Recent Genealogical Journeys

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting at the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference in Salt Lake City. This year was extra special because it marked 40 years of APG. This was also a unique opportunity to visit Salt Lake City itself. Regardless of your religious persuasion it’s impossible to ignore how central Salt Lake City and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been to genealogy and the availability of various records. A visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is likely on every genealogists wishlist.

The impressive Temple in Salt Lake City

Great views of the mountains wherever you are in Salt Lake City

At the PMC I was presenting a talk on using social media for genealogy businesses and also presenting a poster on oral history resources for genealogy.

The title slide of my talk at the APG PMC

My poster on oral history and genealogy at the PMC

My session on social media was among the 12 recorded as part of the ‘virtual PMC’. The recordings can be purchased here: https://www.apgen.org/catalog/pmc_recording_package.html

For the other talks you can purchase a copy of the digital syllabus here: https://www.apgen.org/catalog/syllabus.html

There were plenty of standout moments during the PMC. Getting to meet with other professionals is always a bonus, particularly some of the leading figures in the field. These included Judy G Russell, Kenyatta D Berry, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Michael J Leclerc, Kory L. Meyerink, Katherine R. Willson, Sheila Benedict, Janice Lovelace, Leslie Brinkley Lawson, Judy Nimer Muhn, Australian genealogist Ben Hollister and fellow Irish genealogist Fiona Fitzsimons to name but a few of the wonderful people I met. Unfortunately we missed the always entertaining J. Mark Lowe, who was unable to attend in person. Fortunately he recorded his three presentations and we were still able to get the benefit of his expertise.

There was also a welcome reception at the head offices of Ancestry and tours of the Family History Library, the Church History Library and the 28 storey Church Office Building, which provided some stunning views of Salt Lake City.

View of the State Capitol from the 28th floor of the Church Office Building

Checking out the main research floor of the Family History Library

One particular standout moment from the PMC was encountering so many young professional genealogists and seeing a growing international turnout. One of the things I appreciate most about APG is the fact that it is an international organisation. Most of it’s membership is American but it’s good to have an organisation that helps to connect genealogists worldwide. We had Irish, Australians, Canadians, Hawaiians, Alaskans and Mexicans.

On the final day of my visit to Salt Lake City I attended mass in the Madeleine Cathedral, a stunning Catholic cathedral and met up with Kyle Betit and Quentin Burrows of Ancestry ProGenealogists

Exterior of the Madeleine Cathedral

I was also lucky enough to meet up with Andrea DuClos and Mindy Taylor, both fellow alumni of the ProGen Study Group I spent the last year participating in.

The second half of my trip was spent in New York City. During this time I got the opportunity to sit down with Yukie Ohta of the Soho Memory Project and learn about what she does. I was particularly interested in the oral history aspect of the project but any time spent discussing local history is worthwhile. I also got to take a tour of the graveyard and catacombs of the Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral. I admit that before this I hadn’t known there were two St Patrick’s Cathedrals in NY. The familiar cathedral in midtown is the second cathedral with the name. The first St Patrick’s is located on Mott Street near Little Italy. The catacombs underneath the basilica have only recently become accessible to the public through guided tours. It’s no surprise that many of the names on the vaults are of Irish origin.

The Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York

Grave of John Curry, the youngest witness to the apparition in Knock, Co. Mayo in 1879. He emigrated to New York and was originally buried in Long Island. In 2017 his remains were reinterred in the graveyard of Old St Patrick’s

One of the burial vaults in the catacomb underneath Old St Patrick’s

No visit to NYC is complete without a few hours spent in the 42nd Street branch of the NYPL. I would particularly recommend browsing through the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy in the library. While I was there I was able to sit in on a talk by one of the librarians, Andy McCarthy, on using the libraries resources for family history research.

The iconic main entrance to the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library

In heaven in the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy section of the NYPL

I hope to be back in Salt Lake City someday, even just to spend a week in the Family History Library. For now I can look forward to more genealogy at Back To Our Past in Dublin next weekend and RootsTech London the following weekend.

 

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APG Professional Management Conference

I have been a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists for two years today, so it seemed fitting to mark the occasion by talking about my recent experience as a speaker and attendee at the APG Professional Management Conference in Washington DC and also go into a bit of detail about what the association is.

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The Association of Professional Genealogists is an independent organization whose principal purpose is to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work. This includes the amateur genealogist wishing to turn their knowledge and skill into a vocation, to the experienced professional seeking to exchange ideas with colleagues and to upgrade the profession as a whole. The association also seeks to protect the interest of those engaging in the services of the professional.

The APG represents over 2,700 genealogists, librarians, writers, editors, historians, instructors, booksellers, publishers and others involved in genealogy-related businesses. APG encourages genealogical excellence, ethical practice, mentoring and education. The organization also supports the preservation and accessibility of records useful to the fields of genealogy and history. It’s members represent all fifty states, Canada, and thirty other countries (including Ireland).

As someone still in the relatively early days of his career as a professional genealogist I have benefited greatly from membership of the APG. It’s not only through their public directory, which has sent numerous clients my way, but also through the resources they make available to members. This includes regular webinars, a quarterly newsletter, report writing samples and guidelines. The APG also has a code of ethics which it’s members are bound by.

One of the great resources made available by the APG is it’s annual Professional Management Conference. This year the PMC was held in Washington DC from September 29th to October 1st. I had submitted a proposal for a paper earlier in the year and to my surprise it was accepted. This is was my first time presenting a paper at such an esteemed gathering. I arrived into DC on the day before the gathering and made it to the hotel just in time for the introductory social gathering that evening. Despite only knowing most of those there through their reputations I was warmly welcomed. The ‘Speed Dating for Professional Genealogists’ event helped to break the ice. Everyone I met there was very friendly and hospitable.

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The conference was officially opened the next morning by the current APG President, Billie Stone Fogarty. Over the course of the three days we were treated to some fantastic speakers. Topics ranged from discussions on particular record sets to the use of DNA in genealogical research to more business focused areas, such as liability, marketing, podcasting, certification and accounting. There were also some inspiring poster presentations on the Saturday evening.

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My own paper on digital preservation and Irish genealogy was well received and it prompted some fantastic discussions afterwards. I was also lucky enough to get to know many of the big names in genealogy. People such as Annette Burke Lyttle, Kate Eackman, Leslie Lawson, Marianne Pierre-Louis, Katherine R. Wilson, Judy Russell (aka the Legal Genealogist) and J. Mark Lowe to name but a few.

A special mention should also go out to Meryl Schumacker, who was presented with the APG Young Professional Scholarship. The purpose of the scholarship is to recognize a student and/or young professional with a significant interest in genealogy and with a strong interest in developing a professional career in genealogy. It’s great to see young genealogists getting this sort of encouragement, given that there seem to be so few working in the profession.

While in Washington DC, I also had an opportunity to visit the US National Archives, the US Capitol, a few of the Smithsonian museums (including the new National Museum of African American History and Culture) and the Library of Congress.

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The US National Archives

The APG PMC proved to be one of the most inspiring events in my career as a professional genealogist and has given me plenty to think about regarding the direction of my career. In the short term I would hope it encourages me to go even further in the service I offer my clients.

Next years PMC will take place in Kansas City, MO from October 4th to October 6th. If you would like a taste of what the 2017 PMC had to offer, members can purchase recordings of twelve of the presentations here.

The next genealogy event for me here in Ireland will be at Back To Our Past next weekend in the RDS. You will find me at the Clans and Surnames stand over the weekend with my colleague Lorna Moloney. Come over and say hi to us if you can.