Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Thoughts on IGS 2016 Conference

Last Saturday, I attended the Indiana Genealogical Society's annual conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Allen County Public Library.  This was my first conference since joining the society earlier this year.

The venue couldn't have been better, as I love spending time at the Genealogy Center.  I took advantage of the break time and part of my lunch hour to squeeze in some research, as well as the hour the library was open after the conference wound down.  Even though I'm within an hour of this library, I can never get enough research time there.  You need to put it on your bucket list if you've never researched here.

The conference was value priced as far as I was concerned, and had two great speakers : Jeanne Larzalene Bloom and Jen Baldwin.  It was tough to decide which sessions to attend, but I was glad to receive syllabus copies for all sessions in my registration packet so I can glean the information later for those sessions I didn't attend.

Pre-conference, I was able to make a contact from the Illinois Genealogical Society at the IRAD display who took one of business cards and is going to see what she can find out on my Gurdon Pierce who died 1861 in Sugar Grove, Kane County, Illinois.  I was glad I had a few business cards with me, and this was a reminder that I should probably have some "genealogy" business cards printed up with my contact information.

Jen Baldwin

The first session I attended was Jen Baldwin's presentation on Being More Than Social on Social Media.  While most in the audience were already on social media, Jen's presentation focused on building a plan for your social media presence, whether for your personal brand or for a society  you represent.  There were several representatives of local genealogical and historical societies in the audience.  Jen stressed the importance of having not only an established goal for your social media presence but a plan to deal with the risk of success and failure in a medium that expects instant response.  

I also attended Jen's presentation on Paperless Genealogy : Eliminating the Binders, File Cabinets and Post-It Notes.  Eliminating the paper piles is a long standing goal of mine, and she presented a variety of digital tools that compliment genealogical research such as Evernote, OneNote, Trello, Endnote, Mendeley, To-Doist, Wunderlist, Dropbox, GoogleDrive & Pinterest, just to name a few.  She provided examples of how she utilizes these services for her research and showed the benefits of having research notes, etc. digitally preserved and at hand through our mobile devices. The key is to find a system that works for you and create a habit of converting (or starting with) the digital format instead of printing the piles of paper.

After a quick lunch, I was back in the stacks for a bit doing some research.  One thing I discovered on this visit to the library was that when you search their card catalog in the Genealogy Center, you can have the results texted to your cellphone.  No need to bother with pencil and paper, just have the text with you as you browse the stacks!  

I attended the annual meeting of the Society after lunch, rather than continue researching, for a couple of reasons.  I wanted to learn more about how IGS operates and what programs they offer and since I was paying dues I thought I should see where my money was going.  I must say that I am impressed at this well-run organization, both financially and activity-wise they seem to have it together.

I enjoyed seeing the presentations of the members who had joined the heritage societies within the IGS - those who had Civil War ancestors and the Territorial Guard - those whose ancestors were in Indiana when it became a state.  I now have a goal to see if I have an ancestor who qualifies as a Territorial Guard ancestor, I know of several Civil War veterans to qualify.

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom
After lunch, I attended Jeanne Larzalere Bloom's session - You're Not in Kansas Anymore : Essential Resources for Urban Area Research.  Though I don't have many ancestors in large urban areas, there are several collateral lines that are in those areas and I've been interested in finding out how to research them.  Jeanne's presentation outlined a strategy for research that could be adapted to any situation, but she focused on the specific problems and unique record sources that are available in large urban areas, such as Chicago.  I was able to glean a lot of strategy tips that I can use on tracking my kin through the big cities and sort out who is who.

The final session I attended was another one from Jen Baldwin - Going Back to School : Utilizing University Resources.  This presentation gave me a lot to work with, and I've been utilizing it over the past few days since the conference.  Sources such as the special collections and digital archives of local universities can provide tons of items for use in family history, such as maps, that will be found nowhere else.  She highlighted some of the special collections in Colorado that gave me tools to research my LeMaster great-uncle who was out in Fort Collins.

When the conference wrapped up, there was still an hour left until the library closed, and I took advantage of that time to seek out a couple of surname books to see if there was anything of interest on my lines.  

All in all, I had a great time at the conference, made some connections, learned several things and supported my state society.  I'm already looking forward to attending next year in Indianapolis, as well as looking into other conferences and events that were highlighted out at the vendor tables.

I apologize for the horrible pictures I snapped from my cellphone.

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