Sunday, November 16, 2008

Confessions of A First-Time Conference-Goer

Goodness, am I tired! But I've had one of the best week-ends I've had in a long time. I took a little road trip. I saw some long-time friends. I became better acquainted with a few online acquaintances I'd met once before. I met some people IRL (In Real Life) with whom I'd been blogging for a couple of years now. I learned a lot. I gained some much-needed motivation. I got great advice. And it all happened in 4 days of beautiful, 80° weather!

This weekend I drove the 115 miles to Mesa, Arizona from Tucson to attend the 2008 Family History Expo, put on by none other than This was my first ever genealogy conference/expo, and I'd say it was a smashing success. In this post I chronicle the adventures of a first-time genealogical conference-goer. At the end I get to tell you the biggest shock of the entire trip!

On Thursday November 13, at approximately 10:00 a.m., I dropped off Izzie at my friends' home, as they would dog-sit while I was gone. This was the tough part, as I am admittedly a bit obsessed about my dog! From there, I hopped on I-10 west-bound and headed to the East Valley of the Greater Phoenix Area. I hadn't actually been north/west of Tucson in about a year and a half, and I was pleasantly surprised by the widening of I-1o to Marana, and only a bit dimayed at the construction towards Picacho Peak to widen that portion. Traffic slowed just a little so no real time lost.

Upon arrival in the Valley, I stopped at the store to pick up some flowers for a visit to the cemetery. I wound up choosing cattails, of all things! See, we had cattails in Western New York where I grew up, and to me they represent very happy times. Unfortunately, in the 30 years that I've lived in Central or Southern Arizona I'd forgotten about the MESS these things make! Let's just say my car is now a mess! Anyway, after picking up the cattails, I headed to the Queen of Heaven cemetery in Mesa to visit the grave of the most influential person of my life:This date, November 13, 2008, marks the 20th anniversary of my mother's death. I cannot believe it's been this long already. Somedays the sadness is as strong now as it was then. Funny, though: On this day, visiting her gravesite, I wasn't sad at all. Well, I wasn't sad at all until I actually LOOKED at the headstone and realized they didn't put her dates of birth and death on it! FOR SHAME, dad, FOR SHAME!

I spent the rest of Thursday window shopping at the Superstition Springs mall and then having dinner with my hosts, friends from Tucson who'd moved to east Mesa almost 2 years ago.

Friday morning I arrived at the Mesa Convention Center, where the keynote address was held outside. Take a look at what kind of weather greeted us:

Most were wearing short-sleeves. It was colder inside the buildings than it was outside!

After the opening, there was time to visit some of the vendors. They had a little game going where visitors got a stamp or signature on their vendor cards as they visited the booths, and at the end of the conference, one was drawn for a grand prize! (I didn't win).

I was able to see many new services, products, and companies. I can't wait until all the emails start coming in! {koff}.

The first workshop I attended was hosted by W. Todd Knowles and it was entitled:

Well, the title didn't come up so clearly here, but it was entitled "Basic Irish Research". On the second picture, the presenter is in the white shirt in front of the screen. This was a very good workshop.

The biggest complaint I had about the Expo was that most of the rooms were set up with connected chairs in rows: No tables. Now, you all don't know this, since you only see my typing. But I am notorious for my horrific handwriting. And it's horrific when I have a table to write on. It's worse when I don't:
After each lecture it was back to the exhibit hall to visit more vendors!

Photoloom is a photo sharing site of sorts that I just may have to sign up for! Below is what I thought was one of the most clever booths I'd seen. I loved the sign to the left. In case you can't click to enlarge and read it, it says "How will she know about Grandpa...When he is no longer around?".
I also attended workshops on Immigration, where I got to meet Kathryn Lake Hogan of Loooking 4 Ancestors She lectured on finding the point of entry of immigrant ancestors.

Unfotunately, I did not get a picture of Kathryn, but I did get to chat with her a bit at the presentation of another Geneablogger,

Janet Hovorka of The Chart Chick and of Generation Maps.
I'm amazed at what Janet can do with a chart!

