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.