Friday, June 28, 2013

Scheduling with print and technology at the FGS Conference. (FGS Conference Blog Prompt #3)

Today all the $$ fell in place and I was able to submit my Early Bird registration for the 2013 FGS Conference. Thanks to Kroger and the fact that five of my grandkids were born in July and August, I was able to take advantage of the gift card special and saved a bunch of money at the pump yesterday! My savings are now resting in a little FGS Conference envelope in my safe to be applied later to the cost of transportation.

After I completed my registration for the conference, I just about fell off my cushy office chair when I found out that I could do all my session planning online. I have been doing this for years with office supplies and a printed syllabus. Don't tell anyone but I was so excited that I actually got my toes tangled up in all the computer cords under my desk. 

When I went to my first ever conference in 2005, the syllabus was in printed form only. I spent my first afternoon and evening in my room "indexing" my syllabus. I would write the session number on a Post It tab and attach it to the edge of the corresponding page. When I was finished the book would have a bunch of little wings going up and down its side. When I needed to figure out where I was going next, I would just check the tabs. I used this method for many years. 
  My 2007 FGS Conference syllabus.
                   with Post It tabs                       

But this year we are going high tech! Well, granny high tech. I will be using the FGS Conference website to plan my conference. If you have registered for the conference, you know by now that you can create an account that you can access from the Conference home page. Once you log into your account you can do three things. You can add to your registration, you can add another person, and you can plan your itinerary. However, you cannot cancel an event from this location.

The site is extremely user friendly. It is uncluttered and easy to understand. You will love it. You click on Plan Your Sessions and the first day of the conference comes up. Since (as of right now) I am planning on heading to Fort Wayne on Wednesday morning,  I most likely won't be able to attend  any sessions before noon. I have an hour and a half drive plus check in time at the hotel that will take up the morning of the first day. So I scrolled down to the afternoon and checked the boxes of the sessions I want to attend. And, viola!! My Wednesday schedule is complete in a matter of minutes. However, just in case I decide to head for the conference and some extra research time at the library on Tuesday, I did create a morning schedule. Once you have your Wednesday schedule set up, you can continue on with the rest of the conference days.

You will not see any descriptions of the sessions, so you will have to be familiar with the content of your conference booklet before you begin to plan your schedule. Normally I will read all of the information in the conference booklet and place a check mark beside each lecture that applies to my research. Then I go back through a day or two later and begin the process of elimination. If you have several sessions that you just can't miss and they are all scheduled at the same time, you will have to decide which one you will attend. This is not always easy. I have a few of these schedule conflicts so I will have to wait and take a look at the notes in the syllabus to see what I can attend and what I can miss. Since the sessions are usually taped, I may be able to purchase a recording of the sessions I miss.

All of this can be printed out and you can use an old fashioned pen or pencil to make notes on the printed copy! At this point you need to take a look at your schedule to see if you made any mistakes. Also. make sure that you left blocks of time where you can fit in library research, rest, exhibit hall, and food.

           1st draft of my conference schedule           

The exhibit hall will be open immediately following the keynote session on Thursday and will stay open until 7:30pm. I expect both of these times to be crowded, but that won't stop me. I live for the exhibit hall!! Remember it closes at 5pm on Friday and 3:30pm on Saturday, so you won't miss out on those last minute purchases. If the conference layout is the same as the 2007 layout, the exhibit hall will be on the same floor as the majority of the lectures rooms. This means I will be able to pop in and out of the exhibit hall between sessions. 

My number one rule for the exhibit hall is: Do not buy anything on the first trip around the hall. This cuts down on impulse buying, especially at a conference of this size where it is easy to be overwhelmed with goodies and gadgets. After all I don't want to max out my credit card so I can't go to another conference. Once that first browsing trip is behind me, I decide what I need and figure out when I can go back and buy it. Like I said I pop in and out of the exhibit hall a lot.

As for library research, I know from experience that the library will be crowded. It will be open til 9pm on Thursday. On Friday the library will be open til midnight, but you must purchase a $10 ticket for this event. So my library time will be after 6pm on those two days.

I always stress the importance of rest. Conferences can be physically exhausting. If you aren't used to walking, this is a good time to begin a walking program (and keep it up afterwards)! I will be taking my FitBit with me to keep track of my steps, distance, and calories burned. This could be a conference first. Should be interesting. I will keep everyone informed each day of my stats!!
Also, be aware of information overload. One lecture on top of another can be mentally exhausting. If you feel tired and you are determined to fit in one more session, sit near the back by the door so you can leave quietly when you begin to fall asleep. I don't know which is worse for a speaker - having someone fall asleep or leave. Probably 50/50. After looking at the printout of my schedule, I can see where I might need to forgo something for a little more rest. I'm not as young as I used to be!

