Saturday, November 10, 2012

Washington Family History Expo 2012

The Washington Family History Expo hosted by the LDS Church was held at the Redmond Stake Center in (guess!) Redmond, Washington. This was their tenth, or eleventh, year (the welcoming host wasn't sure). It was well advertised, well organized, very well attended and free. This was my first time there, but I know many of the attendees were repeat customers; and many came relatively far distances. My mom and I went together, and met a cousin and her mom. We all took different classes, but had the chance to visit during the lunch break and at the end.

The keynote address speaker was Norman J. Landerman-Moore. He has an impressive work history, including serving with Gov. Ronald Reagan. He is a compelling speaker and told short stories from his own family history, emphasizing the importance and potential impact of what he called "little stories." Discovering even brief records about our ancestors' lives makes them more real to us and can help us feel more connected to them.

Thereafter, there were eight or nine class offerings for each of the five one-hour periods with a 45-minute break for lunch. Lunch, for many of us, was a pre-ordered sack lunch, the proceeds from which will help young women of the area attend camp in the summertime. Some of those young women were our servers and the clean-up crew. Very pleasant.

My first class was called "Genealogy Gems in U. S. Probate Records" taught by Janice Blackhurst. It was very informative and orderly. A couple of things I learned are: 1. about 10% of the people who died before 1900 left a will; 2. be sure to check anywhere an ancestor owned property for probate records, not just where they lived.

Next, an educator from The National Archives of Seattle, Carol Buswell, discussed the resources in the archives nationwide which are particularly useful to genealogists. She went through a long list with us and answered every question put to her. She illustrated how to search the archives online at But, she stressed that if we needed help, "ask an archivist."

After lunch, I attended a presentation made by Jake Gehring of FamilySearch. His was titled "Changes and Development at FamilySearch." I loved it! He explained what FamilySearch is and gave a brief overview of its history. He shared lots of data to illustrate the advances and changes over the last ten years. There are 698.9 million images, 1.99 billion records, 3.07 billion searchable names and 1,311 total collections hosted at FamilySearch. This session was chock-full of information. There may have been a secret or two that slipped out...

My last two classes were Parts 1 and 2 of "England Online" presented by Godfrey and Merry Ellis. This couple makes English research look possible, in a very fun way. (Godfrey started the day by waving an English flag when he was introduced.) They presented real examples from their own families as illustrations of the many, many types of records and resources available. They explained when and why certain types of records were, or weren't, kept. Definitely worth attending. Maybe I can find my grandpa's family, now.

Obviously, I couldn't take every class that was offered. Among those that I had to forego were: Using Newspapers for Family History Research, Reasonably Exhaustive Search Explained, Bagging a Live One: Connecting with Cousins You Never Knew You Had, Researching Your Swedish Ancestors, Who Are the Scots-Irish?, Organizing Your Materials and Stories and Germans from Russia. Just the tip of the presentation iceberg!

To add to all the excellent classes were about two dozen exhibitors, including American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, FamilySearch, Fiske Library, Jewish Genealogy Society of Washington State, Legacy Interest Group, Northwest African American Museum, and Seattle Genealogical Society.

All in all, it was an excellent conference. And, the price was SO right. ;)

A big thank you to the organizers and exhibitors for a wonderful, motivating experience. All the chatter afterward was very positive. This is a local event worth planning to attend - every year. I know I'll be there next year.

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  1. I was there too and didn't buy a syllabus because I was told I could download it free but can't find it. Any ideas where to find it? Thanks!

  2. Lisa, I've looked over the Expo site and can't find a link to the syllabus, or any mention of it. My suggestion would be to contact one of the organizers. It was a great event! Thanks for your comment. Best wishes in your ancestor hunting. :)