2014 IAJGS Conference – first few days, by Leigh

Day 0 – Sat 26th July

My long day travelling to Salt Lake City via Philly started at 9.30am. Despite an hour delay at Heathrow, 2 hours in the homeland security line and an extra 30 minutes trying to prove I really no longer had a green card, I just made my connection and safely arrived at my hotel by 9.30pm. I think that is 3.30am English time :-o

Day 1 – Sun 27th July

Jetlag woke me at stupid o’clock so managed to register at IAJGS bright and early before 8am. Bumped into Jeanette Rosenberg and Mark Nicholls straight away and handed over the JGSGB guides that I had hand carried. Sue Fifer appeared soon after, as did President Saul.

Quick orientation session given by Mark and his IAJGS colleagues was followed by loading the IAJGS app on my iPhone to schedule the sessions I wanted to see. There are way too many to attend that are vital to my research, so I’m having to make some tough choices. I really should have invested in the IAJGS LIVE! recording of the conference sessions so I don’t have to multitask so much.

My first session called “a pause in the journey” about pausing your research to write a book about it was cancelled – don’t know why – so I attended a session on Crypto Jews. I don’t really do Sephardi, but I learnt a lot. For example how South American crypto Jews play cards on Friday night but don’t really know why they have this tradition. It turns out that when being persecuted by the Inquisition in Spain or Portugal they used to have cards on the table while the prayer books were hidden underneath. Now all that remains is the cards…

After lunch I did booth duty on the JGSGB table at the SHARE Fair with Sue. Brisk sales of our guides was encouraging, with the new Polish guide flying off the shelves. Lots of questions about Jewish Genealogy in the UK were dispatched easily, before handing over to Mark and Jeanette.

This freed up Sue and myself to attend a session by Banai Feldstein on the Insider’s Guide to the Family History Library, which I fully intend to use later in the week. Then on to hear Todd Knowles on how to use the LDS FamilySearch.org. It all looks so easy! Why do I always struggle to find any records for my people?. Still, I am enthused to try again and use their Wiki for the first time.

Day1 finishes with a keynote speaker with a world war 1 theme. He was plugging his book, but was a great speaker IMHO. Covered several stories of Jews impacted by world war 1, fighting on both sides. Could have used a bit more detail on how he did his research, but I think he has sessions on that later in the week.

Crashed out exhausted at my hotel after some free nibbles at the Opening reception – too tired to get some proper food. (Not like me at all!)

Day 2 – Mon 28th July

Jetlag meant a 3.30am start, but this enabled me to try out several tips picked up from Laurence Harris on the MyHeritage stand and I am searching the JC archives on the MyH website like a pro. I’m finding much more than I ever managed before using the JC archives directly.

First conference session was a 7.30am brainstorming over trying to get the New York authorities to release BMD records sooner than their paranoia over privacy currently allows. This resonated with some of the issues we face in the JGSGB in our efforts on Preservation of Records.

The rest if the day was a blur with talks by Michael Tobias on JRI-Poland, Pamela Weisberger on Polish and Galician records and Steve Morse on using his One step tools at stevemorse.org  in a genealogical case study. Also an excellent session on Polish parish records by Warren and Mrs. Blatt of Jewishgen fame, on how to use the patronymic records to further your research back into the 1806-1828 period. Top class speakers that I would travel far and pay top dollar to see. Oh yeah, I did anyway… But really well worth it.

Final session was trying to make your JGS appeal to 21st century youngsters, but I struggled with that and skipped out to the history of DNA Genealogy by the pioneer himself, Bennett Greenspan of FT-DNA. I also invested in a Family Finder DNA test myself, which was on a decent show special.

Heavy rain meant most conference delegates scurried to the nearest restaurant next door, but after that I went back for a film called “Lost Town” on a Ukrainian village of Jews (the only one outside of Palestine at the time) which was wiped out in the Holocaust but rediscovered by the filmmaker whose father was from there. If I hadn’t been so jetlagged I would have stayed awake during more of it, but by 10pm I was done.

Leigh Dworkin

(Your IAJGS Conference Reporter)

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