OGS Conference 2016 – Calling all Bloggers! #OGS2016Toronto

There are over 700 of you registered to attend the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference, “Genealogy on the Cutting Edge,” in Toronto from June 3rd to 5th.

Do you blog about your family history? Well if you are going and do blog then keep an eye out for me. I will be handing out beads to all the bloggers I find at Conference this year.

If you are going to conference and have a blog then please leave a link in the comments below. Let’s see how many new genealogy blogs we can find and follow.


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If you don’t blog but are considering it, then come and have a chat. I will be happy to give you some tips and ideas to help you start blogging.


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If you haven’t registered for Conference please consider joining us. It is a wonderful gathering of people who share the passion of family history research.


© 2016 Blair Archival Research

The Experiences of a #NOTatRootsTech Attendee

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Last year I attended RootsTech and got to experience it all up close and personal. I wasn’t able to go this year but was able to experience RootsTech just the same. RootsTech have always live streamed the opening sessions and some lectures and this makes it possible to feel like you are part of it all.

You don’t get to attend the socials, parties, or other events and you can’t walk the exhibit hall. I still felt very much a part of it all because I was active on Twitter and the app called Periscope.

During the live streaming those of us who couldn’t attend were busy tweeting along with those in attendance. There was a group of us using the hashtag #NOTatRootsTech. I ‘cyber’ met lots of new people and learned many new things.

There were a few glitches. We weren’t allowed to view the keynote of Doris Kearns Goodwin which was unfortunate. The last two live streamed lectures had technical difficulties and previously recorded lectures were used in their place. They did show the recorded version of Peggy Lauritzen’s lecture about researching your female forebears after the conference had finished. This meant that I was still watching RootsTech at 7:30 Saturday night.

We got to live vicariously through our genie buddies selfies, tweets and blog posts. Periscope made an appearance this year. We got to watch Lisa Louise Cooke’s exhibit hall demo lectures live streamed via Periscope. Every time someone I follow on Periscope started live streaming I got a message so I didn’t miss anything. They were even posted on Twitter. If you were watching it in real time you could comment and ask questions.

Amy Johnson Crow showed us bag pipers in the Salt Place and the wind chimes that unfortunately weren’t chiming at the time. There was even a tour of the exhibit hall. All sorts of wild and wonderful things came out of RootsTech through the internet in real time.

I really enjoy RootsTech and am hoping the Canadian dollar improves so I can get there next year. But this is the next best thing and with the help of genie buddies sharing their experiences of RootsTech and participating online it was a great conference.


© 2016 Blair Archival Research – All Rights Reserved



Are You Suffering from Conference Withdrawal?

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Just because it is summer doesn’t mean you can’t get your genealogy conference fix. In August there is the One World – One Family Conference in Brampton Ontario. It is being held on August 22nd and is a full day conference. The Ontario Genealogical Society SIG for Scotland is holding a pre-conference on August 21st.

From September 18-20 the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa or BIFHSGO is holding their annual conference. This year the theme is Scottish family history, photographs in genealogy and technology for genealogists. They will be having experts from the UK and US.

So if you are suffering from a little withdrawal then start making your plans and sign up for one or both of these upcoming family history conferences.


©2015 – Blair Archival Research



Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2015 – Barrie Ontario

The last weekend of May was the OGS Conference held at Georgian College in Barrie Ontario. I went with my friend Elise who happens to be the Local Collections Librarian at the Oakville Public Library. It was the first OGS Conference I have attended in a while where I was an attendee and not a speaker. It was nice to have the time to meet new people and have acquaintances become friends. This was a fun conference.

One job I did have during this conference was handing out “Blogger Beads.” This is a ritual started by Thomas MacEntee at the US conferences. If you are a blogger then you get to wear beads and everyone knows you write a blog. This was the first time it was done at the OGS conference and I sponsored the beads. There were about a dozen sets of beads handed out and a lot of people were asking what the beads were all about. I gave the first set to Thomas MacEntee just before the start of his workshop on Friday. I am hoping to do it again at OGS Conference 2016 in Toronto.

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We had signed up for the deluxe conference package. We had all the meals, attended two workshops and then the two day conference. We stayed at the Georgian College residence which was comfortable and fairly close to everything. There was a long walk from the lecture halls to the marketplace but they very cleverly divided the space and served the meals there on Saturday and Sunday so it brought everyone to the marketplace.

The marketplace included a demo section and I attended a few of them. There were a few technical difficulties but they are to be expected and were soon fixed. Some demos were very informative. The ones I attended were: What to do after having DNA done; The Ontario Name Index (TONI): An Introduction; The Surname Society; Conference 2016 and Other Happenings and Society for One Place Studies.

