the audience.  He also wasn't making any great revelations, so I quickly moved on and instead spent some research time in the resource room.  The second session was much better, though.  Alexander Beider spoke about the origins of Jews from North Africa.  His discussion covered the same types of linguistic and naming clues that he discussed in Monday evening's presentation, indicating origins from multiple locations in Europe and elsewhere.

From there I gave my third presentation of the conference, on where to find and how to access online Jewish historical newspapers.  I was really happy to let people know that there are now two free online OCR programs for Yiddish and that Google Translate handles Yiddish.  That makes a lot more historical Jewish newspapers much more accessible than they used to be.

On Tuesday IAJGS held a Tech Lunch, where people with technical and computer skills are asked to volunteer their skills in helping IAJGS.  It sounds as though there are plans for a Web site redesign and a desire to offer assistance to societies.  Something was said about encouraging everyone to be on Facebook also, but I still don't think that's a substitute for a good Web site.  Facebook is great for short term, but legacy material is lost.

The afternoon brought some interesting subjects.  Nicolas Coiffait has been researching the soldiers in Napoléon's armies and has identified more than 2,000 men he believes are Jewish.  He is continuing the research and trying to learn more about each man.  Eugenio Alonso spoke on how to research conversos and Anusim in the Caribbean by using documents from the National Historical Archive of Spain, many of which are available online for free.  He showed several examples that identified individuals as "judaizing", meaning that they were following Jewish practices.  He pointed out that he had even found two documents that specified the judaizers were black.  And that was the end of the day for me, because I had to head back to my room to reconstruct a presentation for later in the week (more on that in my next post).

On Wednesday I finally had the opportunity to "sleep in":  My first session didn't begin until 8:15!  (Hooray!)  And I had to be there, because I was the one speaking, on the subject of copyright and how it affects genealogy.  Unfortunately, far too many genealogists are still woefully undereducated on this subject, with significant numbers believing that if it's online it's ok to copy.  It was gratifying to have one person in the audience who understood already, but it was also good that people asked lots of questions, because that indicated they wanted to learn what they should be doing.  I'm very happy that the program committee accepted that talk for the conference.

We had a small but dedicated number who came to the JGS Newsletter Editors meeting.  Five people, including me, were there, representing four society publications.  Mostly it was another opportunity for networking, but we also did some brainstorming.  It's interesting that one group still has only a print publication, with no electronic version.

A session on the Yad Vashem Web site was supposed to show advanced ways to use other record sets besides the central database.  It didn't really deliver, but as a sample photograph the speaker used a wedding photo that accompanied a recent article in ZichronNote.  The photo is notable because even though it was for a wedding, the bride and groom, and in fact the entire wedding party, were wearing the cloth yellow Stars of David mandated by the German government.  Surprisingly, the speaker did not mention that.

Squeezed in between the end of the third morning session and the beginning of the group lunches, most of the SFBAJGS members here met for a quick photo to celebrate being at the conference.  While we had almost 50 members last year at the Seattle conference, this year we are a more modest thirteen, ten of whom came for the photo.  That isn't too bad!

San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society members in Florida

After lunch, my afternoon was spent at the IAJGS Annual Meeting.  I was the representative for my society this year, as the president was at home in California.  I've never been to the meeting before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I should have known — it was a standard bureaucratic meeting, including lots of reports, delays, and minor tiffs.  We did accomplish what we needed to, voting on bylaws and the next set of officers, and only ran about 15 minutes overtime.  It's unlikely that I'll be attending next year's conference in Warsaw, so someone else will have the pleasure of attending the meeting.

My day ended with one of the best parts of family history:  actually getting together with family.  I don't come out to the east coast often, so I always try to see family when I'm here.  I have cousins who live relatively nearby (75 miles away), in Daytona.  They drove out to the hotel, and we had a nice dinner together.  I even updated them on the latest research I'm doing on our grandfather.  They're as interested as I am in finding out who his biological father was.

My commentary on days 1 and 2 of the conference is here, and that for days 5 and 6 is here.

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