Friday, March 30, 2018

Making History in Michigan

This past weekend I had the honor to be selected as a presenter for the Michigan In Perspective: Local History Conference in Sterling Heights, Michigan. I'm just starting to lecture and was happy for the opportunity to talk about genealogy. My topic was "Back to the Future: Using New Technologies in Research". I discussed social media, blogging, and mobile applications and how to apply that to your family history research. I shared some stories from my family including great grandfather Thomas Corcoran (who I previously blogged about - see my earlier post). The audience loved the story I shared about my great grandfather's first love. I felt that my talk made an impact - one couple came up to me and said they visited a cemetery after my talk! And they used the Find a Grave app that I discussed!

This conference was very different than genealogy conferences I've been to. First, there are no major companies like Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, etc. in attendance. The vendors were local to Michigan, specifically in the Detroit area. I did spot the Dearborn Genealogical Society booth and talked with a few staff members. I left with a few fact sheets and maps that will be very helpful. I also stopped by the DigMichNews booth. They asked for a shout out in my presentation and I gladly gave them a plug while discussing OldNewsUSA mobile app. Other vendors included several book publishers, some military museums with artifacts on display, and other museums and non-profits native to Michigan. Another main difference was the scope of speakers. I was the only genealogist (at least as listed on the program). Most presenters were authors or ran museums.

There was such a variety of talks though. One gentleman, Joe Grimm, wrote a book called Coney Detroit where he talked about the history of the Coney franchise. Everyone left so hungry and I thought that I wasn't going to have time to get a Coney. I met a lovely couple at the bar one evening and we bonded over the course of the conference. They took me for my first Coney before I took off heading back home. Other talks focused on Detroit history. It was nice to be around others that had a strong fascination for history - there were even women dressed up as suffragettes for their talk. One presentation was a true bonding experience. We all shared (quickly) what we did and what we're working on and started networking. What a great idea and something I hope to see at other conferences!

I encourage my genealogy readers to check out a local history conference to see what's out there. There's lots of gems out there and you may make a new friend along the way.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

We Are Connected, We Are Family, We Are Next Gen

It's hard to believe that RootsTech was just a week away. It feels like it was just yesterday. What an amazing and fast paced week! I found myself feeling very reflective after coming home from the conference.

Here's what I left with:

1. RootsTech is where I connect and reconnect with my genealogy friends. I met up with so many of my Twitter and Facebook friends that I may never have the opportunity to meet. It truly is the genealogy meet up capital. If you're ever on the fence about going to a conference, go to RootsTech. I guarantee you will meet someone that you are friends with online! 

2. Further, I have several genealogy friends that I consider my family. They were the ones that checked in on me when they saw me sobbing after a key note speech or looked very overwhelmed and anxious. It seems that a lot of our friends took Brandon Stanton's remarks to heart to reach out. We need to support each other - we're all in the same community and have the same goal to research our family history and share it with others. I may not have found cousins through the app but I left with a larger family. 

3. NextGen's message is spreading throughout the community. Most of you know that I'm the social media coordinator for the NextGen Genealogy Network. I was so pleased to hear more people knew about NextGen and wanted the ribbons and were even talking to others about who we are! We're a growing non-profit and it warms my heart to see this community really take off. Our NextGen meetup had approximately 30+ people drop by! And we were all connecting with each other, sharing information, and pictures. I have to give a special shout out to Daniel Horowitz of MyHeritage. Not only did he take our huge group selfie but he also invited each of the NextGen attendees to their annual after party. Thank you sir for being so gracious! 

4. I need to continue to self-market. I came out in full force this year with my own ribbons and updated business cards and tried to talk to as many people as I can (including CEO's of major companies like FamilySearch and Find My Past). Sometimes I experience social anxiety and am nervous about going up to strangers but it's getting better as this community is very warm. I'm an up and coming lecturer. I'm not with a large company or historical society. I do have a day job right now doing IT work but that won't be forever. I'm going to keep pursuing my goal to move into genealogy full time and submitting proposals to conference. 

I hope you all had a wonderful RootsTech, whether you attended in person or remotely via Facebook and Twitter. I truly enjoyed sharing my experience as an ambassador and hope to continue to do it year and year. 

What was your favorite part about RootsTech? 

See you next year! 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

RootsTech Day 4

Yesterday was the fourth day of RootsTech and sadly the last day.

I attended the first MyHeritage Friends breakfast. I gathered with some of the same people that were at the fabulous MyHeritage After party the night prior. Daniel Horowitz from MyHeritage gave a short talk about what's involved in the MyHeritage Friends program. I'm looking forward to partnering with MyHeritage on new features and giving feedback.

Next it twas time for the opening presentation with key note speeches by singer Natalia LaFourcade and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Natalia stunned the audience with her beautiful voice and talked about how her heritage mattered to her. Dr. Gates shared information about his life as well and also talked about how his program The Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings show involves teaching middle school children about science, DNA and genealogy, It's such a beautiful program and I hope more young people are encouraged to start learning about their past. We then had a speech by Cece Moore,  well known genetic genealogist. She talked about her work helping adoptees trace their family tree.

