Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 History & Genealogy Expo at Parramatta

I had a wonderful time at this event last Friday and Saturday and, after a hectic weekend, feel the need to blog about it. I will probably do a few posts, a general one and one each for Friday and Saturday concentrating on the sessions I attended.

Firstly I want to thank Allan Phillips and the crew from Unlock the Past for organising the event.It was pleasing to that The Australian Society of Genealogists supported the event. Heather Garnsey and her crew from SAG were very busy proferring assistance to visitors right through the event.  Having been a chair and member of conference  committees during my working life I know how much planning goes into staging such an event.

As with  many such events it is not only the formal program that enriches ones experience but the opportunity to meet and network with like-minded people. I was delighted to finally meet a number of online genealogy contacts in person including Kerry Farmer who was my tutor in an excellent  NIGS Genealogy course and Cheryl-Ann who was a fellow class member. I also got to finally meet Shauna Hicks in the flesh after sharing many months of online communication.
Kerry Farmer proffers advice

The program was varied; providing sessions for those who were beginners to those who were old hands at the genealogy game. There was something on offer to satisfy all tastes. It was regrettable that due to a timing glitch Heather Garnsey, especially as she is such a font of information, was told during her talk that she had to cut it by fifteen minutes. Apart from this sessions ran on time with sufficient time to move from room to room.

I attended around ten talks and found that most of the speakers were knowledgeable in their areas of expertise and had a reasonable presentation style. I thought I had chosen wisely omitting a few I had heard befare who weren't quite up to scratch. So over the two days I would only label one of the the speakers as woeful and a waste of time.  You win some, you lose some!
An earlybird waits  for a talk

I was disappointed that most of the speakers did not provide a handout or a link to a site where an outline of their talk could be found.  Kerry Farmer and Neil Chippendale were well prepared with handouts, sadly others were not. It was disappointing that some speakers appeared to use their sessions as infomercials to peddle their publications. Sessions of this type should perhaps be free.

The exhibition or trade fair had a great representation from voluntary and commercial organisations. There were numerous opportunities to part with ones pennies or pick the brains of enthusiastic volunteers. I spent some time working on The Master Genealogist Sydney User Group Table where users of TMG demonstrated its features to visitors. As a new member of this group I am in awe of  ways members have customised this program to suit their particular research needs.

Arriving at the venue and finding a free covered carpark just across the street put me in a good frame of mind for the event. Registration at 8:30 am was a painless process; I received a smile, an envelope containing tickets for the talks I was scheduled for and a goodies bag within a minute or two of appeearing. When I decided to attend an extra talk it was a simple matter to exchange my $5 for a ticket. This organisation was excellent.

The venue was clean and airy with a coffee shop and bistro facilities. On day two I packed some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch to avoid the long queues at the coffee shop. The bistro dinner shared with TMG mates and Unlock the Past staff was hot, freshly cooked and tasty.

As someone who has mobility problems I found the multi-level venue hard to navigate. There was an inclinator for those who needed help to get to the auditorium for the exhibtion but I could not find an alternative to the steep stairs down to two of the seminar rooms ; I am glad that I was not an exhibitor who had to transport boxes of goods for sale up and down the stairs to get in there.

I commend Allan Phillips and the crew from Unlock the Past for bringing this event (and Chris Paton) to Sydney.

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