What I noticed missing from the marketplace was Findmypast and a more obvious FamilySearch presence. There was a small table for FamilySearch but it was a local Stake and not what I am used to seeing at the US conferences. I realize that the OGS conference isn’t as large as the ones in the US but I feel the companies are missing the opportunity to connect with Canadian customers. We don’t have large conferences so this is their chance.

There was a research room where you could access numerous subscription databases for free and get some research advice.

The meals were catered by the college and some of the students were involved in the event planning and catering programs at the college. The food was very nice.

On the Friday I started by attending the workshop by Kirsty Gray called “What is a Surname Society and Why Do One?” It was very interesting and Kirsty was a great speaker. I got to know her much better during the conference. I had also joined the Surname Society by the end of her presentation!

In the afternoon I attended “Maps and Mapping for the 21st Century Genealogist” with James F.S. Thomson. He did a great job with a lecture that had so much information to share in a short time period.

We had dinner with some friends and then attended the Opening Session with Keynote Speaker Kirsty Gray. Her topic was “If I Could Turn Back Time” and she was fantastic. She had the audience laughing and that is always a good thing.

First thing Saturday morning we attended the Panel Discussion “Tracks through Time” with Thomas MacEntee moderating and the panel were: Richard M. Doherty, Dr. Maurice Gleeson, Kirsty Gray and Dave Obee. There were some technical difficulties but Steve Fulton and his trusty team soon had them sorted. They worked very hard during conference.

My first session of the day was Dave Obee’s “A Sense of Place and Time.” This was “understanding the local geography and history of the areas where your ancestors lived.”

The last session of the day was Kirsty Gray’s “Searching of Surnames: Challenges, Pitfalls and the Downright Ridiculous” and again she didn’t disappoint.


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Saturday ended as it always does with the Banquet. Elise and I shared a table with Thomas MacEntee, Dick Doherty, a group of ladies from Toronto Branch and other new friends. The chat was full on and interesting. Dr. Maurice Gleeson was the Keynote Speaker and he talked about “Genealogy 2020 – All Aboard.” He was a very entertaining speaker and is so knowledgeable on the topic of DNA.


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Sunday felt like a very early start. The last day always does at a conference. Time to pack up and check out. The first lecture of the day was “Putting Your Ancestors in their Place: an introduction to one-place studies” by Dr. Janet Few. Dr. Few was in England and her lecture was streamed in. It was so informative. I wish we could get some of the books she recommended here.

“They Came From Scotland: Tracking Your Immigrant Ancestors” by Christine Woodcock was next. I was a room monitor for this one and introduced her.

In the afternoon I got to attend “The Route of DNA from Flanders to Barrie, via London and Limerick” by Dr. Maurice Gleeson. A brilliant lecture that included some cousins of Dr. Gleeson’s in the audience.

The last lecture of the conference for me was “World War I British Army Research” with James F.S. Thomson. Again he provided a wealth of information and tips for researching from Ontario.

Kirsty Gray opened the conference and so it seemed fitting that she closed it. Her topic was “Back to the Future” which she tied in with the opening session very well.

The organizers of this conference have much to be proud of as it went very well. They did a lot of hard work and the volunteers should be commended. There were many young people helping out which was nice to see.

Now we look forward to Conference 2016 “Genealogy on the Cutting Edge” to be held in Toronto from June 3rd to June 5th. Two speakers already announced are Judy G. Russell and CeCe Moore.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

Catching up – RootsTech

It has been a long time since I did any real blogging. There has been a lot going on but things are finally getting back to normal. Not blogging does not mean I haven’t been doing all things genealogy! So I’m going to start with my first genealogy adventure this year and then blog about the rest later.

This year I got to tick something off my genealogy bucket list by going to RootsTech for the first time. This was very exciting and was done last minute although my very clever friend had booked a hotel room a year in advance just in case. I had attended through live streaming and reading blog posts but this year I was there in person.


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Travelling in February can be iffy but thankfully the weather gods gave us good travelling weather. Salt Lake City is beautiful and they were having a warmer and dryer winter than usual so this meant that I was in my spring clothes even though it was -25C at home. It could be sacrilege to say this as a Canadian but it was better than Florida in February!


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This was a joint conference with RootsTech and FGS and we had signed up for both conferences. We went to register and the line ups were not bad. There were a few glitches with our registration but that was soon sorted out. As we were wandering the halls of the Salt Palace Convention Center to familiarize ourselves with the layout we ran into some friends and did a little catching up.


