Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor
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After attending the Palatines to America National Conference in Columbus, Ohio in June, I highly recommend that anyone interested in genealogy, attend a conference if they have the chance. The theme of this one was "German Ancestry from Quill Pen to Cyberspace." This was of particular interest to me, as all of my husband's and my ancestors came from Germany to America in the mid-1800s. In my research I have found German church records written in old German script (with quill pens, no doubt) and now my computer plays a big part in my ability to find those who came before us.
Six speakers, over a period of three days, enlightened us on such subjects as German Immigration and Settlement in America and in Ohio, Germans in the Lone Star State, German Migration through New Orleans, The Importance of Knowing Family Health History, and a "living history" lesson about how the early German settlers in Pennsylvania helped mold the Spirit of Westward Expansion. Cyndi Howells presented four workshops on Internet Genealogy and a professional genealogist was available for consultation.
I learned from S. Chris Anderson, in his Are You a Germaniac? presentation, that it is difficult to find our ancestors' German village because there are a half million of them. Beth Stahr told us that some of our German ancestors came to the U.S. through the Port of New Orleans, even though it was a longer trip, because it was cheaper. Ships took cotton to Europe and brought immigrants back to the U.S.
I had the honor of introducing Don Heinrich Tolzmann, PhD., and Director of German-American Studies at the University of Cincinnati. He spoke of German Immigration and Settlement in America and German Immigration and Settlement in Ohio, which was of particular interest to me as all of the ancestors I am researching came from Germany to Cincinnati, Ohio. He told us that Ohio has the third largest concentration of German-Americans, at thirty-seven and a half percent. Sixty-one of the eighty-eight counties have mostly German heritage. German Moravians and the Pennsylvania Deutsch moved into northeast Ohio. By 1800 Germans came into southwest Ohio through Kentucky. Travel on the Ohio River was dangerous in the early years due to Indian attacks, so some Pennsylvania Germans formed a trail by land from Wheeling to southwest Ohio. Germans always settled by lakes and rivers because they were good for travel and commerce. There are many small rivers connecting to the Ohio River, and the Little Miami and the Great Miami Rivers were very important. The area between them became a corridor for German settlement. Before 1810, keelboats were used for navigation. Those who entered through the Port of New Orleans came north on the Mississippi River and east on the Ohio River. After 1810, steamboats were in use. The biggest wave of immigrants came after 1850 and by then trains provided transportation. The B. & O. RR ran from Baltimore to Ohio, bringing immigrants who entered through eastern ports.
Besides the great speakers, the conference provided a time to interact with others who have the same interests, enjoy good food and the company of new friends, and, over all, just have a good time.
Over the years, I have attended many conferences, Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), National Genealogical Society (NGS), and various state and local events. All of them provide numerous lectures and classes to attend, a vendor area and luncheons and get-togethers with friends and cousins, all searching for their ancestors. Except local conferences, all require travel and hotel reservations and time spent traveling, and even with conference discounts this can be rather expensive.
The eGenConference sponsored by Family History Radio, is the first online genealogy conference. This year, the conference began June 10 with the Keynote Address by L. Reynolds (Ren) Cahoon, the Assistant Archivist for the United States National Archives. After the opening address, the attendees could go to either the vendor area or the conference section.
According to the online brochure, you néed a Win98 or newer computer with a sound card, and an Adobe Acrobat Reader as all the handouts were in pdf files. Each session took about 35-40 minutes, each had a handout and during the session had a power point display to go along with the session to visualize the talk better.
The eGenConference will go on until August 10th. I have listened to several of the sessions. I was expecting these to be similar to listening to a radio program, in that I could listen and be doing something else. Because the power point displays kept changing on the monitor, one néeded to keep watching it. After you click on the session, you wait a few seconds for it to load and then the announcer comes on to introduce the speaker and remind you that you can print out the handout. I found it takes a while to print out the handout. You can pause the speaker while your printer is printing it and when done you can restart the speaker again. The ability to pause when you want or even go back if you missed a point the speaker was trying to get across makes listening to this conference great.
One interesting session (to me) was called, Dinner in the Cemetery by J. Mark Lowe of Springfield, Tennessee. He told of a combination cemetery tour and dinner. An elegant box lunch was provided and then a tour of the cemetery after the meal. He indicated that the tour could either be a simple tour or a more involved one. His group total attendence numbered 75 people and were divided into 5 groups of 15 people, each with a tour guide. As a group went near the grave of an interesting ancestor, one of the hosts would act out a skit of the life of this person. There were actually 5 skits going on at the same time in various parts of the cemetery, but far enough apart to not be seen by the other groups. After each skit was finished the tour guide would lead the group to the next grave site (and skit). Great care was taken to make sure that the cemetery was not damaged by the tour goups. Each time this event has been offered, it has sold out quickly.
I like this conference because it is available 24/7 and for 60 days. I can attend from my own home when I have the spare time and since the lectures are archived, I have no problems with two lectures that I would like to attend in the same time frame. I know at every NGS or FGS conference I have attended, I wanted to go to at least two lectures that were held at the same time. I had to pick a favorite and then buy the tapes later to listen to those I had missed. Since this is on the internet , I do not have to travel anywhere to attend the conference, I get to sleep in my own bed each night, and without the travel, the cost is a lot less. I can pause the session to get a snack or go to the restroom, I can repeat a section if I was not sure what the speaker had said or the point he was trying to get across.
A few of the things I did not like about this conference were that some of the power point slides are so tiny on my screen I could not make out the image or writing, I miss the question and answer time at the end of each lecture and most of all, I miss meeting my friends and cousins who attend conferences. I did not recognize many of the speakers, but those I have listened to have been good.
Is this the way all future conferences will be held? I hope not, I really enjoy attending a live event, even though this new type of conference solves many of the travel and time problems of live events, the costs are kept to a minimum and perhaps may be a good alternative if traveling is prohibitive for whatever reasons.