Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pondering Pauleen's Posers

Earlier in April Pauleen Cass, aka Cassmob, published a thought provoking post, To Conference or not to Conference, on the Worldwide Genealogy Blog. In the comments I said that I would think on the questions Pauleen asked at the end of her post and respond in due course and of course I haven't.

I will respond to Pauleen's questions here (they would actually make a good geneameme). BTW it would be a good idea to read Pauleen's post before you read my responses.

1. During a final-day Congress panel session led by GeniAus, Josh Taylor mentioned that perhaps the term “society” is out of date for younger potential genealogists. Do you agree? Are you a member of a family history/genealogy/local history society?

I hadn't thought of this until Josh raised it. Society to me sounds a bit stuffy, serious, regimented and old fashioned. This was why, when recently I was part of a committee responsible for launching a new local family history organisation, I suggested we call it a Family History Group. To me that sounded more friendly, supportive and welcoming.

Yes, I am a society/group junkie. I belong to three local groups in my area, our state society, The Society of Genealogists in the UK, two surname societies and a one-place studies society. My budget tells me that I should resign from a few but I only have plans to ditch one at the moment. I am enjoying our new group because we are all on a level playing field, there are no cliques and no people who have held office for way too long. I think there should be a limit on the terms of office bearers in such groups so that enthusiastic newbies are not virtually locked out.

2. Also I wonder if the word “genealogy” continues to fully reflect how we refer to what we do. What is your preferred term when you tell people about your hobby obsession? Is it genealogy or family history?

It depends on how one defines genealogy . The purists see genealogy as a record of one's ancestry (or descendants) that basically lists names and dates to show lineage, they do not see genealogy as embellished by stories. On the other hand Family Historians take the research further by seeking out stories of their ancestors.

I see genealogy as a dynamic term that now means something different from what it meant fifty years ago, it may well have a different meaning fifty years hence. I agree with the move made by Wikipedia in 2013 and discussed by Nathan Murphy here.

I don't get hung up on labels, I just do what I do and enjoy it.

3. What other things do you consider when you make a choice about attending a family history conference?

I also consider all those things you have outlined.

The program is important, it must offer something to inform, challenge or amuse me. I didn't attend our state conference in Wollongong last year because the program was Illawarra centric and I have no research interests in the area. There were some topics that may have amused me but I wasn't going to put my dollars towards an event that wasn't going to fulfil my needs. I am still trying to decide whether to attend the state conference in Port Macquarie later this year. The local organisers of these state events need to realise that they are presenting to a different audience from their local groups and provide content with statewide interest and speakers who are fresh and new to the circuit.

I like to see a conference that embraces 21st century practices and technology while respecting doing things the old way. My criticism of the Canberra Congress program is that it was filled with "Chalk and talk" sessions with little opportunities for audience participation; there were no sessions on advanced use of various technologies for genealogy. State and National conferences also need to offer a strand for society officers and members on management, best practice and ethics.

The only conference that I have learned anything new about the application of technology is Rootstech so I will continue to make an annual pilgrimage to Salt Lake City.

Speakers are also important. While we have several experts who present on particular topics here in Australia I would like to hear the same topics presented by others, sometimes hearing a different perspective on a topic just makes it come clear. I like to hear new and interesting people, conference organisers could offer shorter sessions times, poster sessions or panel sessions to newbies  who may be daunted by being on stage by themselves for an hour.

Networking with my genimates is very important to me so I like to have opportunities to sit and discuss issues with those with shared interests. I also like a venue that is in or near reasonable accommodation and has nearby options for restaurants and cafes (for all that networking).

I enjoy seeing lots of exhibitors in the exhibit halls at conferences. I want to see small societies and interest groups and educational institutions as well as the big commercial organisations. While this doesn't impact on my decision to attend a conference it can be a value-added feature.

4. Have you been to conferences locally or nationally? Were they of benefit?

I have been lucky enough to attend Rootstech in Salt Lake City on four occasions and when in the UK I have attended several events. Most useful was a two day event in Somerset learning all about Family Historian software with Jane Taubman.

These events were of great benefit. I have been exposed to experts I would never have heard in Australia, I have made new genimates and I have been been educated on new topics.

I can recommend ccombining overseas holidays with geneaevents. 

1 comment:

ScotSue said...

A very belated response to your post (and Pauleen' s) questions.

I have attended many conferences in my time with the Tourist Board, including one on ancestral tourism, but none dedicated to family history. My FH interests are not where I now live, and I am dependant on public transport to get anywhere. I would travel to something in Edinburgh that had general interest to me of FH research etc.

I have no hang-up on the term "Society", but I have noticed that here in the Scottish Borders local history societies are adopting the term " Group" as in Auld Earlston Group..

I always use the term Family History when describing my interest - never Genealogy which has more academic overtones. For me it is discovering the stories behind my ancestors' lives that is all important. Just knowing their name and dates is not satisfying enough.

I agree with your comments on conference programming. I would welcome discussion groups where delegates can have an input and your suggestions of panel sessions etc.

Agree totally on the huge value of informal networking and time has to be built into a programme to allow this to happen - to be continued over dinner etc.

Thank you to you and Pauleen for a stimulating topic.


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