Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Congress Days 3 and 4


I ran out of time to stay up to date with the Congress posts as the day occurred so here it is now.

I missed the first presentation as I was helping on the My Heritage stand but made sure I was able to attend Colleen Fitzpatrick's "Forensic Genealogy - CSI meets Roots". Colleen is an excellent speaker and I have a strong interest in DNA as I am a lab rat in my other life and use DNA for bacterial typing regularly. DNA is a tool that should be used in conjunction with good research methodology. As Colleen mentions a DNA result is no good on its own and you need a comparison sample. Good genealogy detective work will be what finds that comparison sample!  If you ever get a chance I would strongly suggest you attend Colleen's presentations.

Then it was another morning tea (glad there is a bit of a walk between the lecture theatres and the biscuits!) and then onto Roger Kershaw's presentation on "Tracing criminals transported to Australia". A good presentation showing many images of the records. Showing the record source citation on screen would have given more value to his presentation. Having said that they are well sourced in the Congress Proceedings. Having so much available on Ancestry is great although much of this has been available previously as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project although it was much harder to find. The State Library of Queensland got a nice wrap-up from Roger for Convicts database on their website.

Lunch then I got caught up and missed Vicki Eldridge's presentation on the new FindMyPast but I heard excellent reports on the presentation and the date to watch for is the 17th April.

Suezanne Maiden
Onto Suezanne Maiden's presentation on "Engaging a professional genealogist" Many great words of wisdom here! There are many good reasons to use a specialist researcher who has a strong knowledge of a particular area or type of record. However to get the best experience(on both sides!) it is important to be clear as to what is required, what is already known, what are the required time lines etc. The act of writing out a detailed research request giving all the information has solved many a brick wall problem. There is no point in paying a researcher to find the same information you already possess simply because you didn't tell them that you already had it. Definitely read that Congress paper before you hire a researcher.

More biscuits and coffee and onto Noeline Kyle and "Writing your family history'  which had some excellent advice. Probably the most important is that the only way to write is to start writing. Once you have started you can do your editing, rearranging etc but until you have something down on paper/computer it is still only the idea of writing.
Then it was onto the Congress dinner which I spoke about in a previous post so won't repeat here.

Then up raring to go on Saturday Day 4 and the last day of the Congress. Hard to believe it was nearly all over!

Stephen Young did the plenary on "Descendancy research: when you can't climb your family tree branch out". While this was a nice talk, well illustrated and demonstrated how effective PowerPoint or the free online equivalents can be at illustrating your family tree, it did not have the depth I was expecting from a plenary presentation. It is a shame as in his notes in the Proceedings he does go much more into ways of contacting those other people ho have the ephemera we would love to possess.

Colleen Fitzpatrick
Then onto Colleen Fitzpatrick's "Hand in the snow: The crash of Northwest Flight 4422" A great mix of detective work, DNA techniques, dedication by the investigating Northwest pilots and the people from the Irish home place.  It was well presented and also showed just how long these investigations can take and how advances in technology can help the story along.

Then morning tea (yes I mention food a bit but we definitely didn't starve!) and I went to a very good talk by a trio of Melbourne Probate Genealogists, Kath Ensor,  Dianne Fox and Karen Stewart. This was an interesting paper as it showed how they become involved in a case from the very start where perhaps an elderly person has not been seen for a bit and the police are called to find the person deceased in their home. There are set legal procedures that must be followed and these can vary by State or Territory but Kath explained the Victorian requirements. Then Dianne and Karen gave very interesting presentations explaining the sources used and how so much work now is related to the post-WW2 migration, often of displaced persons from Europe, the problems of tracing relatives of people who had gone through the Holocaust and now the more recent emigrations from Asia and Africa, the ever-changing country borders and the effects this has on the records available and where the records are held. A very interesting presentation.

Lunch then Daniel Poffenberger telling us about "FamilySearch 2012 and beyond". This was an interesting talk and we saw some of the excellent resources available now in FamilySearch and heard about further proposed enhancements.

Lots of interested people
Then onto the last of Colleen Fitzpatrick's talks on the "Curious case of James-Jake-Smithers-Gray: a DNA solution" I am glad I have a copy of the proceedings to read again this complicated story of people changing names, countries, possible illegal goings on, closed files and more with two families in separate countries trying to find their father and how this search eventuated in the finding the one person! Maybe my research isn't as difficult after all!

As there were four and at times five streams of talks I was not able to attend them all. This is where it is important to obtain a copy of the Congress Proceedings where you are able to read about the presentations you have missed. I picked up my copy on the last day, a quite heavy book of 590 pages. For future Congresses a choice in how the proceedings are delivered would be a great idea with options of USB drives, CD, download from the Net or in book format for Libraries and societies. I would have liked the option of it in PDF format for easy searching in the future when I can't remember the name of the talk or the presenter.

Then sadly the Congress presentations were complete with just the closing ceremony to come.

David Holman
At the closing ceremony there was a presentation by David Holman, the President of the Federation of Family History Societies. The Elizabeth Simpson Award 2011 for the best journal is a hotly contested award by Family History Societies and this year was won, well deservedly by the Genealogical Society of Victoria for Ancestors as the journal making the best contribution to family history.

David also presented the awards for the best Overseas website:
1st: New Zealand Society of Genealogists
2nd: Genealogical Society of Queensland
3rd: Genealogical Society of Victoria

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists also won the prize for the best website of all the entrants.

Congratulations to all the winners! A lot of work goes into providing these services for members and it is wonderful to see this work recognised. It is also great to see the high standard by Australasian societies in these hotly contested awards.

Then the 2012 Committee were thanked for all their hard work over the last six years and it is a lot of work that goes into putting on a smoothly running Congress. They are never going to be able to please all of the people all of the time but people left having attended excellent presentations, found many goodies to purchase in the exhibition hall, had time to talk to fellow attendees and make connections. So all the marks of a successful conference!

Canberra, the hosts of the next Congress in 2015, gave an enticing presentation about what is proposed. I suggest you log onto their website and sign up so you can be kept informed of what is in store! Sounds great already and it is three years away.

 I hope to see everyone in Canberra in 2015 where we can do this all over again!