Can you guess where I am?

I got up early and drove for five hours this morning.  Just before lunch, I arrived here….


Okay, the smartaleck in the back row took a moment to view the full-size image and read that the sign in front of this building says it’s the “OLD STATE CAPITOL” in Illinois.  Yup, I left the rest of the family behind and set out on my own to Springfield.

In case you’ve been doing your genealogy in the dark, this week is the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ annual conference “Pathways to the Heartland," held this year in Springfield, Illinois.  I was able to attend the conference this week mainly because the 2-week work assignment that I started in February kept getting extended with full-time work through this month (which is also the main reason why I haven’t been able to keep up with the weekly blog posts recently), and I’ve also got another meeting to attend this weekend in Lafayette, Indiana (although that one’s for the National Model Railroad Association’s Midwest Region Board of Directors).

Arriving at the conference on Wednesday meant that I was not able to attend the FamilySearch Bloggers’ Briefing session last night.  I’ve been assured that I can pick up the handouts tomorrow at the FamilySearch booth, so I’ll look into that in the morning.  I haven’t had a chance to look around at other genealogy blogs yet to see what they announced, but I’m sure it’ll be something worth mentioning.  I also was not able to attend the early morning class session on copyright and genealogy data that I had originally set out in my schedule.  I’ve got the handout for that, and I’ll take some time later to read through it and many more.


The swag bag and goodies from today

In contrast with other conferences and conventions that I’ve attended, photography and audio recording during the class sessions was almost uniformly forbidden.  The FGS is working with another vendor to record many of the classes and will make the recordings available for purchase after the conference (there’s a little more about this in the conference social media policy, which I will strive to follow in good faith).  Since the sale of the recordings helps support the organization financially, this didn’t bother me as much, but it means there will be fewer photos to share from the sessions.  But, as you might guess, the conference is more than just the class sessions.

So, after lunch, I was able to attend three of the class sessions.  First, I went to “How to manage a large genealogy database project” presented by Laura Prescott.  She discussed some of the tools and difficulties in working through a large research project.  A few of the resources mentioned during the talk include The Guild of One-Name Studies, the surnames directory at Cyndi’s List, previous conference slides from GenealogyMedia and genealogical website builder The Next Generation.  For a specific case study, she showed how the tools were used in the Nickerson Family Association.

The second session I attended was the Social Media Brainstorming Session, chaired by Thomas MacEntee and Randy Whited.  A lot of that session discussed features of various social media sites that I was already familiar with.  However, there were a couple of URLs mentioned that I didn’t know yet, including the Twitter Search page and a discount shopping site for non-profit organizations, TechSoup.  One of the more important take-aways from this session was that when you post news items to social media sites, they should always link back to the main website for the organization for the complete story and more information.  Social media sites drive traffic to the society websites and the society websites link back to the society’s pages on social media sites.  I also got another reminder to check out TweetDeck to help manage Twitter feed updates (as of May 25, 2011, TweetDeck was wholly acquired by Twitter, so it now is an official extension to the site); maybe if I get some time later this year…

The third session I attended was where I actually took the most notes of all the sessions today.  I attended “Sombody is taking care of our society’s documents… right?” presented by M. Scott Simkins of FamilySearch.  Although his presentation style wasn’t the most entertaining, he was lively enough that I didn’t hear any snoring from the audience.  Before he started into his main presentation, he quickly went through a few slides that were added by FamilySearch just before the conference.  The most interesting part of this was the announcement of free access to a large cache of records related to the U.S. Civil War in honor of the war’s 150th anniversary.  With so many of the lines I’m researching being affected by the war, I’ll definitely be spending some more time here in the future.  I suspect that this was part of the blogger reception announcements that I missed last night.  So, now that he was past this announcement, the speaker went on to discuss a few tips to help with preserving documents, again many of which I had already heard.  However, he did point out a video produced in 1987 by the Columbia University Library…

I see there are a couple more videos in the university’s channel that I’ll be looking at later.

My evening ended with an event called an “Old fashioned prairie social.”  This was an extra-cost event, and is the only prepaid food event that I had ordered with my conference registration.  Since the social wasn’t a class session, everyone had cameras out and was shooting almost everything.  Here’s some of what I got with my camera, and yes, costumes were encouraged…


With so many cameras in use at the social, there’s bound to be quite a few more photos to view with a quick search of the interwebs.

So, that’s it for my first day at FGS 2011.  Now I’ve got to get some sleep so I can go back tomorrow and see and learn more.

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