Wednesday, July 31, 2019

IAJGS Cleveland: Tuesday and Wednesday

The best news about the IAJGS conference is that the temperature here in Cleveland has dropped quite a bit.  Today, for example, the high was only 79°, and there was even a breeze!  As I walk back and forth between my hotel and the conference hotel, I really appreciate that.

My Tuesday began slowly.  I hadn't been that enamored of any of the sessions in the first time slot, and I somehow just didn't manage to make it to even one.  Next, I wanted to go to Banai Feldstein's class on "Lesser Known Online Resources", but right before I was about to walk into the room, someone called out to me that she had something important for me.  It turned out that all she wanted to do was to introduce me to a new person in a local genealogical society, but by the time that had happened, I turned around and the room with Banai's session was already overflowing with people.  There was no way I was going to get in there.  I'm lucky that she (finally!) uploaded a handout to the conference site, so at least I have that now.

For lunch the Jewish genealogy bloggers got together.  We introduced ourselves, talked about our blogs, and generally had a great time hanging out with each other.  The only bad thing was that we were arranged in a not very comfortable fashion on some random seats in an open area.  Next year the blogger get-together coordinator said she just might break down and try to get us on the schedule for a regular room.

We look like a friendly bunch, don't we?

After lunch, I heard Jane Neff Rollins speak about the Clarion agricultural colony in Sanpete County, Utah in the early 1900's.  She used the colony as a way to demonstrate things to think about during research and reasons not to get into a research rut.  It was an interesting but sad story about the colony.  Most of the research suggestions she made were ones that I use regularly, but there were a couple I could think about more.

Then came my second presentation of the conference, apparently the only methods session that was scheduled.  I talked about why everyone should use source citations in their research, even when it's just your own database on your computer that you don't intend to share with anyone, and the various style guides available to help you construct those citations.  One of the points I emphasized was that if you already are familiar with a style guide, such as from college research or professional work, you will be much more likely to start doing citations if you just use that rather than force yourself to learn an entirely new style, such as one that is heavily pushed in some circles.  I consider it far more important to get the citations done, and that's more likely to happen if people feel they can use a tool they already know than try to convince them to do the citations in a style they will have to learn from scratch and therefore will put off doing.  Not only did it seem that attendees enjoyed the talk, one person came up at the end and specifically thanked me for my approach.  I have to admit, I felt pretty good about that.

My last learning opportunity of the day was Judy Baston's talk about "Documenting the Vilna Ghetto Library."  She is scheduled to give that presentation to the SFBAJGS later this year, but I won't be able to attend now that I live in Oregon, so I jumped at the chance to hear her.  It was fascinating to hear the history of the library and learn what documents existed in the Lithuanian archives regarding the library and its patrons.  I am constantly amazed to discover what types of material have survived and are available for researchers.

The last event of the day, however, was SFBAJGS attendees meeting up for our new tradition.  We try to get a photo of members at the conference to share online.  I think this time we have a total of about 18 members here.  We didn't manage to get everyone into one photo, but most of us have been captured for posterity.

Wednesday started with bouncing from one session to another.  In the first one, the speaker was pretty much reading from his handout, and that's never exciting, so I snuck out the back and went to Jennifer Mendelsohn's talk, "Think Like a Reporter."  While mostly a revisiting of several successful genealogy searches she has made, she did give several morsels of advice about how to approach research, not to rely on unsubstantiated information, and all-around good ideas.  Plus she is a very entertaining speaker!  So it was a lot of fun.

I went from there to the Resource Center, because Wednesday and Thursday at an IAJGS conference mean we have access to all the ProQuest databases, including the historical newspapers.  Woo hoo!  I found several little nuggets in newspapers, including the Minneapolis Tribune and the Chicago Tribune.  I was very happy with my new discoveries.

I had another group lunch on Wednesday.  This time it was for people who have finished or are currently going through the ProGen (Professional Genealogy) study group, which is set up for people who want to learn about how to be a good professional genealogist.  Getting together is good for networking and just to talk with other people who have similar interests.  Half a dozen of us had an enjoyable (and not horribly overpriced) lunch at the Hilton restaurant and got to know each other.

After lunch was another disappointing talk.  The speaker had very fractured English and poor spelling on his PowerPoint slides, plus the talk didn't really flow and was kind of like random thoughts strung together.  Plus, with a talk focused on an online site with records, he never included the URL.  And instead of lasting for an hour and fifteen minutes, the talk petered out at barely half an hour.  Oh, well, I had plenty of time to check my e-mail before the next session!

The next presenter wasn't very dynamic but was more on point with her subject.  I learned about the types of holdings that the Western Reserve Historical Society has, with an emphasis on Jewish records, of course.  One of the most interesting to me was the collection of records from the Bellefaire orphanage.  I remember helping someone research his family members who had been in the orphanage for some years.  At the time, I didn't know about the collection at the historical society.  Now I want to go back and find out who that research was for to see if these records might be of interest to him.

And the last item on my agenda for the day wasn't even for me, but for the SFBAJGS Webmistress.  As usual at the conferences, Banai Feldstein had scheduled a meeting for JGS Webmasters.  I try to go because Barbara doesn't usually attend the conferences.  This meeting didn't have any great revelations, but I covered the bases.

Now to rest up for Thursday and my last talk!

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