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eGen Conference

June 9, 2003

What’s your favorite kind of meeting? Church meeting? Board meeting? Committee meeting? Meeting friends at a cafe? Chance meeting? Clandestine?

Seminar, workshop, consultation, therapy session. Retreat. Revival. Weekly meeting. Annual meeting.

There’s a famous “New Yorker” cartoon in which a man on the phone is checking his schedule book: “No, Thursday’s out. How about never — is never good for you?”

Meetings are nicer when you want to be there.

There are new forms of meeting, too. Conference call. Webex. Online chat.

And now, from June 10 through July 10, you can attend a Genealogy Conference without ever leaving your home. You can “attend” the First Annual eGenConference sponsored by Family History Radio, courtesy of your local library.

All you need is: Internet access, Windows 98 or higher, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you’re on the Internet at home, you probably have these. More information is available on the library’s website.

About 50 different workshops are available for you to “attend” at any time during the month-long conference period. You attend by playing the session of interest on your computer.

Each has audio and graphics, and you will have the option beforehand of downloading and printing the “handouts” that accompany the sesssion.

We asked a local genealogist to test the trial lesson so that we could be sure it would work adequately over dial-up Internet connections … and it did.

The workshops are led by experts, such as certified genealogists and historians, lending expertise in areas such as “Basic Irish research methods and sources” and “Introduction to research in Eastern Europe.”

The conference schedule is divided broadly under the headings European, United States, genealogy technology, supportive technology, repositories, research methodology, and how to begin.

Some sessions are rather specific: “California Gold Rush,” “Church of England parish registers,” “Scandinavian migration clues.” Others are general: “British research methodologies using the Internet.”

Many sessions are slanted toward electronic and Internet technology, but not all. Despite the fact that genealogists jumped on the Internet early as a way to share and access information, the fact also remains that most genealogical information resides in original documents and printed histories that have not yet been digitized, and may never be.

The beginner workshops cover such topics as research logs and organizational skills. A workshop in the genealogy technology section covers a paper filing system used in conjunction with genealogy software.

A modern genealogist will want to use new technologies when possible simply to speed the discovery of thousands of pieces of information needed to build an accurate family tree.

But neither old nor new tools will take the place of curiosity and cleverness in good historical research. Some of the sessions at the online genealogy conference will provide good examples of this kind of research.

Now, if you’re a genealogist with home Internet access but haven’t done this kind of multimedia Internet fun before, don’t be put off. This is the perfect opportunity to try. It’s free for you, so you’ve nothing to lose, and we’ll do our best to help you, if you get stuck.

Sometimes, nothing beats meeting face-to-face, as I had the pleasure of rediscovering recently at a meeting of Colorado public library directors. It is perhaps the richest kind of meeting, although not suitable for every circumstance.

If an Internet lesson is merely the next best thing, it has great advantages in convenience — the quintessential modern pleasure. Virtual meetings might just become you’re favorite kind of meeting.

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