Holly Hansen and the entire Family History Expo team have to be the most unflappable folks I have ever met. Only one week before the St. George Expo, a glitch with the fire suppression system at the Expo’s web hosting provider brought down their website and email, but Holly and the entire Family History Expo team accepted the challenge and moved forward to present an enthusiastic and rewarding event for the hundreds of attendees.
I had a great time as one of several Bloggers of Honor, tweeting about the various sessions and meeting other bloggers and genealogists under the Beacon of Bloggers tent in the exhibit hall.
From the outstanding keynote address by Bernie Gracy on Friday morning, to the fun banquet Friday night, to the grand-prize drawing finale on Saturday afternoon, it was obvious why Family History Expo has a reputation for presenting an outstanding event.
In case you missed the tweetline #fhexpo during the conference, here are a few highlights of my experience.
I’m glad I caught on to the time difference (Utah is Mountain Standard Time!) and made it to the 8 a.m. keynote address by Connecticut researcher Bernie Gracy who addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the Dixie Convention Center in St. George, Utah on Friday, February 26. His topic focused on the conference theme, “Let Your Light Shine,” and included Bernie’s inspirational story of his own beginnings in genealogical research and his commitment to sharing his expertise by speaking and writing. He talked about what motivates people to become interested in their family history, and what the average genealogist can do to “pay forward” what he has learned. From Family Search indexing, to Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, to transcribing cemeteries, genealogists can contribute to their field.
Bernie also spoke about the ways that the lives of our ancestors can touch us today as they help us to understand previous generations and shed light on how to manage our own life. These lessons from the past, he said, can show us how to handle crises of all kinds.
Following Bernie’s address, the Exhibit Hall opened to attendees with scores of vendors, exhibits, and demonstrations. The hall also featured tech access and a place for bloggers to meet and answer questions about blogging and social networking. I had a good time showing off Twitter and encouraging new users to give it a try.
At the Generation Maps booth Janet Horvaka, The Chart Chick, demonstrated the brand new web software, FamilyChArtist. This new online program prepares beautiful family tree charts for printing at home or by custom order. The elegant graphics and custom features are going to be great fun to work with.
Bruce Buzbee and the Roots Magic team held short instruction mini-courses during the thirty minute break between sessions that were a huge hit with attendees. Screen images were projected on a large screen and Bruce spoke with a portable microphone so everyone could hear and follow along. The twenty-five or so chairs were filled every session, and throughout the day as Bruce answered questions and demonstrated features of RootsMagic. This is a great idea and made it simple to learn more about using this easy and intuitive genealogy software.
Renee and Scott Huskey gave me a great tour of their Photoloom family photo sharing website. I hadn't known much about the program and am looking forward to trying it out with the FREE account. It looks like an easy and attractive way to share my grandmother Arlines' heritage photos with the rest of the family. I have many more than 200 photos, the free account limit, but the subscription fee is still very affordable.
I also enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Allison Stacy, Editor / Publisher of Family Tree Magazine and thank her for naming The Family Curator to the Family Tree Magazine’s 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. Family Tree Magazine has some great articles planned for future issues; stay tuned for more!
I enjoyed visiting booths and chatting with vendors throughout the hall, and saw lots of new and interesting products.
It was tough to decide which sessions to attend each day, many were on topics that I was eager to learn more about but they were scheduled in the same time slot. In the end, I decided to split some sessions and was at least able to hear part of many different presentations. Highlights included --
Kory L. Meyerink of ProGenealogists who gave a polished and informative talk on “Genealogical Fallacies: Poor Methods That Lead to False Conclusions.” He discussed fallacy vs. myth and how to determine historical truth, vital processes for genealogists.
I also enjoyed hearing Beau Sharbrough of RootsWorks speak on “Scanning and Restoring Family Photos” using consumer equipment and simple software. Beau emphasized the process, or workflow, of digitizing and retouching photos and gave several examples for improving images.
Genealogy Gems host Lisa Louise Cooke wowed her standing-room-only audience with the genealogical possibilities of “Solving Family Tree Mysteries with Google Earth.” I left the lecture itching to login to the program and “fly” back in time. Lisa is an engaging speaker who makes technology friendly and do-able, and she now offers a Google Earth CD to walk you through the program at home. I showed it to Mr. Curator first thing, and he was impressed too!
I was even more inspired to get researching after hearing Gena Philibert Ortega speak on “Journals, Store Ledgers, and Letters to Aunt Mary: Using Manuscript Collections.” Gena blogs at Gena’s Genealogy and is obviously an experienced researcher and speaker; she talked about how to find obscure manuscripts and the many kinds of documents that may hold information about our ancestors. She explained how to use finding aids and showed several entertaining examples of manuscripts that revealed helpful information.
Gena, Genealogist Arlene Eakle, and Blogger A.C. Ivory joined Jean Wilcox Hibben of Circlemending in presenting the program for the Friday evening banquet. Jean was the consummate “Wizard of Blogs” coordinating a clever multimedia presentation showcasing all forms of social networking and encouraging genealogists to try new media as an avenue for connecting with family and locating ancestors. Jean and husband Butch also entertained the guests with their musical renditions of some of Oz’s best numbers. Gena wrote a great review of the evening at Gena’s Genealogy, “The Wonderful World of Blogs.”
In between attending sessions, tweeting, and touring the exhibit hall, I also spent some time at the Ancestry.com scanning station with my archival box of old newspapers. But that’s a tale for another post . . .
Thank you to Holly Hansen and Family History Expo for including me as a Blogger of Honor at this outstanding event.
Note: Bloggers of Honor received complimentary conference registration and one ticket to the Friday evening banquet. In the spirit of Bloggers of Honor who conscientiously made careful disclaimers, I should also say that I was not asked to say wonderful things about the Expo. All comments and reviews are made freely; I was not asked to do anything more than “share” the event with readers and followers. I hope you enjoyed the coverage as much as I enjoyed attending the event.