RootsTech 2013

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 3rd annual RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City earlier this year.  I’ve been asked by a local society to give a brief talk about my experiences there.  I’m writing this blog article as a way to organize my thoughts and to share them more broadly.

The registration process was online and very easy to use.  I registered early to take advantage of early bird discounts.  I stayed at the Radisson Hotel Salt Lake City Downtown, adjacent to the convention center and about a block and a half from the Family History Library (FHL).  The hotel was great and the conference rate included a large and varied breakfast buffet.  I began each day very well nourished!

The free RootsTech mobile app allowed attendees to stay abreast of schedule changes and late breaking announcements.   The conference guide was available as a downloadable PDF file.  I ended up not using the file because the guide booklet (6” x 9” x ¼”) was so convenient to flip through.  Conference organizers also made the entire syllabus available for download.  In fact, as of today, it is still here .  Kudos to the conference and presenters for their willingness to share.  And speaking of sharing:  Videos of sessions and keynotes from 2012 and 2013 are available for your viewing pleasure.

I was a bit disappointed in the sessions.  The vast majority were marked “B” for Beginner or “E” for Everyone – whatever that means.  There were a few I-for-Intermediate sessions unevenly sprinkled throughout the schedule.  Some time slots had multiple Intermediate presentations and many had just one or none at all.  There were no sessions designated as Advanced.  As is typically the case at conferences, some session times had more than one talk I wanted to attend and others had none that excited me.

My favorite sessions from RootsTech 2013 were:

  • Eleven Layers of Online Searches at by Barbara Renick
  • How to Use Google Earth for Genealogy (workshop) by Lisa Louise Cooke
  • Digital Photo and Document Organization: Understanding Metadata (workshop) by Randy Whited
  • Can a Complex Research Problem be Solved Solely Online? by Thomas. W. Jones

The Expo Hall was large and jam-packed with interesting booths to visit.  I visited with OCLC, my former employer.  They announced that they will be including the FHL catalog in WorldCat, the union catalog that itemizes holdings at the world’s libraries.  I spent time learning about Evidentia, a new program designed to help genealogists organize their sources and analyze data.  I bought the program, but have not yet spent any quality time with it.  No conference would be complete without a visit with Leland Meitzler at the Family Roots Publishing booth.  I love books and never leave that booth empty-handed.  There were many other vendors – too numerous to mention – featuring their software, databases, charts, etc.  It was definitely exciting to see so many genealogical products and services.

Will I attend RootsTech again?  Yes and no.  I am not inclined to register for the conference.  Most of the sessions were too basic for me to get much out of them.  The Expo Hall was open to all without registration.  I wouldn’t mind be there to look.  This year the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) held their Professional Management Conference at the SLC Radisson on Tuesday and Wednesday before RootsTech.    I attended the PMC and enjoyed it.  My plan for next year is to go to the APG PMC and take advantage of the opportunity to share a room with someone going to RootsTech.  I could still visit the exhibitors, network with genie friends and do some research at the nearby Family History Library.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Beth Weiland Benko

Genea-Goals 2013 – Update

OK. The first quarter of the year is over and it is time to see how I am doing on my Genea-Goals for 2013.  Status in pink.