I usually bring my breakfast and lunch in the form of donuts and other healthy snacks! I eat breakfast in my room before the day begins; this way I can sleep in! For lunch I head back to my room for some peanut butter & crackers plus some fruit. By doing this I get a little rest time and it is easy on my budget. But I can see right now looking at my schedule that I am on overload towards the end of the conference. Much as I don't want to I might have to miss something. Remember I have to drive home.


Over the next month and a half I am sure I will make adjustments to my lecture schedule and having it available online will make this a lot easier.I will print out the final version and place it inside my printed syllabus. I am a book person; I like the feel of a book. Yes, there are still some of us left. Gotta have my printed syllabus. 

As for everything else, it will go on my new iphone 5. I will make sure I have a map of downtown Fort Wayne at my finger tips. All of my events, workshops, library time, and maybe even nap time will be on my iphone calendar. If I need to escape for a few minutes, I have a Conference Playlist on my Music App. When I am at the exhibit hall I will use my phone to make a list of what I want to buy and narrow it down to what I really need. And, I am sure that over the next few weeks I will find more apps I can put to use on my phone to make my conference life easier. 

So there you have it: Computer + Printed Syllabus + iPhone5 + FitBit = 2013 FGS Conference!! See you there!

Monday, June 17, 2013

This Ain't Your Grandma's Keyboard Anymore

In my last post I mentioned that genealogical societies have been hit hard by the amount of information that is available online. It's a whole new world out there for those of us who were introduced to family research when the only keyboard was on a typewriter. The typewriter was used to put letters on a sheet of paper in order to make sentences and paragraphs. Sorta like today's computer keyboard only with typos. And those typos had to be erased. I can get the aurora of a beginning migraine just thinking about it.

Those of you who have been with me for a while know about my Aunt Daisy's dining room and the huge table with the old typewriter at one end. Plus all the sideboards with stacks of papers that I never understood until I myself became a genealogist. All of my aunt's research started with that typewriter.

I am lucky. I came to understand the joy of knowing about your ancestors before the internet arrived on the scene. You had to interact with other people who were trying to find their ancestors, and you had to go to the places where they lived to find their records. Not online, not on Google Earth, but face to face, in person at local genealogical societies and local courthouses, and crawling around in local snake infested cemeteries. This was, and still is, the core of family research. Well, maybe minus the snakes.

I know that we have to embrace technology; that we have to build bridges to the 21st century, but nothing compares to finding that unknown cousin at a genealogical society meeting or conference. When you can sit down and look at someone who looks a lot like your Aunt Izzy or your Uncle Ben. See the family resemblance. And then start comparing notes on family rumors. That's when it becomes real. And that's why I believe we should all belong to at least one local genealogical society. Just to get to know each other. We are one huge family. If we let these groups disappear, we will lose the best part of our research. 

So I am encouraging you to get away from your computer research for a while. Find a local genealogy group. Go to a conference. Volunteer. Get involved. Find your comfort zone at a local courthouse. You won't regret it and you will kick yourself for not doing it sooner.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Conference Planning 101!

The best conference for me is one where I can combine the conference experience with my own family research. That is why the 2012 NGS Conference and the 2013 OGS Conference, both held in Cincinnati, Ohio, were at the top of my To Do List. My ancestors were from that area and those two conferences  saved me money, time, and effort. 

The FGS Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana, can also be the best of both worlds for genealogists, even if your ancestors weren't from Indiana. Think Crossroads of America. It is an opportunity to combine research and education. The Allen County Public Library has one of the largest genealogy collections available with an amazing staff to help you with your research. Combine that with the educational opportunities of an FGS Conference and, trust me, you can not go wrong. 

So how do you balance all this research, educational opportunities, networking, socializing, and exhibit hall shopping? The answer: It is never too early to plan your itinerary. Just remember to keep it flexible, subject to change, and please include rest periods. Having attended many conferences, I know that no matter how much you plan ahead, the actual conference will affect your schedule and you may need to make changes for various reasons. However, you can still create a basic day by day plan before you leave home.

