More Genealogy Adventures

It has been a very busy and hectic few weeks. It feels like I have barely been home since I got back from my recent visit to the US.

First up was Back To Our Past in the RDS, Dublin. Back To Our Past is the annual genealogical expo and runs alongside the Over 50’s Show. There is also a dedicated strand of DNA lectures organised by Genetic Genealogy Ireland. This year the event took place over two days, on the 18th and 19th of October. I spent most of my time sitting in on the DNA lectures because I felt this was an area where I really need to improve my knowledge. Plus they had some fascinating speakers. It was particularly great to catch up with Mags Gaulden of Grandma’s Genes and listen to the work she has done with the Canadian Casualty Identification Program. I first met Mags at the 2019 Genealogy Show in Birmingham.

Mags Gaulden presenting on the Canadian Casualty Identification Program

One of the best reasons for attending Back To Our Past is having an opportunity to connect with fellow professionals. It seems to be one of the few times we’re able to get most of Ireland’s professional genealogists in one place. I was barely in the door before I bumped into two genealogist friends in the canteen. It certainly seemed like a busy event. I was introduced to a young up and coming genealogist from North Cork who along with some other young genealogists has started a new website, The Hidden Branch, which aims to interest more children and teenagers in genealogy.

 

 

One shout out I must give is to Christine Deakin of Irish Genealogy Solutions. Christine offers a fantastic and much needed service selling materials to help you preserve your paper records and also has some really nice genealogy stationary.

Christine Deakin of Irish Genealogy Solutions

A few days after Back To Our Past I was off to London in order to attend the inaugural RootsTech London. For those unfamiliar with it, RootsTech is the premier genealogy event. It’s been running for a decade in Salt Lake City and this is the first time they have held the event outside the United States. Since a few of my friends were speaking I was very keen to attend. It took place in the Excel Arena, in the London Docklands area. I only wish there had been flights from Cork to City of London Airport nearby. Instead I had to fly into Stanstead and take a taxi out to my hotel, which at least was convenient to the venue. I was very impressed when I arrived. Finding my way around was definitely made easier by the RootsTech app. This is a great idea for such a big event and helps keep track of what’s going on, especially if there are last minute changes to the schedule. You can also download the lecture handouts through the app. I was fortunate enough while I was there to hear some great talks from Joe Buggy, David E Rencher, Dr Penny Walters and Jim Ryan.The keynote on the first day was from historian Dan Snow on his own family history.

With Dr Penny Walters

Dan Snow with a very attentive audience just after his keynote

I also spent a lot of time walking the exhibition hall. While there I met Kirsty Gray of Family Wise LTD. Kirsty is the showrunner for The Genealogy Show. There was a nice chat with Helen Tovey, editor of Family Tree Magazine. I briefly got to meet with some fellow #Ancestryhour participants from Twitter. Nice to put faces to some familiar Twitter handles. Even though I didn’t hear them speak I also got to catch up with Dutch genealogist John Boener of Antecedentia and Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of the Morton Ferrier genealogy mysteries. It was an amazing event and kudos to the organisers for putting together something on this scale.

I would have loved to stay longer but unfortunately I had something else planned for the weekend back in Cork. This involved a trip down to the scenic island of Cape Clear in West Cork for their annual storytelling workshop. I had learned about the workshop after I volunteered for the Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival. We were fortunate to have professional storyteller Claire Muireann Murphy leading us for the two and a half days. It might not have been explicitly linked to genealogy but anyone who does genealogical research will understand the need to be able to tell a good story with what you find. It’s also impossible to escape family history when on a relatively small island. A visit to the old graveyard near the pier displays a multitude of O’Driscoll and Cadigan burials. Chances are that if you have O’Driscoll ancestry you are connected to Cape Clear.

This weekend was the 2019 Virtual Genealogical Association conference. The beauty of a virtual conference is being able to watch it from almost anywhere. There was a great lineup over the three days and I learned a lot, even from the lectures that normally wouldn’t be of much use to me, such as German or Scottish records. I may never have a need to use these records but it never hurts to learn something outside of your own speciality.

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.