On Saturday I attended the Atlanta Family History Expo 2010 at the Gwinnett Center. This was the first genealogy event I had ever attended so I didn’t know what to expect. The Expo consists of various classes about genealogy and a small group of exhibitors primarily representing the major sponsors (FamiliySearch.org and Ancestry.com). Reviewing the program online it seemed like most of the classes were obvious subjects suitable for beginners (“Vital Records Overview”), specific subjects for a narrow audience (“German Ancestors”, or product demonstrations (“Getting the Most from Family Tree Maker”). I decided to attend anyway to see if there might be something useful to me.
I attended four different classes and learned something I did not know in three of them. The first was from FamilyTreeDNA where the speaker reviewed the traditional DNA tests (Y-DNA and mtDNA) that traced the paternal or maternal lines only, then introduced autosomal DNA testing that looks at the other 22 chromosomes. This test seems most useful for identifying potential ancestors 3 to 5 generations back. While not a test that I think is helpful to my research, it was useful to know it exists.
The second class was essentially the story of a guy that took it upon himself to digitize the records of a county courthouse using digital cameras and a homemade rig. He was trying to spread the word that volunteers could do this across the country, but I see issues with quality and scaling. I would rather see someone like Google take on this project and bring quality and uniformity to the process. I did not learn anything in this class.
The third class concerned state and local censuses and their substitutes. While I knew about state censuses, this class gave me a better perspective of what was available. The speaker also described how large companies used offshore labor (Bangladesh) to do the indexing at low cost resulting in errors due to non-native English speakers. He encouraged everyone to search multiple indexes for the same reference to ensure someone isn’t overlooked. Very useful tip.
The last class was a spur of the moment choice that turned out to be the best of the day. The speaker described online library resources and methodologies for finding them. She also provided a link to a very useful (and free) genealogy resource toolbar for the browser (see the Relatively Curious site).
A CD was provided that included handouts from all of the classes offered. Many of them are very useful and contain the meat of the class without having to attend the lecture.
FamilyRoots Publishing was one of the exhibitors and I purchased several books I hope will be useful additions to my library: Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry, The Genealogist’s Guide to Researching Tax Records by Carol Cooke Darrow and Susan Winchester, and What Did They Mean By That? by Paul Drake. The last one is a dictionary of historical and genealogical terms that I really could have used when I tried to understand the inventory of Samuel Dishman’s (Duchemin) estate.
Overall I’m glad I attended and will do it again when the opportunity permits.