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Tuesday night we had a Commonwealth Bloggers dinner that was set up by Jill Ball from Australia. She is a regular at RootsTech and an Official Blogger. We had people there from Australia, England, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand and Canada. We even had a honourary Commonwealth attendee from the States. It was so much fun to meet all the people behind the blogs I have been reading for so long. The chat and company was great fun. There was about 18 of us and we managed to chat with almost everyone.


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Wednesday was the first full day of the FGS conference. I went to the opening session and then to the Family History Library for a few hours before meeting up with Nancy for lunch. One of the unfortunate things about signing up late was that we couldn’t get into any of the sponsored lunches. Still there are some great restaurants in the area and we tried them out. Then we went to the afternoon sessions.

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There was an evening social entitled “Behind the Scenes: Family History & Television.” It was a panel discussion and was very interesting. The panelists had worked on: Who Do You Think You Are? (US), Finding Your Roots and Genealogy Roadshow (US).


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Thursday was the first day of RootsTech. It started with a Blogger breakfast event hosted by Findmypast. Josh Taylor and Annelies van den Belt provided information on what was new at Findmypast. I got to meet up with a lot of bloggers that I had met at previous conferences as well as meet new ones. Thanks to DearMyrtle I also got my blogger beads!


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The opening session for RootsTech was next and it featured FamilySearch, My Heritage and the featured speaker was Tan Le. Tan Le was a wonderful speaker and had the audience in tears. She spoke of her family’s escape from Vietnam to Australia and their life in Australia.

Then it was time for the lectures and touring the Expo Hall. I attended: Organization for the Genealogist; Basic Genetic Genealogy; Reopen Your Genealogy Cold Case; Dirty Family Photos and Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy. The last one was live streamed. I am fairly new to genetic genealogy and the Getting Started lecture was very easy to understand.


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In between the lectures and wandering the Expo Hall I would stop by the Demo Theatre where demos were presented every 20 minutes. There were big comfy leather couches and they gave out draw tickets and chocolate before each presentation. It was a great place to go if your feet were giving out. I learned a lot from the Demo Theatre and when I attended Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Google Toolbox Update I won her recently updated book of the same name! Wonderful addition to my genealogy library!

Other Demos and Expo Hall presentations I attended were: Heirloom Roadshow; Your Perfect Photo Organizing Practices; Ten Steps to Complete a Life Story; Preserve Family Photos; Preserve Family Photos on a Budget and Basic Genetic Genealogy. These were the ones I marked in the RootsTech app to watch but I ended up watching many more.

I loved the RootsTech app. It was on my iPad and had my schedule and handouts on it so I could check things very quickly. I had connected with friends so we could arrange times to meet and if one lecture was full I could quickly see if there was another I was interested in attending. There were maps in case I got lost. The map of the Expo Hall was great because I could find the vendors I wanted to visit. The internet wasn’t needed to view the app which was good since it was hard to get on the internet at the convention centre.

On Friday the opening session keynotes were Josh Taylor and  Laura and Jenna Bush. Their stories were fun and interesting. The mother daughter dynamic worked very well on stage. It was easy and relaxed. Although I have never seen so much security at a genealogy conference.

The lectures on this day included Lost Cousins Down Under which I attended because I wanted to hear Jill Ball speak plus I have Aussie connections. She did not disappoint. Other lectures included Using Online Radio as a Platform to Encourage Interest and Participation in Genealogy and Lesser Known Sources for Birth, Marriage and Death in the British Isles.


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The day ended with Culture Night in the Expo Hall. It was called: Culture Night: Celebrate Your Heritage. They had performers from many different countries and people in period and cultural dress walking around the Expo Hall. The Pipe and Drum band spoke to me because my Dad used to play the pipes when I was little and belonged to a Pipe and Drum band. I will admit it I love the bagpipes!


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Saturday was the last day of the conference and it felt like a very early start for the opening session but I wasn’t going to miss this one because the featured speaker was Donny Osmond. Donny shared his family stories and his family history journey. A.J. Jacobs was speaking about the Global Family Reunion that took place the first weekend of June in New York.


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There were thousands of people there on Saturday. RootsTech broke a record for the largest conference attendance around 20,000. It made it difficult to get around and I couldn’t get into two lectures despite being there half an hour before they started. Unfortunately neither of them were being lived streamed or audio recorded. I wanted to attend: Using Microsoft Word for Writing Family History and Microsoft Excel A Little Known Genealogy Tool but was not able to get in. The ones I did attend were Treasures in the Attic: Digitize & Preserve and The War Memorial Reconstructing a Community.

I am glad I went to RootsTech. I have always wanted to go. Conferences are a great way to learn new things, meet new people and network. You never know you might even meet a cousin!

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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