Sunday, July 30, 2017

IAJGS Conference, Days 5 and 6 and Going Home

The IAJGS conference runs longer than most genealogy conferences, so as you get toward the end you might not have quite as much energy as at the beginning.  On Thursday morning, the fifth day, I wanted to go to the Leadership Series session on membership database solutions, as the topic has come up at our board meetings for the past couple of years.  I really did.  But it was at 7:00 a.m., and I was up until 6:00 a.m. working on that day's presentation.

See, on Wednesday night I was going over the PowerPoint file for my Thursday talk, and then the computer rebelled.  It said it couldn't save the file.  I tried save as.  I tried again to save it directly.  The computer was adamant — nope, not happening; sorry, unable to comply.  After trying everything in my rather limited arsenal, I finally had to concede defeat.  And then I had to reconstruct the presentation from scratch, without the benefit of the graphics that were on my home computer.  I tried to remember what the original slides had said and made do with what I could download from Ancestry and other sites.  Around 6:00 I was too bleary-eyed to focus, so I gave up and fell asleep.

I knew I wouldn't make it to the database session (I hope they make the information available to societies later), and being awake in time for the 8:15 talk about Jewish settlement in the Caribbean didn't sound realistic, but I thought I had a chance of going to the Professional Genealogists Birds of a Feather get-together at 9:45.  I slept through my alarm.  So much for that idea.

I finally did wake up, in time to go to Dana Cohen Sprott's session on the "Lost Jews of St. Maarten."  She first gave a broad overview of Jewish settlement on several Caribbean islands (after pointing out multiple times that the correct pronunciation has the emphasis on the third, not the second, syllable) and then focused a little more on St. Maarten (where she lives) and on the "dead man found behind the Radio Shack."  Apparently a body was discovered behind what was at the time a Radio Shack but what previously was a Jewish burial ground (see page 10 of the "WeekEnder" section of the October 30, 2010 issue of The Daily Herald for more details).  Dana has been researching the Jewish presence in the Caribbean for several years.  It was an entertaining and informative talk.

For lunch Mark Fearer and I had a very small ProGen get-together (if any other ProGen alumni were at the conference, they didn't own up to it).  We had a lively discussion covering many professional genealogy topics, which helped make up for the fact that I missed the BoF meeting.

The first session of the afternoon was the reconstructed presentation, which was about my research on two Colonial Jews, Daniel Joseph of Virginia and Israel Joseph of South Carolina (the first Colonial research I ever did!).  I told everyone up front what had happened to the file and apologized for the situation, then gamely went on to give the talk.  Lucky for me, everyone was very understanding.  My most recent research results (learned only a couple of weeks before the conference) actually ended up running contrary to my original hypothesis, so I opened it up to suggestions from the audience on possible future avenues to pursue.  I received some very helpful ideas I'll be looking at, including checking with the American Jewish Archives to see if there might be original research notes from when Rabbi Malcolm Stern wrote his book on First American Jewish Families.

Since Thursday was the last day the ProQuest databases would be available, I bypassed the rest of the afternoon sessions and spent the next two hours looking for articles about family members in newspapers.  I was particularly successful with Schumeister cousins appearing in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune collection.  I have about 40 articles with lots of information on those relatives.  And I have copies of my cousin's and my sister-in-law's doctoral dissertations thanks to ProQuest!

I rounded out the afternoon with a mentor session that someone had even signed up for ahead of time.  The same woman who solved a brick wall because of information in my Sunday talk came back for more.  She's trying to determine where an ancestor came from.  I gave her lots of homework and resources to check out.  After that I hung around to enjoy the prebanquet reception (all vegetarian, but probably not kosher) and socialized with several friends before heading back to my room to collapse.

Friday is always the "afterthought" day of the conference.  It's only half a day, and a lot of attendees leave late Thursday or early Friday.  Given that, I was pleasantly surprised to see a good turnout for my 8:15 talk (someone really had it in for me at this conference with early time slots), which was on immigration and naturalization records.  Even the illustrious Hal Bookbinder was there (I think he enjoyed it).  The bad news was that the air conditioning appeared to be off, either because the conference organizers had decided to economize or the hotel saw fit to cut it off early.  I was not amused.

The same a/c problem reared its ugly head when I tried to enjoy Mark Fearer's talk on Jewish immigration to Texas.  While I didn't have a choice about staying in the room for my own talk, I did for Mark's, and sadly I had to abandon it in favor of the resource room, where the air condioning was still going strong.  Since I was there, I took advantage of the databases still available and focused on  I found photographs of several tombstones for my friend's family.  I also tried to search on the Israel Genealogy Research Association site, but the entire site was down, which was very disappointing.

And that was it!  Poof, the conference was over!  Then it was just a matter of checking out of the hotel, waiting for the airport shuttle, and flying home.  As usual, overall it was a good conference, and I learned lots of new things.  There are always some duds, but they were definitely outweighed by the many informative talks, and it was great to see so many of my genealogy friends and colleagues in person.  Plus I had the opportunity to participate in the first annual membership recruitment drive of the Antarctica Jewish Genealogical Society!  I'm glad I was able to attend this year.  I wish I could go to Warsaw in 2018, but I suspect that won't be practical for me, so I'll focus on Cleveland in 2019 instead.

Representatives of the Antarctica Jewish Genealogical Society,
just before the keynote presentation on Sunday, July 23, 2017

My commentary on days 1 and 2 of the conference is here, and that for days 3 and 4 is here.

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