I also got to meet Lisa Louise Cook of The Genealogy Gems Podcast and Dick Eastman of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (eogn).

Don't worry; I'm not finished yet! I was also fortunate enough to meet DearMyrtle. Yes, folks, DearMyrtle in person. Not only did I meet her, I had a chance to sit down with her for a little brick wall chat. I even managed to test her patience, I think! See, I was explaining that I was trying to find a passenger list that would show who I believe is my great-grandfather Edward HODICK arriving in St. Kitt's. I have a list that shows him on the ship Pennland in 1885 (some information added today as I didn't have it with me. Another feaux-pas!). However, I was trying to find a source on St. Kitt's end to see if I could find him on a ship TO that port. As I was chatting with Myrt, a FHL consultant, Baerbel Johnson, walked by and Myrt nabbed her to assist. As Baerbel started speaking, Myrt grabbed some paper and wrote down the email address of a woman from the next booth over who stated she had a friend who was the ultimate source on St. Kitt's. DearMyrtle then handed me the paper so I could write down the suggestions Baerbel had for me, including checking Census records for naturalization dates and any other information on immigration, seeking marriage records, etc. The problem here was, I wasn't writing anything down! I was so busy listening I just couldn't tear my eyes and ears from the consultant (having worked with deaf people for many years, eye contact has become vital in my own communication). DearMyrtle, being the dear that she is, grabbed the paper from me and began writing for me! I was eventually able to multi-task and take over the note-taking, but it must have appeared rather haphazard for me to not be taking notes! Below is a shot of DearMyrtle hard at work!
The last picture, below, is one of David "Dae" Powell of GenTrek fame. With Dae are myself and fellow GenTrekkers Kathy and Joyce, who I'd joined a few years back for a research session at the Mesa Family History Library.
Well, that about sums up my Expo Experience. I know it was a long post, but I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure.

Oh, and just what was the big shock I'd received at the Expo?

The difference in pronunciation of the word "Genealogy". Webster and I pronounce it "Jeannie-alogy" while most people at the conference pronounced it "Jennie-alogy".

You say Jennie, I say Jeannie (then again, my mother went by the name Jean or Jeannie!).


Miriam Robbins said...

I'm glad you had a good time, Colleen! I've been looking forward to your post about the Expo ever since you mentioned you were attending.


You know, I too would have been surprised at the pronounciation of genealogy. In my neck of the woods (Northwest Ohio), its "Jeannie-alogy." It's always the little differences that take me by surprise.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Sounds like a great time! If I ever have the opportunity to go to an Expo I'll have to take a tape recorder. Maybe it's a regional thing but Jeannie-alogy is how I've always pronounced it.

Kathryn Lake Hogan said...

Greetings Colleen,
It was great to meet you and chat with you. Glad you got help with your St. Kitts question. Mesa was a blast! And the Expo is coming back in January 2010.

Lisa Louise Cooke said...

When you walked up to my booth I recognized that smiling face immediately. How fun it was to getting to meet in person the bloggers we read and the friends we've made on Facebook! It was such a FUN event - everyone should mark their calendars for Jan 2010 for the next Family History Expo in Mesa. Lisa of The Genealogy Gems Podcast at

Janet Hovorka said...

Colleen, It was such a highlight to get to meet you. I'm glad you had a great time. I hope Izzie was ok while you were gone and is happy to see you again. --Janet

Unknown said...

hi Colleen,
What a nice surprise to meet you and Joyce and Kathy at the Expo. It made it so much more like "family" to have GENTREKKERS there.

Jenny-ology? By the "normal" English pronunciation and going by my grandfather Gene, it SHOULD be pronounced Jeannie-ology. I'm siding with you, but will acknowledge the alternate pronunciation.

Happy Dae.

Sheri Fenley said...

I'm so glad you had a great time. Ready for the next one?

Sheri Fenley

Renee said...

Hi Colleen - It was really good to meet you at the conference. And what a nice surprise to see a picture of our Photoloom booth on your blog. Thanks for the kind words too!

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