  1.  Blog more often  – at least 2 or 3 times per month – Haven’t done it.  This is the first post since I set these goals back in January!
  2. Attend RootsTech and the APG Professional Management Conference – March in SLC – The APG PMC was great — lots of wise words from Tom Jones and informative presentations by Judy Russell.  RootsTech was BIG — 6,700 registered attendees!  Maybe I should blog about these?
  3. Attend a national institute – Registered in my first-choice session, room booked, airline tickets purchased.  Can’t wait!
  4. Take the NGS Home Study Course – graded option – after the revised version is available in May – I just heard that the new course “American Genealogy Studies: The Basics” is in pre-release.  I will start this soon.  Right now I am working my way through the free NGS Family History Skills course.
  5. Speaking
    1. Prepare 3 more talks – have ideas for 2 new talks
    2. Present 10 times – have presented 3 times so far this year and have 3 more talks scheduled — one of them in 2014.
  6. Research trip to Allen County Public Library – planned for fall
  7. Apply for ProGen – not yet
  8. Personal Digitization
    1. Digitize old slides – Completed scanning of 600 slides inherited from my in-laws.  Dug out 16 slide carousels belonging to me and my hubby.  There are over 2200 slides!  Although I won’t scan each and every one, this could take a while.
    2. Digitize old (pre-2003) pictures – after the slides are finished.
  9. Marketing
    1. Change LinkedIn profile – not yet
    2. Edit APG listing – not yet
    3. Submit information for CCGS Speakers Bureau – did it
    4. Submit name for NARA researchers list – not yet
  10. Volunteer activities
    1. DPL – twice a month – check
    2. NARA – twice a month – check
    3. B’fld GS – Treasurer, maybe VP in FY14, organizing newspaper indexing project – check
    4. Boulder GS – Recording Secretary, Publicity – check
    5. CGS – Publicity – check
    6. * New * GGSC – delegate to Colorado Council – check

It’s been a busy first quarter.  I definitely haven’t paid enough attention to my blog.  Education activities are on track.  Scanning has taken more time than anticipated (~5 minutes per slide).  Volunteering is taking up a lot of time and energy.  I’ve been trying to sit on my hands when “opportunities” arise.  I’m hoping to have more of these goals check off next quarter.

Genea-Goals for 2013

I’ve been reading other blog posts about Genealogy Goals/Resolutions for 2013 and I’ve been pondering what mine should be.  It has taken a while to come up with a final list — and, no, “cease procrastinating” is not on the list!  Since the 1st of the year, I’ve been busy.  I’ve given a 3-hour Legacy Family Tree workshop. Last evening, I was the featured speaker at a local society meeting.  I’ve celebrated 3 family member birthdays so far in January — 2 more to go!

So here are my genea-goals for 2013 – in no particular order.

  1. Blog more often  – at least 2 or 3 times per month
  2. Attend RootsTech and the APG Professional Management Conference – March in Salt Lake City — already registered, have hotel & roommate, bought plane tickets
  3. Attend a genealogical institute (one of the following: SLIG, IGHR, GRIP)
  4. Take the NGS Home Study Course – graded option – after the new, revised version is available in May
  5. Speaking Engagements
    1. Prepare 5 more presentations on genealogy/technology topics
    2. Present 10 times
  6. Research trip to Allen County Public Library
  7. Apply for ProGen
  8. Personal Digitization
    1. Digitize old slides
    2. Digitize old (pre-2003) pictures
  9. Continue my Cincinnati research and apply for First Families of Hamilton County
  10. Volunteer activities
    1. Denver Public Library – twice a month
    2. NARA, Denver – twice a month
    3. Broomfield GS – Treasurer, VP in FY14, lead newspaper indexing project
    4. Boulder GS – Recording Secretary, Publicity
    5. Colorado GS – Publicity
    6. Germanic GS of Colorado – delegate to Colorado Council of GSs

    (GS = Genealogical Society)

That’s it!  This list seems ambitious, but I’m committed to take my genealogy to the next level by taking advantage of some high-quality learning opportunities, volunteering in local repositories and preparing and giving presentations.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Beth Weiland Benko

Why Apply to a Lineage Society?

Both my mother’s and father’s families lived in Ohio in the last two centuries.  Early in my Ohio research, I joined the Hamilton County Genealogical Society, a chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society.  On HCGS web site, I read about the lineage societies they sponsor:

Century Families of Hamilton County – This program honors the descendants of the pioneers who settled (or were born) in Hamilton County between 1 January 1861 and 100 years ago from today.

Settlers and Builders of Hamilton County – This program honors the descendants of the pioneers who settled (or were born) in Hamilton County between 1 January 1821 and 31 December 1860.

First Families of Hamilton County – This program honors the descendants of the pioneers who settled in Hamilton County prior to 31 December 1820.

