Researchers often dream of being locked up in a library, where we would have all the time in the world to enjoy those resources.
Since we don't usually get the chance to have unlimited access to such facilities, another interesting activity is to be at a conference attended by several hundred librarians.
Daniel Horowitz - Genealogy and Translation Manager at MyHeritage.com - and I were at the Association of Jewish Libraries conference in Seattle, Washington.
On the first day, we met with people from around the US and those who had traveled from other countries. Attendees were from public libraries, universities, schools, archives and many other organizations and institutions.
Daniel presented one program and I attended several others. I was very happy to see several genealogically-oriented presentations by university library staff and special collection curators.
Genealogy is a multi-disciplinary topic, and involves history, sociology, databases, religion, science and other subjects. For some time, activists in the community have been trying to encourage universities in general to offer courses in the field. Unfortunately, except for a few specialized institutions, the field has not been recognized in higher education.
The connection between these fields and genealogical research is sometimes not apparent. This never fails to amaze me.
Following one excellent program in Seattle - a well-researched presentation on how 18th-19th century European Jews received surnames, I congratulated the presenter on such an interesting genealogical topic. The presenter looked at me with a puzzled expression and asked "Genealogy? Isn't that just about relationships?"
No, I replied, genealogy and family history encompasses much more than just relationships. It includes names and how people got them, history, religion, sociology, anthropology, genetics, DNA, science, archives, databases and many other fields.
Librarians are the first-line of defense for many beginning researchers. They go to their neighborhood public libraries and ask a librarian how to start researching. In the US, many public libraries offer free access to subscription sites, which makes it simple for beginners to see what's out there.
Another presentation by an animated, enthusiastic PhD candidate centered on using Web 2.0 resources to document, recreate and create communities for geographical locations that exist today only in the memories of those who come from those places.
The program, by a Greek-born researcher, covered exactly how to do this, and provided numerous resources. She knew what genealogy was!
A major figure in the Seattle community provided an excellent history of the city's community, naming early arrivals with many details of how the community increased in size. This, of course, is also essential to genealogists. As my family had a branch that had settled in the city in 1923, I felt a very personal connection and recognized many of the names, while learning details I had not known.
The conference also arranged tours of the city, where we saw important locations of the community history. Our guide was the man who co-authored a book on that history.
Conferences with programs on resources are useful to researchers of all skill levels, as the presenters offer views on the information they know best. Some is very local, while other material is far-ranging.
If you have an opportunity to attend a local, national or international genealogy conference, try to attend. You will learn about many resources to help with your own research, as well as connecting with other searchers who might be looking for the same names and locations that figure in your own quest.
Have you attended a genealogy conference? Where? When? What did you learn and how has it helped your genealogical research? I always look forward to reading your comments.
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