So now the conference has started in earnest and lectures and meetings have taken place during the day and early evening. The contingent from the UK has grown over the last day or so, with many JGSGB members arriving at the hotel. It is nice to see so many familiar faces and say hello to them. The feedback from some of the members has been very positive, with stories of finding useful information from the lectures and more importantly, to my mind, from the networking that is going on. Chance conversations and overheard discussions are leading to breakthroughs in people’s research.
From a personal perspective, I have been engaged in what might be called management issues and events at the conference. First event of the day was a round-table presentation from the main European Jewish Genealogy Societies about doing genealogy in each country. What this showed was that there is little difference between each organisation and how they operated for their members but that there were very large differences in the way that records were accessed in each country. The Swiss in particular have to deal with extremely high charges to obtain even basic information, whereas records in places such as France were free.
The theme of European genealogy organisations continued into the afternoon session, where I ran the first of the IAJGS Management Seminars. This was mostly about how to create new Jewish Genealogy Societies in Europe. We discussed the many issues that faced any new society in Europe, in particular how they faced up to political and cultural difficulties. There were many contributions from the floor and at the end of the session we had a feeling that it would be possible for some new societies to get started. There is a definite enthusiasm for having societies in some countries but there is a need for the right level of support to get things off the ground.
I attended a further management session on ethical dilemmas in genealogy. This covered issues such as recording illegitimate births, divorces, criminal records, and many “skeletons in the closet” situations. There is never one single answer to the dilemmas, and often no answer at all. One thing that is clear though is that any one doing genealogy has to be prepared for the chance that they might find out things that could upset them or others.
The evening events were the IAJGS Presidents reception, which is social gathering for the IAJGS Board and the presidents/chairs of the Genealogical Societies attending the conference. It was a chance to talk with colleagues and find out what was going on in different parts of the world. The final formal event was the welcoming talk given by David Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. David spoke about the museum and also about its association with JewishGen, which he believed would continue for a long time.
Much to my surprise we have managed to spend more time out of the hotel than at previous conferences, albeit mostly in local restaurants talking to and eating with our conference colleagues. Despite the conference being in France and with its obvious language differences, the pre-conference activity has been very much the same as other conferences. We have gathered together in the hotel lobby and talked to our colleagues about genealogy and the expectations from the conference. My morning was taken up with attending the International Association Board meeting and considering issues such as the future conferences in Boston, Salt Lake City and Israel. So the Bastille Day celebrations were mostly missed by me but I understand many of the conference attendees did get out and about and see the day’s events.
This afternoon, Saturday 14 July, we registered for the conference and received our conference documentation and the very nice conference bag. There was the chance to see the final list of attendees and who had come from the UK. In all there are about 40 delegates from the UK at the conference out of over 700 attendees, it would be nice to have seen more here from the UK. So far we have either bumped into or seen half the UK attendees. I hope that they really enjoy the event and get some really useful research ideas from it. Sunday will be extremely busy for me, with several genealogy management events to attend and one that I will be running on developing Jewish Geneaolgy Societies in Europe. The events and consequences of the last World War still play a major part in Jewish genealogy and historical studies in Europe and I hope that the sessions will show us whether or not there is a way forward for Jewish genealogy on the ground, especially in the eastern part of continental Europe.
Some of the UK attendees will be staffing a table at the SIGs and BOF (Special Interest Groups and Birds of a Feather) Fair on Sunday afternoon, answering queries about UK research and how JGSGB can help. We have brought a large number of our JGSGB genealogy guides with us and hope to sell them at the fair and over the week. These are really useful guides to doing research in the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The guides can also be purchased online at www.jgsgb.org.uk/catalog/shop.
So now it is off to sleep to be ready for a very long and active day.
Well here we are again at and International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference. This time it is in Paris, France and much closer to our home than Washington DC. Firstly, the weather, pretty much like London – dull, cloudy, wet and not that warm. At least we won’t feel that we are missing out on nice weather and sight-seeing while holed up in the conference hotel!
The hotel is the Marriot Rive Gauche and is not too bad. We arrived yesterday – Thursday and will be here until next Thursday. The view from our hotel is towards the north and we can just about see Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur Cathedral in the murky distance. The conference starts in earnest on Sunday but I have an IAJGS Board meeting to attend on Saturday morning – Bastille Day. Already though the networking and genealogy talking has begun. We have started to meet up with delegates we know through day-to-day contact and also with others we met at other conferences. Once you get to go to one or two of these conferences you tend to get to know a lot of people. Last night we went out to eat with Philip, JGSGB’s Treasurer and with Jeanette’s “DNA Cousin” Doris and her husband Dick. This may have been the last meal outside the hotel before we return to London, though there are a few local restaurants we might get out to – depending on the weather and how busy we get.
This may seem to be a bit of strange title for a blog posting but it was prompted by a recent posting by Randy Seaver on his Genea-Musings blog, where he posed the question “Are We Strangers in the Genealogy Land?” (www.geneamusings.com/2012/06/genestrangers-in-strange-genealogy-land.html)
Randy’s blog prompted me to respond to him with the following message:
“As the Chairman of a genealogical society I find blogs useful in providing up to the minute information for my members. We have a very active discussion group (last count 467 members) where news of developments in the world of genealogy are posted. These keep members interested in being part of the group. We always quote the source of the information and hope that some of our members look at the sources. We also have our own blog as a means of trying to capture the interest of people who wouldn’t join a society. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and others are now part of the landscape on which the genealogist/family historian walks. So far from being strangers in the land, I think we are the land. (www.jgsgb.org.uk) ”
I think many blogs act as streamed newsletters, constantly updating their readers about the latest developments in the world of genealogy in a way that static newsletters can’t always do. Other blogs provide the general thoughts of the author about the world of genealogy and family history, things to get you thinking about researching your family. The family blogs that exist help people connect with cousins. Individual blogs may only get a small number of readers but collectively blogs are read by many thousands of people. Blogs are worth reading, so have a look at a few and see what they offer.
Mark Nicholls, Chairman JGSGB
Petra Laidlaw has done an update to her incredible database which is available to read about and search exclusively at http://www.jgsgb.org.uk/1851-database. This is a most exciting work which covers Jewish families backwards and forwards through the years with a starting point of the 1851 census. JGSGB is proud to be the only website which gives details of Petra’s study and the facility to search for names. Regular users of the AJDB will notice that the ability to search by ID has been removed. This has been done to add extra security to the valuable information.
Thank you Petra for your many years of hard work and research which has been invaluable to so many genealogists worldwide. You are an inspiration.
Whenever a new database is uploaded it invariably creates frustrations and difficulties for me with the technical side of the process. I must pay special tribute to our member Michael Tobias (also JewishGen Vice President). He has come once again to my rescue with his expertise and has also devised a way of adding security to the database. I could not have done it without him and both JGSGB and I pay tribute to his ‘coming to the rescue’ once again.