Saturday, August 13, 2022 -
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Genealogical conferences

An important part of finding your ancestors (and not someone else’s with the same name) is developing your genealogical skills. There are many ways to do that (more on that in a future column), but today I want to focus on genealogical conferences — yes there are such things.

Conferences can last from 1- 5 days, and are a very concentrated way of upping your game, which is why it attracts people with skill levels from beginner to advanced. Back-to-back sessions run throughout the day (and sometimes evening) that typically last 20-90 minutes each, on a dizzying variety of genealogical topics, such as records, methodologies, DNA, case studies, ethnic or geographic focus, technology and more.

These gatherings often include expo halls with many dozens of vendors and exhibitors displaying all kinds of genealogical products and services. It is quite the event in itself.

Additionally, conferences are a great place to network with other family historians who love talking with you about genealogy until the proverbial cows come home (unlike the rest of your family).

Likely the conference of most interest to Jewish genealogists is the IAJGS conference (International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies), which is taking place later this month, Aug. 21-25. The IAJGS conference attracts top Jewish genealogical speakers, professionals and experts on the many ways to expand your knowledge and skills.

This year, there are about 160 presentations to choose from. A sampling of 2022 sessions include “Bubbie, Who Are You? Finding the Maiden Names in Your Family Tree;” “Cite This: Citing Your Sources in Genealogical Research;”” “Dora’s Story: An Approximation of the Life of a 19th Century Immigrant;” “Ethical Dilemmas in Jewish Genealogy;” “Finding Original Jewish Names and Towns (Shtetls): Our Ancestors Left Clues”;” Help! I Just Got My DNA Results and I’m Confused!,” and “The Basics of Jewish Research in Poland.”

As the name states, it is truly international and rotates locations each year. Started in 1981 as a summer session in NYC, most conferences have been in the us (several have been next door in Salt Lake City), but other past locations have included Paris, London, Warsaw and Jerusalem.

As you might imagine, there haven’t been in-person conferences (of any kind) since the pandemic started — they have been virtual since 2020. But this is one of the big silver linings of the pandemic for genealogists, since you certainly save a lot of money on travel costs. Another great benefit is that if you can’t watch some or all of the sessions live, they’ll be  available to watch later.

There are usually several presentations running concurrently, but because most will be recorded, you generally won’t be forced to make difficult choices, as we are when we are in person. Most presentations include a handout by the presenters.

Find out more about the 2022 IAGJS conference, including registration at s4.goeshow.com/iajgs/annual/2022/index.cfm. The cost varies, according to how many programs you want to watch or participate in.

There are other annual conferences that don’t focus on Jewish genealogy, but will help with skill building and general genealogy knowledge. Probably the most well-known (and largest) conferences in the general genealogy world are RootsTech and National Genealogical Society conference. They take place in March and May respectively, and I’ll cover them more in depth in another column.

Both of those conferences were hybrid events this year for the first time, allowing both in-person and virtual attendance. Although the IAGJS conference is completely virtual this year, given the direction of the other major conferences, I would be surprised if that conference weren’t also hybrid in 2023.

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