It’s finally here! The BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference, 2012, held at Provo, Utah, is a summer conference with expert presenters. I’m extra excited about it this year because I am one of their “official bloggers.” As such, I’ll be giving you details of each day of the conference.
I live about thirty minutes drive from BYU, so will be driving from home each day. This morning, I had my own personal chauffer because we’re a one car family and Bruce needed the car today. So, we both headed out early. We drove south through the I-15 construction zone. The joke here in Utah is that we have four seasons: pre-construction, construction, post-construction, and winter. So, it was no surprise that I-15 is still under construction.
Those attending came from far and wide. I talked to one woman who came from the neighboring town of Orem, Utah. On the flip side, or should I say another part of the country, one couple came from Alaska! I’m a pretty good genealogist, so when I saw their Alaska license plate, I came to that conclusion.
This morning’s keynote presenter was Richard E. Turley Jr., who is the assistant LDS Church Historian and Recorder. From 1996 to 2008, Turley worked in the combined Family History and Church History Department. (Those departments were split in 2008). So, he had a lot of things to share in his talk titled, “Memories of a Family Historian.”
Turley took us down memory lane as he described the family history roller coaster ride highs with success followed by lows of opposition. The first surge in numbers during Turley’s work occurred in 1999, when he appeared on “The Today Show” with Matt Lauer. Turley provided the actual clip for us today. In it, he instructed the television audience on working with things found around the home as a basis to begin genealogy research. Those included vital certificates, a driver’s license, photo, and postcard. That TV segment spurred viewers to begin tracing their families.
Not long after this spike in interest, opposition reared its ugly head as a shooter entered the Family History Library on April 15, 1999, and shot several people, killing two.
An upward climb of success came on May 24, 1999, with the launch of FamilySearch on the internet. Staff workers geared up for 25 million hits. Turley was asked to again appear on “The Today Show,” this time with Katie Couric on May 25, 1999. Then came the opposition in his efforts to travel from Washington, D.C. to New York City for the show. After several flight delays and a harrowing taxi ride, Turley arrived at the studio just in time to appear on the show. The day the show aired, FamilySearch received 100 million hits! They had topped all expectations.
This was followed by opposition when a tornado hit Salt Lake City on August 11, 1999… and it wasn’t even in Kansas! The winds clocked at gusts of over 100 miles per hour, leaving a path of devastation and destruction. When Turley returned to the Family History offices, a large slab of concrete had smashed through the window!
With that low point, success appeared on the horizon when Barbara Walters’s staff invited Turley to appear on “The View” to air on July 31, 2001. Turley’s staff had traced Walters’ genealogy and discovered her name was not Walters, a fact she didn’t know.
Turley wrapped up his address by reminding us that while we have great tools today to help advance our genealogy research, we must not forget that family history is about the individual, and that we need to discover the human dimension of our ancestors.
After Turley’s address, there were seven classes to choose from for each hour. I won’t be able to write about all I attend, but I’ll try to give you some highlights. “But She Died in Upstate New York in the 1850s – How Can I Identify Her Parents?” He discussed common research challenges for New York, then advised, “The search for an individual is a search for a family.” He recommended tracing descendants in order to go back in time, learn how family names are recorded, expand the circle of localities to search, and work in original records using the Genealogical Proof Standard.
Karen Clifford, AG, taught a class titled, “Concept to Conclusions – It’s Magical.” She addressed things to do in the Pre-Research stage before beginning a Preliminary Survey. Pre-Research should include tracing the locality through time as the jurisdiction changes and creating a historical timeline to compare with the ancestor’s timeline.
Ugo A. Perego, PhD, taught two classes on DNA: “DNA- The Biological Tie that Binds Families,” and “DNA Research for Genealogists: Beyond the Basics.” This class was most illuminating for me because I’m still trying to understand how to use DNA in genealogy research. Perego addressed the differences between the tests for Y Chromosome, X Chromosome, Mitochondrial, Autosomal DNA, and which tests should be performed to achieve certain objectives.
That’s about all for today. In another post I’ll blog about some of the vendors I’ve met and the products or services they offer. Stay tuned, there’s more tomorrow!
Disclaimer: As an official blogger, BYU has provided for my registration, but I have not been influenced in any way in what I write about the conference.