15 August 2007

Carnival of Genealogy: Gathering the clans

This month, Jasia of Creative Gene asks gen bloggers about fantasy and favorite genealogy conferences for the 30th Carnival of Genealogy.

My top fantasy conference wish is for time machine access. How much would you pay to ask your G-G-G-Grandmother the names of her siblings, their spouses, her parents and grandparents, where they were born and more? I'm hoping for an included automatic translator, but - just in case - we should start studying Russian, Polish, Yiddish and a host of other languages. What could be worse than traveling back and being unable to ask questions or understand the answers?

Increasing numbers of Sephardic genealogy researchers have origins in Spain and Portugal, North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Central/South America, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East, as well as those with Converso roots around the world. Archivists from Spain, Netherlands, Turkey could present pertinent information and personal consultations on research possibilities.

Event syllabi should be in looseleaf format so daily session handouts can be removed, leaving the heavy book back in one's room. Although younger genealogists are increasingly present, many more are still in a certain demographic and bound syllabi are heavy.

Offer a fully-searchable syllabus CD. In this technology age, it shouldn't be difficult to provide this at-your-fingertips information with additional space (maps, photos, etc.) for speakers. Those who live far from the event site find it easier to pocket a CD, than to ship or squeeze a heavy book into an already-overstuffed suitcase.

One wish has been granted with the genealogy film festivals at the 2006 and 2007 Jewish genealogy conferences. Offerings include full-length award-winning features to short amateur clips of ancestral village roots trips. Producers and directors should be invited to discuss their work. Perhaps some premiere screenings and/or an award for the best?

And, finally, when one annual event offers an excellent syllabus or daily planner, why re-invent the wheel the next time and switch to a hard-to-read format? Hint on conference bags: Top-zip bags are more useful than unwieldy fold-over messenger styles (especially for laptop-toters!).


For genealogists and family history researchers delving into Jewish roots, there is one comprehensive event, the annual IAJGS international conference on Jewish genealogy. International researchers organize their summers around the event. This is where researchers meet genealogical household "names" in person, hear about new resources and network, network, network.

I've attended many over the years, but New York 2006, hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York), raised the bar of excellence. Some 1,400 people attended a frankly amazing program - exhibiting vision and wide-ranging creativity - covering 23 categories, including geography, technology and even music.

The only downside - a perennial problem - was attempting to choose one session in each slot - one memorable hour required a choice from among nine fascinating sessions. Evening programs included concerts and films, while days also included trips to repositories and cemeteries.

In 2008, the 28th event will be in Chicago (August 17-22). Many international researchers have links to the Midwest's largest Jewish community and environs, while mini-themes may include Canada, Midwest/Upper Midwest and Latin America, in addition to the regular line-up. Sephardic researchers are hoping for a substantial program as well.


The Catskills Institute promotes research and education on the Catskill Mountains and the American Jewish experience, with resources detailing so much about the region. New Yorkers hungry for mountain air, good food and the American way of leisure came to the mountains to escape the hot city. By the 1950s, more than a million people inhabited the "summer world" of bungalow colonies, summer camps, small hotels and famous resorts. Conference highlights include historians, authors, current/past residents and tours. For information on this year's event (August 24-26) click here.

The Society for Crypto-Jewish Studies conference is high on my wish list, but my schedule hasn't allowed me to attend. Next year in New Mexico … maybe! In particular, see University of New Mexico author/researcher Dr. Stanley M. Hordes' presentation: "Problems in Studying Hidden People: Historical Challenges."

More than 20 million Hispanics, according to experts in the field, have Jewish roots. Some know, some suspect, some maintain distinctive customs, while some have no knowledge of roots among the Conversos - those forced to convert to Catholicism in the face of Spanish persecution in 1391 and 1492.

My thanks to Jasia for asking challenging questions. Tracing the Tribe readers are invited to comment on their own wishes for a fantasy conference. I'm looking forward to reading your ideas.


  1. Sign me up for the time machine conference!

    I find myself saying "I wish I had asked" so many times.


  2. Hi, footnoteMaven

    Thanks for writing. Many of would sign up for that one, no matter the location, the season, the time of day.

    I'm wondering if one of our colleagues would consider starting a sign-up list, so we'll have our numbers when availability of the machine is announced!