Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day One at NGS Charleston

My first day at the NGS Conference was fabulous and mind-blasting, and it followed a wonderful evening at the Genealogy Bloggers’ dinner hosted by FamilySearch.

Last year at FGS in Knoxville I learned my lesson - never skip the Opening Session. And this year’s Opening Session did not disappoint. It started out with the Charleston Police Pipes and Drums marching into the auditorium to “Scotland the Brave.” They performed several pieces and were followed by the Knights of Columbus as honor guard for the flag and a lovely young student from a local school who sang the National Anthem as beautifully as I’ve ever heard it sung. Several awards were given and there were a couple of drawings (paid NGS Conference in Cincinnati, a week at a hotel in Salt Lake City, and a genealogy tour in Salt Lake City).

Charleston Police Pipes and Drums

Oh, yeah, the “big news,” which my more technologically with-it fellow genealogy bloggers have already tweeted, is that NGS 2013 will be in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The first opening session speaker was David Ferriero, Chief Archivist of the United States; he was followed by Buzzy Jackson, author of Shaking the Family Tree. Some bullets from Ferriero’s presentation were:

  • There were 5000 attendees at NARA’s genealogy fair this year.
  • He outlined the complete reorganization along the lines of a Five Year Plan that NARA is in the process of carrying out, which has been dictated by several circumstances: the need to adapt to new technology and new tools, to reach out to the public through social media (NARA has 11 blogs, 29 Facebook pages, a YouTube site, and is on Flickr, Twitter, and Foursquare, and has created an Online Public Portal for public access to digitized records), and to improve employee satisfaction in an agency that used to be known as one of the worst to work for in the US Government.
  • There are a number of initiatives for a customer-based organization, such as a Research Customer Support Unit, a new unit for developing online content, etc.

When Ferriero opened the floor for questions, most of them had to do with the launch of the 1940 census. “Has it been indexed?” - “Sort of.” “Do you have the server capacity?” - “Yes; after all, I have a lot of experience in launching websites without testing server capacity” (referring the the crash of the New York Public Library system within three hours of launching due to unanticipated demand).

Buzzy Jackson proved to be a wonderful speaker, with much that the audience could identify with. She refers to herself as an “accidental genealogist” who knows what it’s like to start from zero. She was full of praise for the people in the Boulder Genealogical Society who helped her get started and for the Jackson cousin who provided her with so much information on the family - and who, it turned out, was in the audience - the two had met in person for the first time today. (Have to interject here that I just received an e-mail from a distant cousin last night who has read my blog and learned that we will be going to Greenville after Charleston - she lives sort of on the way and we are going to try and meet up.) Buzzy had many fascinating anecdotes and I do not want to blab them all, but I just have to mention one remark that cracked me up and that we can definitely identify with - describing her visit to a remote, neglected graveyard:

“And then we saw the Welcome sign for genealogists: ‘No Trespassing.’”

As we all left at the end of the session and headed toward the Exhibit Hall, we were serenaded by a Gullah choir who were quite amazing. Among other songs, they sang “Give Me That Old-Time Religion” and “Amazing Grace.” We were absolutely entranced, and many sang along and clapped in rhythm.

Gullah Choir

Possibly the main highlight of FGS Knoxville was meeting my fellow genealogy bloggers and getting to hang out with them some. That has been even more applicable here in Charleston. I was able to reconnect with Linda McCauley of Documenting the Details, Kimberley Powell of, and Paula Stuart Warren of Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica, and also met Ginger Smith of Genealogy by Ginger, Jennifer Woods of Climbing My Family Tree, Liz Tapley-Matthews of My Tapley Tree, Cheryl Cayemberg of Have You Seen My Roots?, and Audrey Collins from The Family Recorder. (Oh, and I managed to get too involved in talking and missed meeting Dick Eastman of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.) It has been delightful sharing experiences with these people, and on top of that there were many excellent conversations with people at the booths and other people I met there. One of my favorite experiences was finally meeting DearMyrtle, who is truly one of the great ladies of genealogy and blogging.

Presentations: Today I attended “Finding Fathers: Bridging the Generation Gap” by Elizabeth Shown Mills and “When Sources Don’t Agree, Then What?” by Thomas W. Jones. Expectations were high; both delivered; what else can you say?

Goodies: So far, so good - meaning, I haven’t totally lost control and so far have bought only four books. I did look at the Flip-Pal and I picked up a brochure and order form, but at the price (and considering how much we have spent already), I may still wait until Christmas to get one. One really neat freebie for conference attendees is a card with a code with which we can access free for a year. I hope to put it to good use and to blog about what I am able to find on the site.


  1. Great update! I hadn't heard about Vegas, and I am so happy we'll be having an NGS out west. So much closer to home for me, and I will I will I WILL make that one!

  2. Wow! Day One sounds awesome.
    PS. It's nice to finally be able to put a face to your name.

  3. Jennifer - Glad you will get to go next year - I'll be following your blog closely to see what's going on there.

    Tipper - Yes, it was great fun. Wish I were rich enough to do this every year!

    Michelle - It was a great start, and the rest of the conference was wonderful, too.