I really enjoyed the Midwestern Roots family history and genealogy conference I attended last weekend in Indianapolis. The speakers were excellent and the content was really rich. And I met three of my blog readers, Candace, Jean and Judi. It was great sitting down with them and getting to know one them. And it was wonderful running into ready-made friends throughout the conference.
My big take away from the conference is that I want to dig deeper about my ancestors. Looking back at my blog, I saw that I wrote about this 18 months ago when I returned from RootsTech, in a post called It’s not about climbing the tree. This has been a recurring theme in my research and my thought process. But this year it feels a little different, because I left with some real tools I can use for that excavation. And I have a week at the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center next month where I can really get into it.
Here are some highlights of the conference for me:
- I went to not one but three talks by Curt Witcher, the senior manager for special collections at the Allen County Public Library, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He did the opening keynote on the importance of telling stories in genealogy. That prompted me to attend his talk on how find those stories. And then, of course, I went to his talk on the holdings of his library. He’s an amazing speaker–I’m pretty sure I’d sign up to hear him talk on just about anything. He has a wonderful sense of humor–there was a great deal of laughter in all his talk. But he is also so expressive that he actually brought people (and himself) to tears in the opening session. His message of filling in the stories between the birth and death dates had a big impact on me.
- A priority talk for me was the one by Deena Coutant about how to prepare for a repository trip. Luckily for me it was in the second session and it provided a great groundwork for my thoughts throughout the conference on how best to use the month I have before my trip the Allen County Public Library (the second largest genealogy library in the nation). And I know the preparation for that trip is going to be a critical component of making that trip a successful use of my time and money. And now I have some tools for that preparation!
- I heard talks on using both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com. I have to admit that I use Ancestry more than Family Search, mostly because I find the latter’s user interface non-intuitive. But thanks to the talk by Deena Coutant (I heard her twice!) I feel I know my way around that site a bit better and I’m going to try to use it more. The talk by Ancestry’s Juliana Szucs on getting the most from Ancestry was eye-opening to me. I learned that searching within individual types of records and collection can reveal results not available with a top-level search. In other words, it’s worthwhile to dig deeper on Ancestry.
- Cece Moore gave the opening keynote on the second day, about telling stories with DNA with anecdotes from the PBS program, “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates,” on which she serves as the genetic genealogy consultant and researcher. The talk was really fun and inspired me to try again to understand my DNA results and reach out to potential relatives who might be helpful with my genealogy research. It’s pretty easy for my mind to click off when it comes to DNA and I had put my quest for understanding on the back burner. Listening to CeCe helped me understand how helpful the clues you get from DNA test results can be. That is an area in which I will try to dig deeper.
- And, lastly, I really enjoyed and benefited from Lisa Louise Cooke’s talk on new features of Google and how they can help genealogists. I have to admit that I consider myself an excellent Googler. But I don’t typically use the search operators Lisa explained (and, truth be told, I rarely use Google as a search tool for my genealogy research). I was thrilled to learn how to find results in Google Books and clip them with the built-in clipper, which creates a unique, sharable URL for the clipping. Wow! I also was inspired to give Google Earth another try. I’m going to try to incorporate Google more into my research toolkit.
As you can tell, the Midwestern Roots conference was really inspiring and energizing for me. I loved that a single theme emerged for me so strongly. I am so excited to go back to Indiana for my trip to the Allen County Public Library in a month and so grateful to have learned some tools to prepare for it. I’ll blog more about that plan soon!