The first thing you need to do is take a good look at your research goals and compare them to the lectures offered in the FGS Conference booklet. For me, this conference is going to be a little different because in addition to my ongoing lineage society research, I have two new things in my life*(see below). International  research and a new cellphone!!

I received an Ancestry International membership for Christmas and now I have a whole new list of brick walls - immigration, Germany, indentures. the old country - I could go on and on. So the number one item on my itinerary is a lecture on Friday, F-332, Passenger Arrivals, Colonial Times to Mid -20th century. First of all, the speaker, John Philip Colletta, is excellent; he is on my top ten list. I know from past experience that I will come away from this session with lots of information and new ideas to help with my new brick walls.

On Thursday, there is a European track and an Ethnic Origin track. Right now I am considering sessions on hometowns, Swiss research, and online resources.On Friday there are German and Migration/Immigration tracks that have my attention. The immigration track offers sessions on Midwest ethnic origins, cluster communities, and the Great Lakes Region. On the German track F-320 looks especially good since it explores ways to backtrack your ancestors voyage across the ocean. F-348 focuses on that illusive area known only as Germany on so many U.S. records

(Also, on Friday, another of my favorite speakers, J. Mark Lowe, is giving a lecture on the distillation process. This has no international value! The real reason I am interested in this session is because rumor has it that my family brought the bourbon recipe to Kentucky. So I will be taking a lot of notes!)

This past week I built another bridge to the 21st Century and bought an i-Phone 5. Verizon made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Being a widow who knows how to live well on a fixed income, I was determined to keep my cellphone cost in the area of $50 -$70. Apparently Verizon finally got the memo. The reason I made the move is because I have come to realize that technology has invaded my world of genealogy to the point where is it difficult to exist without it. So with my new phone I am looking for tech sessions that are going to teach me how to do neat genealogy stuff with my new mobile device. So far I have only found one session - F-338, Evernote for Every Genealogist. Cyndi Ingle Howells (Cyndi's List) is the speaker. The words in the brief description of the lecture "sync with every mobile device you own" got my attention. That would be my new phone. Hopefully the Exhibit Hall will provide more information about things I can do with my new toy. A lot of the exhibitors hold mini-sessions. I will check on this as we get closer to the conference.

Of course my main focus at this conference will be anything that can help me achieve my goal of membership in Ohio lineage societies. My dad's family goes back to  some of the first settlers to float down the Ohio River and settle in Clermont County. On Friday I found T-205 about the Inland Rivers Library at the Public Library of Cincinnati. I will have to check the syllabus to see if this session would be of value to me. 

Many of my Ohio ancestors lived in Kentucky before crossing the river so I will have to attend T-218, Beginning Kentucky Research at the Genealogy Center (ACPL). There is also a session on research at The Genealogy Center. Even though I have done research at  the ACPL and I know it is a very user friendly library, I may attend this session to see what's new. The library has a fantastic website and I would recommend that you use it to plan your research before the conference. There is an Orientation Video in the genealogy section of the website. Keep in mind that the library will be crowded and it is also open til midnight on Friday night.

Since I am a board member of a local genealogy society, I will be attending the Wednesday sessions that focus on organizational issues. The fact that there is so much genealogy information online today has hit some societies causing membership to fall. There are several good lectures on volunteers, websites, publications, projects, and a two hour hands-on long range planning workshop for officers.

Looking at my itinerary, it reminds me of my college days - running back and forth from class to the library to my dorm room. And, that brings me to the last part of my itinerary - rest. You really need to take time out and that does not mean sitting down to eat dinner or lunch. It means planning your days sensibly, going back to your room or finding a place to sit down and rest for the better part of an hour. As I look at my schedule, Friday appears to be a long, busy day, so I am planning an early dinner on Thursday, a trip to the exhibit hall which is open til 7:30 and then total rest and relaxation! Yes, I have seen people fall asleep in lecture rooms on the last days of a conference.

There is a lot involved in attending a conference of this size. Just finding your comfort zone can be overwhelming and it is normal to feel a little nervous if it is your first conference. That will pass quickly as you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the event. 

I have given you a little insight into how I am approaching this conference. Your experience could be completely different. However there is one problem we all face. Eight sessions - all scheduled at the same time and you need to pick just one! Use your syllabus. See which sessions have notes that will provide most of the information you are looking for. You can skip those. If you still have a problem, check to see if one of the sessions will be taped.

*(Earlier, I mentioned that I have 2 new things in my life. While I was writing this post I got another one. Little William Gary joined the family tree on June 12, bringing my number of grandchildren to an even dozen.)