And now for a break from our regularly scheduled program….
I’m pleased to be writing this from the blogger tables at the Family History Expo in Pleasanton. It’s my first genealogy conference, and I’m not paying a dime to be here. Damned budget. I really need to figure out how to make this hobby support itself. But that’s another post.
I’ve been to the Alameda County Fairgrounds quite a few times since I moved to the Bay Area. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a conference here so it has been completely different from all previous visits. Instead of going through the familiar long parking process in the official lots, I found street parking outside the fairground gates. It felt as if I was sneaking in the back way, strolling past the Cantina and around the back of the fairground buildings till I found the building housing the Expo floor. After meandering through the building, I confirmed with the registration desk that I could visit the vendor areas for free. Whew!
There are two to three dozen vendors with the biggest displays in the center of the building dedicated to the big players in genealogy, Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org. Each have 4-8 computers set up to perform free searches. Throughout the morning, Familysearch.org had many more people standing by to help but I suppose that is one of the benefits of the all volunteer team of the Morman church. Ancestry.com had my full attention however, so I could get more info on the new Macintosh version of Family Tree Maker. They were offering a coupon code for 25% off the new software, which, if memory serves, outdoes the pre-order discount mentioned on Dick Eastmans blog.
Of the smaller vendors, I have tried to visit and talk without all of them. My first stop was to check in with Tim Cox at the California Genealogy Society, sponsors of the conference, who immediately insisted I walk around the corner and meet Lisa Louise Cook, author of the popular Genealogy Gems Podcast. I took his advice. Since I won’t be attending her scheduled talks, I was pleased to get a basic rundown of some of the benefits of using Google Earth for genealogy. It may be a big help — my head has been spinning trying to keep track of border changes in Northern Germany through the 18th and 19th centuries.
Many vendors offer various ways to display data. Stories to Tell was particularly interesting because they offer suggestions, including a Writer’s Guide, on how to flesh out the format and story, not simply to edit what has already been written and prepare it for printing.
With one vendor selling a wide variety of genealogy related books, many of the others are individual writers selling their own works. Of note, Ron Arons, whose fascinating book, “WANTED! U.S. CRIMINAL RECORDS,” is a rundown of which criminal records can be found where. I am sorely tempted to buy it. He’s giving talks on both days which sound great to get into some of the more puzzling aspects of family history, namely why people do things rather than just the when and where.
One of the few other societies in attendance is Southern California Genealogical Society in Burbank. I’ve been very interested in getting involved with them since I first got bitten by this family history bug. It is one of the larger societies in California, and host the Genealogy Jamboree conference I desperately want to attend next year. Many booths have contests to highlight their goodies, but since SCGS are giving away a three day pass to next years Jamboree, it was one spot I HAD to hit while here. I was particularly intrigued to hear them describe the mild rivalry they share with CGS on technological matters. Heehee. Genealogy society rivalries!
Finally, I’ve been sharing tables, talking with, and getting to know some of the other genealogy bloggers, most much longer established than I. They sure are a nice bunch. It has practically been a coming out event for me. I was surprised when a couple folks knew of my modest blog, and after a few conversations it was added to the rolls at Geneabloggers and the official blog of CGS. I’m tickled to have some other avenues for readers to find my musings.
The Family History Expo has been a lot of fun and very interesting. It has been a great event and a must-visit next time they come to our area. Hopefully I will then have a budget to attend classes!
P.S. Though I wrote most of this post from the Beacon of Bloggers tables at the Expo, I edited and posted it from home. Please excuse any awkward tense changes that were a result of the shift.