23 August 2013

Follow Friday - #FGS2013 A Plethora of People to Pursue

I have to admit that I really wanted to get to the Keynote session on Thursday, but I was delayed by a bit of a work-related issue that had to be taken care of so it just didn’t happen. But, as I have always said, everything happens for a reason. I had the opportunity to enjoy breakfast with a great group of genealogists, including Linda and Margel from the Midwest Geneabloggers group. We got into a lively conversation about how genealogical societies need to work with historical societies to leverage one another and to ensure that the level of customer service we receive as researchers is ‘up-to-snuff.’ There are just far too many stories of Archivist’s who seemingly go out of their way to prevent researchers from accessing material they need. I don’t understand this pervading and insidious way of working. We also discussed the importance of securing primary documentation as a source of genealogical material and the best methods for doing that. Is this starting to sound familiar? If not, read on…

I made it over to the Exhibit Hall as it was opening and wandered around checking out the booths. I didn’t do a super thorough job, but enjoyed watching the people and talking to a few of the vendors. I got information on my Dad’s (potential) SAR chapter at the SAR booth; poked around in the books available at several vendors; spoke with another Midwest Geneablogger, Kathryn Lake Hogan at the GSG booth; and had a heart-wrenching conversation with someone at the DAR booth.

I started my conversation with the DAR representative like this: Is there a National edict of what to do with the primary documentation (hand written meeting minutes, pamphlets, committee reports, etc.) held by the individual Chapters? If not, what are you doing to preserve that information from your Chapter? (Note: This particular Chapter is within the range of the Allen County Public Library) As it turns out, they decided to have their materials digitized, and they did. They kept one ‘set’ on several local hard drives and also have a copy on the Cloud.

Are you wondering what they did with those original books lovingly written by their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins? I was too. They shredded them. That’s right, you read that right. They shredded them. Because no one wanted them or had the space to store them. Now, before you get too upset, there was some material that was given to the ACPL, but even they were reluctant to take it. I keep thinking, what is this world coming to when a LINEAGE SOCIETY destroys primary documentation? At the same time, I have a ‘oh, well…’ kind of mind set. I’m only one person and I there’s not a lot I can do alone. But just an hour before I learned this, I was sitting at a table with a half dozen women who were ardently describing their concern about primary documentation being lost. WHAT IS THE DISCONNECT?!!

I wandered off to go to a session being presented by Kris Rzepczynski, the Senior Archivist at the State Archives of Michigan. He was the first speaker on Librarians’ Day and I really liked his style, so I decided to go and hear some happy news about researching in Michigan. The room was about half way full. Kris did a great job in describing the records that are available in the State as well as a bit of the history of the migration of people into Michigan.  Overall it was a terrific presentation and it genuinely made me want to get in my car and go to Lansing to see what I can find on my Powelson and Garret(t) lines.

I met up with the usual suspects and we went over to a hotel for a light lunch and some great conversation. Diana Ritchie(http://randomrelatives.blogspot.com/) shared an incredibly funny newspaper article she’d found the night before (while the rest of us were downstairs talking shop). Hopefully she’ll blog about it…it’s a hoot!

As the 2:00 sessions were getting ready to start, I was standing out in the hallway with quite the conundrum. Elizabeth Shown Mills was doing her “Smiths and Jones” presentation, Debbie Parker Wayne was doing a presentation titled “Going Nuclear: DNA Discoveries to Trace All Lines of Descent”, and there was a guy presenting on Beginning Swiss Research. As I looked at the syllabus, I realized the only presentation that wasn’t being recorded was the one on the Swiss Research so in I went. Best decision. Ever.  The presentation was given by Michael Lacopo. Oh, did I mention the ladies I had breakfast with were from Granger, Indiana. Michael Lacopo? Granger, Indiana. Small world.

A couple of great take-aways with regard to the research itself, including the 1676 edict attaching the location of the person (gemeinde), at that moment, to the person and their future family permanently. How cool is that? And confusing, because if you ask someone where they’re FROM they’ll answer with that location, but if you ask them where they LIVED they might give the location they were actually living OR the gemeinde. Uh oh…

Michael got a rousing round of applause when he stated that everyone in the audience should hug the Archivists who work so hard to make material available to them even though they don't get paid very much to do it. OK, maybe I was the only one clapping, but still. However, I thought back to the conversation we had in the morning, and it made me wonder how many people in the audience had had a negative experience in a repository. Huh.

Lastly, as I sat marveling at the manner in which Michael Lacopo got his message across, using humor to keep the audience alert and attentive, I was struck by the thought that of any session that should have been recorded, it was his. Not enough of the lesser known speakers get acknowledged through the various Social Media channels. So, please think about that the next time you go to a Conference. Yes, it’s fabulous hearing ESM, Dr. Jones and the individuals in our profession at that level, speak. But the content in the sessions given by some of the lesser known presenters is just as valuable, and in some ways more so. So, if you ever get to meet Michael Lacopo, give him a hug from me. J

The evening ended with another amazing meal at a Ft. Wayne restaurant called Gas House. They seated us in a small room at a large table and the conversation was lively, loud and full of laughter. What an inspiring and invigorating way to end the day, and I truly felt there wasn’t a way that it could be any better.

As we all sauntered back to our hotels (it was a fairly long walk), we saw Amy Johnson Crow and Curt Witcher. For those who aren’t aware, Curt is the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center Manager.  I struck up a conversation, telling him how impressed I was, both as a researcher and as an Archivist, with the way the Center is lead. Not managed, but lead. What ensued was a remarkable conversation about the state of Archives and Archivists, Libraries and Librarians, and education as a whole. I felt like this gentleman, who has an incredible job with immense responsibility, allowed me insight into why the ACPL is such an incredible repository. And, it gave me hope that I may still have a professional future, perhaps not one I expected, but a professional future all the same.

Speaking of futures…I’m late! LOL Off to sessions. If you have difficulties locating anyone I’ve discussed here, please leave me a comment and I’ll get their information for you (sorry, but this blogger has GOT to go!!)


  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful post! The details and insights are absolutely heart-warming to this armchair genealogy traveller. The DAR shredding of original documents jolted me as I'm certain it did you as well. But the excitement of your M.Lacopo session, and talk with Curt Witcher... Clear examples of how one person CAN and does make a difference in the world. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you, Celia, for your comment. I sure hope to meet you some time at a Conference. :-)


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