Genealogy Tips from the Recent Jamboree Conference

Introduction: In this blog article, Gena Philibert-Ortega describes her experiences at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s recent genealogy conference “Jamboree 2016,” where she gave two presentations and conducted one workshop. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.

Last weekend at its Jamboree 2016, the Southern California Genealogical Society held its 47th annual conference. Held every year in June at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel in California, this annual gathering of genealogists is an opportunity to hear nationally-known genealogy presenters provide information on technology, methodology, history and DNA.

Photo: Jamboree 2016
Photo: Jamboree 2016. Credit: Gena Philibert-Ortega.

This year, the Jamboree featured four days of presentations: a one-day DNA conference (“The Future of the Past: Genetic Genealogy 2016”) on June 2; and then three days of presentations (“Giving to the Future by Preserving the Past”) on June 3-5. The conference featured special tracks of presentations for librarians, African American researchers, and German/Eastern European researchers. In-depth workshops provided specialized presentations on everything from understanding gothic German handwriting to plotting public land, developing research plans, and using social history (presented by yours truly).

With nine presentations given each hour, there was plenty to learn but equally important was what there was to see and do in the Exhibit Hall. The Exhibit Hall provided an opportunity for participants to learn more about their favorite websites, services, and new-to-them resources. I highly recommend that when planning on attending your next genealogy conference, take a look at the list of exhibitors and plan to spend some time talking to the ones you’re interested in about how you can better use their service, or why you should become their newest member. Don’t forget that the Exhibit Hall is also a great place to pick up genealogy software and books.

Genealogy Conference Tip: Pay attention to name tags. Name tags not only tell you the person’s name but might also give you a workplace affiliation or a hometown. Use this information to network and strike up conversations. You never know when you might meet a long-lost cousin, a fellow blogger, or someone who has information that could be helpful to your own family history research.

Photo: Jamboree 2016 name tag/credentials
Photo: Jamboree 2016 name tag/credentials. Credit: Gena Philibert-Ortega.

There’s More to a Conference than Just the Conference

Sure a conference means lectures, but it also means workshops, banquets, and field trips.

Photo: Jamboree 2016 tour sign
Photo: Jamboree 2016 tour sign. Credit: Gena Philibert-Ortega.

Jamboree had it all this year, including a tour of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Photo: Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Photo: Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Credit: Suzy Goulet.

You may be wondering, “What is the Hollywood Forever Cemetery?” Hollywood Forever Cemetery was founded in 1899 and is the final resting place for many of Hollywood’s founders and celebrities. Those interred here include Jayne Mansfield, Cecil B. DeMille, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

An article about Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 10 May 2000
Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 10 May 2000, page 27

Suzy Goulet, Southern California Genealogical Society board member, said of the tour:

Karie Bible, the official guide of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, provided the Jamboree 2016 group with an informative, entertaining tour. She wove in interesting historical facts with amusing antidotal stories throughout the 21/2-hour stroll through the cemetery.

Photo: Don Adams burial plaque
Photo: Don Adams burial plaque. Credit: Suzy Goulet.

Jamboree also included a research morning and tour of the Southern California Genealogical Society Library. Located in Burbank, California, the Library includes books, periodicals, manuscripts, and maps from all over the United States, as well as a great Southern California collection. A list of their collection highlights can be found on their website. And yes, they do offer research assistance for those who don’t live in the area. For more information, click here.

Banquets and breakfasts rounded out the possible activities you could attend. The Friday evening banquet featured David Rencher, the Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch, presenting on “Giving to the Future by Preserving the Past.” Saturday’s banquet speaker was Kenyatta D. Berry, one of the hosts of the PBS show Genealogy Roadshow.

And there was even more you could do. Professional genealogists were on hand at “Research Assistance” to provide help and resources for an individual’s research questions. The “Tech Zone” had computers with subscription databases available for research. And of course there were plenty of places to rest and network with other genealogists.

Genealogy Conference Tip: Make sure to spend some time reading any schedules or materials given to you at registration. At Jamboree, the “Pink Sheets” provided information on what was happening each day and were considered a must-have daily guide. Every conference has something similar whether it’s a conference program or an app. Taking the time to read and mark events of interest will help you avoid disappointment or the question “what should I do next?”

Photo: Jamboree 2016 “pink sheet”
Photo: Jamboree 2016 “pink sheet.” Credit: Gena Philibert-Ortega.

Attending from Home

Many large-scale genealogy conferences are increasingly meeting the needs of those who can’t spend the time or money to attend in person. Jamboree 2016 was no exception and, as in years past, they provided two options to their “Live Streaming” experience. Those interested in genetic genealogy could purchase six genetic genealogy sessions individually or as a package. Presentations included topics like “Circles or Triangles? What Shape Is Your DNA?” by Diahan Southard; Katherine Hope Borges’ “Why Y? Case Studies for Y-DNA Solutions”; and “Verify, Correct, and Expand Your Lineage through DNA Testing” by Emily D. Aulicino.

For those interested in other sessions from Jamboree, the free live stream offered 14 topics. These sessions included “German Immigrant Waves: Contrasts and Sources” by James M. Beidler; “Be Your Own Digital Archivist: Preserve Your Research” by Cyndi Ingle; and “Getting Started with Eastern European Research” by Lisa A. Alzo, MFA.

The best part of the Jamboree live stream? These presentations are available until 5 July 2016. So if you missed out attending the Jamboree, you still have time to register and listen to the archived sessions.

Genealogy Conference Tip: If you can’t attend a genealogy conference in person, search the conference’s website for information about ways to attend from home. At the very least, note their social media accounts and follow those before, during, and after the conference.

It’s Not Over Even when It’s Over

The last day of any conference is hard. You’re overwhelmed with all of the new ideas and resources you’ve learned. You’re tired and maybe a small part of you is ready to be home. But the great thing about the last day is that even though the end is near, you can expect to hear more about the conference in the days to come.

The end of Jamboree 2016 has led to blog posts and other mentions on social media channels. Participants are starting to write up their experiences listening to presentations and networking with others. Blogger Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings has compiled a list of Jamboree posts on his blog. You can also follow some of the conversation on Twitter by searching on the hashtag #SCGS2016. Also, follow the Southern California Genealogical Society Facebook page or the Jamboree blog for wrap-ups and future announcements.

Genealogy Conference Tip: Writing up your own thoughts after a conference is a good idea. Even if you don’t blog, taking some time to write down some of the highlights, tips, and resources you learned at the conference can be helpful for your own research.

Planning Ahead

What’s the next genealogy conference you’ll be attending? Now’s the perfect time to start thinking about Fall or Winter 2016 or even 2017. Many conferences are annual events and are held about the same time every year, or they have announced their location and dates for next year. Spend some time today deciding which one/s you’ll attend. Remember, even if you can’t attend in person, chances are there are ways you can benefit from the conference from the comfort of your own home.

Will I see you at the 48th annual Jamboree? Mark your calendars for 9-11 June 2017 with a DNA day on June 8.

Genealogy Conference Tip: Not sure what genealogy conference or other events are happening? Check out Conference Keeper for the latest information.

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