Following keynote speeches, I went to the Media Hub to conduct some group interviews. I had the honor to interview Cece Moore and participate in the group interview with Dr. Henry Gates Jr. You can see the interviews here:

Interview with Cece Moore

Interview with Dr. Gates (part 1 and 2)

Following interviews, I then attended the Ancestry lunch. Jenn Utley gave a talk and talked about some behind the scenes on Long Lost Family as well as the infamous 4th of July commercial that Ancestry put out. The commercial included doing descendancy research on every signer of the Constitution and almost all spots were filled. This was so neat to see, esp. the different outfits different people wore to evoke the image of the famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

I then walked around the Exhibit Hall to visit the various vendors. I participated in the scavenger hunt at most booths and then discussed accreditation with a few institutes. My future feels brighter after talking with so many people this week. I may be young but I'm in this for the long haul.

I wrapped up with a lecture on World War I records in U.S. and Canada by my friend David Allen Lambert. It was an informative talk and will be very helpful with my WWI ancestors, particularly those that served in Canada. I think it's important we support our genealogy friends and I always enjoy his talks.

I didn't attend as many lectures as I did last year but I realize that face to face time and bonding with friends is much more valuable in addition to interviewing key people (how many people can say they met and interviewed Scott Hamilton). These are opportunities of a lifetime.  The classes will repeat at other conferences and online It also helps that I have my syllabus (which is the size of a phone book!) handy to review tips from genealogy experts.

It was bittersweet saying goodbye to old and new friends. I particularly loved seeing all of the familiar and new faces at the NextGen meetup. It was wonderful to hang out with so many great people. I do feel like I connect and belong in this community (this year's RootsTech theme).

I know I'll be back again and also at new conferences this year, You can see me lecture in a few weeks at the Michigan in Perspective: The Local History Conference as well as at Ontario Genealogical Society Conference in Guelph, Ontario (6/1 - 6/3).

Saturday, March 3, 2018

RootsTech Day 3

Another day wrapped up here at RootsTech. I started off yesterday with the keynote speech by Scott Hamilton. He talked about how his upbringing (adopted at an early age) and how he got into skating. It was a very moving speech. I had the honor of participating in a group interview and asked him if he was going to pursue researching genealogy after receiving more updated information about his ancestry. Here's a link to the interview if you're interested. Below is the photo with my interview group.

Next I attended the Find My Past luncheon, I had the opportunity to talk with CEO Tamsin Todd and Executive Vice President of International Business Ben Bennett. I had lovely conversation with both of them and talked about my blog and NextGen Genealogy Network.

I attended the following lectures:

World War II sacrifice by Jennifer Holik
Time For An Ancestor's Death: A Time for Reaping by Curt Witcher
Loose Women: Record Search for Female Felon by Janis Minor Forte
Using New England Probate Records by David Allen Lambert

I explored the Exhibit Hall in between sessions, checking out different vendors (including some of my friends at Family History Fanatics booth). Legacy Republic even had a photo booth set up - you ca see my pic below. 

Later yesterday evening I attended the MyHeritage After Party. The theme was Roaring Twenties and I dressed up for the occasion in my flapper dress. It was a fun time and I enjoy going to these parties every year. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

RootsTech Mid-Day Recap Day 2

Another day here at RootsTech. Today's day started with a talk by Aaron Godfrey, VP of Marketing at MyHeritage, who announced the launch of This initiative was launched to help adoptees find their birth families. 15,000 DNA kits will be provided free to eligible participants. This is such a beautiful announcement and I'm glad more companies are taking up the charge to lend a hand where they can. 

The keynote speech was by Branton Stanton, whose blog is "Humans of New York". He had such a moving speech when he talked about how you need to do what you love and not just focus on the money, the cars, etc. He also talked about how he approaches strangers to interview/photograph them, he asks very deep questions. We need to embrace the hard questions more and reach out to people. Everyone has a story - let's share our stories in our genealogy. 

I next attended the lecture "Call to Action: Diversity in Family History Tech" by D Joshua Taylor. This was a really important topic and I'm glad that it made it into the schedule this year. Josh talked about how we need to embrace our family history with an open mind. Not every family consists of a mother and father and two sets of grandparents. Each family is diverse and this is becoming so true today. We need to go beyond the standard pedigree model and focus on the individual and the people that were important in their lives. I think this was such an important message as we find that our ancestors' lives could be complicated and don't fit the cookie cutter model. The technology software needs to fit a diverse group of people and not just have band-aids applied to squeeze in other facts.

I'm going to finish up a few more lectures here before retiring to get dinner and then get ready for the NextGen Genealogy Network meet up tonight at the Marriott. I hope to see some of my NextGen friends there later!