The 2011 annual conference of the (U.S.) National Genealogical Society opened this morning in Charleston, South Carolina. You can read more in my earlier article at http://goo.gl/u63Ul or read more on the NGS web site at http://goo.gl/0VZWl. I was in the audience during this morning's opening ceremonies and also later wandered the exhibits hall and attended a couple of presentations at today's conference.
I took notes but cannot guarantee the spelling of all the names. I learned (again) that I'm not much of a touch typist and that some of these names came at me fast and furious.
At 8 AM, the conference opened with the Charleston Police Pipes and Drums entering the hall to traditional bagpipe music, followed by the presentation of the flag of the United States. NGS President Ann C. Hilke welcomed the attendees to Charleston. She gave special thanks to Conference Chair Jan Alpert for her hard work in making sure this conference was a success. She also thanked the local host society, the South Carolina Genealogical Society, for their equally hard efforts. Ann also mentioned that a film crew will be here later this week from "Our Roots," a new PBS series with Henry Louis Gates as host.
David McDonald, Awards Chair and Board Member, then took center stage to announce this year's award winners of the newsletter competition for member societies:
Family Society: The Timmons Family History Society
Local society newsletter:
winner: Alberta Family History Societies' newsletter, The ChinookMajor or large societies:
runner-up:Fairfax County VA Society
winner: Irish International Genealogical Society for The Septs
runner-up: Anglo-Celtic Roots of the Greater British Isles of Ontario
Joe Godfrey of Archives.com, the sponsor of this morning's session, gave a few remarks. He mentioned that the big focus of Archives.com is adding more records, with a special focus of adding new records that have not been online before. He also announced that Anne Roach has recently agreed to head up the effort. (Anne's name has been mentioned before in this newsletter a number of times. She headed up the recent successful RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. You can read my past articles mentioning Anne at http://goo.gl/rztTV.) Joe also reminded everyone of the Archives.com Grant program: every month the company gives a $1,000 grant to an individual or society. You can read more at http://www.archives.com/GA.aspx?_act=grant
The keynote speech was then delivered by the Archivist of the United States, David Ferrerrio. Reading from my notes taken during his presentation:
- David Ferrerrio talked about the transformation that is underway at the Agency.
- Over 5,000 people attended the recent Genealogy Fair at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC. The agency is planning for an even bigger event next year.
- The way NARA serves its customers is changing as those customers now have new tools. NARA has added new capabilities: scanners, wifi, and more for visitors, plus a better web site for those who cannot visit in person. NARA now publishes 11 blogs (including one written by David Ferrerrio), plus supports a YouTube site, Flickr, Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, all of which are kept active with the latest news and notes.
- David Ferrerrio invites everyone to become citizen-archivists to become familiar with specific records of interest and to contribute insights and even lists of names on various documents. With NARA's limited resources, it is impossible for the staff members to index records. However, interested citizen-archivists could perform those tasks for record sets in which they are interested.
- Present partnerships with Ancestry.com, Footnote.com, and FamilySearch are in place to add more and more documents online so that citizens may view them without visiting in person.
- The 1940 census is being digitized in-house and will be released online on April 2, 2012 on the NARA web site. That will be the ONLY web site to contain the records at that date; the 1940 U.S. census records will not appear on any commercial database services on that date. While all the images will be online on April 2, 2012, not all the records will be indexed by that date. Indexing is an ongoing effort.
- A re-organization is underway at NARA with the intent to create one NARA, providing unified, coordinated services to all customers. The plan is to create a customer-focused organization that delivers information electronically and via tradional means. NARA also should become a great place to work.
- David Ferriero believes this transformation will result in a richer and more productive experience for all visitors, including in-person visitors and online visitors alike.
I must admit I enjoyed listening to the archivist. His presentation was focused on providing the facts with no glossing over of existing weaknesses and shortcomings. In effect, he said, "Here's the problems and here's what we are doing about them." He is obviously a "straight shooter."
"And now for something completely different."
David S. Ferriero's talk was followed by Buzzy Jackson, describing her experiences in writing a book about how she converted from a genealogy newcomer to an expert researcher. Buzzy is the author of Shaking the Family Tree, Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist. She has a PHD in American history. Using a lot of humor and quite a few pictures, she described her experiences in becoming an expert and writing about the process in a book written to meet an editor's deadline of 18 months. That turned out to be a much bigger challenge than originally envisioned. It apparently worked: she is an expert today.
If you ever have a chance to listen to Buzzy Jackson speak, I suggest you do so. You'll remember her humorous talk for a long, long time.
Finally, NGS President Ann C. Hilke took the stage again and made two announcements. First, next year's NGS conference will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio. OK, that was "old news" as that has been announced before. However, the second announcement was "new news" and was a surprise to me: the 2013 conference will be held in Las Vegas. That is a great city to hold a conference and I expect that will draw huge crowds. I'm making my reservations this week!
The opening session finished about 90 minutes after it started and a thousand or more genealogists all headed for the exhibits hall. Well, most of them did. Seeing the crowds, I decided to visit later. I am told the place was mobbed and I see that as a good thing. It shows the interest levels and enthusiasm of today's genealogists. I did spend a lot of time in the exhibits hall later in the day, however.
I hope you will enjoy some of my pictures of today's conference. You can click on any image to see a larger picture.
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