“Wow!” I thought, “I’ve got people in Cincinnati back to about 1817, I’ll apply.  Piece of cake.”  I downloaded the forms and read through the pages of instructions.  This was not going to be as easy as I had first thought.  I quickly determined that I should take baby steps with the applications, applying for Century Families first, then Settlers and Builders and eventually First Families.

I would need to supply copies of evidential documents for name, birth date and place, parents names, death date and place, marriage date and place.  The documentation must start with me and work backwards in time to the ancestors eligible for Century Families (my maternal grandparents and both sets of great-grandparents on that side).  Where did I have a copy of my birth certificate?  I had been married, widowed, and married again, so I needed marriage and death certificates to prove how the name on my birth certificate had morphed into the name I have now.  I was used to gathering such documents for my ancestors, but not for myself.  Compiling the records for my parents was easier since I had obtained birth, marriage and death certificates a few years ago.

I turned to the binders I use to capture documents I had on the earlier generations.  There is nothing like revisiting your research and supporting documentation to point out the “holes” in your study.  I re-examined each document to make sure that they “proved” what I thought they did.  More importantly, would the lineage society committee find them sufficient proof for the facts stated?

In the summer of 2011, I conscientiously accumulated all my evidence, wrote source citations in the margins of each along with my name and membership number on the back.  My Century Families application packet was 32 pages and included 25 source documents.  I must have done a good job because my application was accepted without a peep from the committee.  My Century Families medal and certificate arrived in the mail shortly after the awards luncheon.

This year I applied for the Settlers and Builders society for one set of great-great-grandparents and their parents.  The application packet added 20 pages and 13 source documents to the first.  Several of the documents were in German and required “certified translation.”

This time I heard back from the review committee regarding my application.  I needed additional documentation to prove the full names for some of my ancestors.  Francis Seraph Huber was sometimes “Frank S.” “Franz” or just “Frank.”  (Including his middle name was important to me because his father had been one of the founders of Cincinnati’s St. Francis Seraph church.)  His wife Mary Louisa Danheimer appeared in various documents as “Mary”, “Mary L.” and “Louise.”  A death certificate showing my great-great grandmother had been born in Cincinnati was not sufficient proof of her birthplace.  I needed to supply a census record to back up that fact.

I am thankful for a patient and kind committee chair, Kenny Burck, who guided me in submitting the necessary supplemental documents.  My medal and certificate arrived in the mail earlier this month.  Next year, my goal is to apply for First Families of Hamilton County.

So, why apply for a lineage society?

The process of completing the application and supplying necessary proof documents was a great learning experience.  Reviewing previous research and documents pointed out weaknesses in the stories of my ancestors.  The application began with me and worked backward in time, generation by generation.  This is the model that our research should follow.  Each statement of fact required one or more document to substantiate that fact.  And each document required a source citation.  All of these good genealogical practices were reinforced in the application process.

Century Families of Hamilton County and Settlers and Builders of Hamilton County

And besides, the medals are cool and can be worn as conference bling!

Comparison of Genealogy Software

I am on the board of my local genealogy society.  Another board member and I have been discussing how we can help society members with their genealogy software.  We’ve talked about giving lectures and small-group, hands-on help sessions.  Obviously, since members could use one of several popular programs, focusing on a single one in a general membership meeting would not be appropriate.  And then there is the question of which programs to cover.  I use Legacy Family Tree and my fellow board member uses Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker.  What about RootsMagic?  I believe that addressing these three software programs would give us good coverage among our members.

Since I have a background in software (over 30 years coding, testing and managing), I decided that I could purchase RootsMagic and learn how it works.  Then I though, why not get Family Tree Maker, too, and compare the three packages?  I could do a software “Bake Off.”  The next several postings will focus on my experience with these three genealogy software packages: Legacy Family Tree, Ancestry Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic.

Disclosure: I have purchased my own copies of each software package.  I have used Legacy Family Tree since September of 2008.  I used a previous version of Family Tree Maker in 1997.