NGS Conference in Richmond, VA – Day #1

The annual conference of the National Genealogical Society opened this morning in Richmond, Virginia. The conference is co-hosted by the Virginia Genealogical Society. Everything seemed to go well, from what I could see. The conference activities are being held in two buildings across the street from each other: the Greater Richmond Convention Center and the Richmond Marriott hotel. The idea of splitting the conference between the two buildings sounds strange but it actually has worked well. In fact, the two buildings are connected by an enclosed walkway in case of bad weather. However, weather was not a factor today.

You can read more about the conference events at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/. However, I can also share a few of the things that I saw and heard about today.

The conference opening session started at 8 o’clock this morning. (Who schedules these things at 8 AM anyway? Yawn!)

The session started with opening remarks by Jordan Jones, NGS President. He introduced the conference co-chairs: Barbara Vines Little and Jan Alpert. Jordan the provided a status update of new NGS publications and education products.

Jordan also announced that there were 2,200 pre-registrations for this year’s conference, a very good number. That number does not include volunteers. Of course, a handful of walk-in registrations will also be received during the conference so the final number will be slightly higher.

The next item caught my attention: Jordan announced a brand-new “Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights” authored by RPAC, the Records Preservation and Access Committee, a joint effort of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. The “Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights” is a statement that will hopefully be signed by genealogists and various societies and then sent to legislators and other public officials, asking to preserve the rights of genealogists and others to access various public records that are threatened to be closed. I expect to write more about this topic after an RPAC meeting and status report to be held on Thursday.

Chuck Mason conducted an awards presentation recognizing the efforts of several individuals and organizations. Details are provided in an announcement from the NGS that is being published separately in this newsletter.

Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS, Data Strategy Manager, US and Canada for FindMyPast (one of the Platinum Sponsors of the conference), gave brief remarks about the company’s latest offerings, several of which are new in the past few weeks.

The keynote address entitled “The Evolving Library” was delivered by Dr. Sandra Gioia Treadway, Librarian of Virginia and State Archivist. It was an interesting talk, describing many of the accomplishments of the Library and many of the challenges that face many libraries these days.

The meeting adjourned and roughly 2,200 people attempted to crowd into the exhibits hall more-or-less simultaneously. It was a mob scene but a good one. It is great seeing that many genealogists with that much enthusiasm! However, I left and returned an hour or so later after things quieted down a bit.

I spent much of the rest of the day wandering the exhibits hall, chatting with old friends, meeting a number of new people, and “networking” as much as I could. Here are a few things I learned, presented in no particular order:

FamilySearch has installed new scanners at all North American local Family History Centers with overseas locations being added now. Anyone who visits a Center is invited to use the local scanner to scan old family photos and upload directly to FamilySearch.org and/or to save to a local flash drive. The service is aimed at those who do not own photo-quality scanners. There is no requirement to upload to FamilySearch.org although that is suggested. However, all visitors do have the option to only save digital images to a local flash drive which they can then take home and use as they wish.

FamilySearch reports that more than 1.1 billion records have been indexed to date.

FamilySearch will soon have millions of obituaries online if the volunteer indexers continue at the current rate. In fact, the number of indexers has increased lately but more are still needed.

A new browser-based indexing program will soon be available. It will be used to continue the present efforts to index records to be placed online at http://www.familysearch.org.

The new browser-based program will replace the old Windows and Macintosh indexing programs. Improvements will include:

  1. No need to download and install a program (which has been problematic for some indexers with limited technical skills or experience)
  2. Enhanced Project Selection (easier to find a project that interests you, such as by location or language)
  3. Can join multiple indexing groups, such as one sponsored by a genealogy society that interests you
  4. Can soon index on a tablet computer (which obviously will need to have an Internet connection via wi-fi or a cell company’s 3G or 4G wireless connection)
  5. Should work on all versions of Windows and Macintosh with Apple iOS and Android versions to follow soon after

A “Lift Where You Stand” Worldwide Indexing Event will take place on Sunday July 20 6 PM MDT to 21 July 21 PM MDT. The suggestion is to focus on records in your own native language or in a geographic area that you are familiar with. Details will be available soon.

FamilySearch Family Tree has a number of recent improvements: a new pedigree view and new portrait view (with optional pictures) and new descendancy report (with pictures) with research suggestions (hints of things to look for). The new software also flags probable data problems, such as a mother giving birth at age 7 or at age 82 or even basic items such as a missing year in a record.

New mobile apps for iOS and Android to work with Family Tree are presently in beta test, but not yet available to the public. The apps are called (1.) Family Tree Viewer and (2.) Memories. Family Tree Viewer Includes fan charts, pedigree charts, and other charts. It can also download PDF-formatted charts to another computer for later printing.

Memories focuses on pictures, videos, and audio recordings. It can even record audio and/or video live, such as an interview with an older relative and then upload the interview directly to Family Tree (after answering disclaimers verifying that you have the person’s permission to do so).

All in all, it was a productive day. I’ll try to snap some pictures and post them tomorrow.

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