RootsTech, the largest genealogy conference in the world, took center stage in my life this past week. This massive event is known for hosting 25,000+ attendees, hosting a myriad of vendors, and providing hundreds of sessions.
Although I attend every year, this one was especially meaningful. For the first time at any major genealogical conference, a class on Greek genealogy was held. Presented by professional genealogist Kathleen Doherty Kaldis, the session focused on the essentials of beginning Greek family history research.
Using the metaphor of a Greek dance where the circle begins small and gradually expands until all participate, Kathleen described the importance of utilizing all resources available and working within our Hellenic community. Her family is Scottish/Irish, but her husband’s family is from Xirokambi, Lakonia and Pyrgos, Messinia. She used examples from her Kaldis family research to demonstrate the research methodology needed for success. There was a warm feeling of community in the lecture room. We are all in the same position, seeking information as to how we can learn more about our families. It was heartwarming to see people gather at the conclusion of the lecture to compare information. Bringing our community into the national spotlight is a HUGE step forward–thank you, Kathleen 🙂
I was very happy to spend time with Greek friends who also came to RootsTech, as well as Dawn and Trisha who work at the Family History Library. Dawn is a volunteer on Wednesday mornings and she has roots in Argolidis. Trisha is an employee who is at the Library daily and her roots are in Chios. They provide an invaluable service of having the knowledge to help anyone who needs assistance with Greek research.
As I visited vendors in the Expo Hall, I asked several who focused on European research if they had inquiries about Greek genealogy. The answer was yes and the majority either had a Greek grandparent or great-grandparent; or, they had taken a DNA test and found they had Greek ancestry. In both cases, they were new researchers. There is much we can do to help our beginners: provide encouragement, teach practical “first steps” and share resources.
I met with people at FamilySearch and MyHeritage to discuss ways to make more Greek records available. It is a challenging task due to the contractual negotiations required between Greek repositories and the genealogy companies, but I am confident that the increased surge of interest and the public’s sincere desire will yield positive results.
MyHeritage has launched a truly amazing photo colorization program, which will automatically colorize black and white photos. Their booth featured a magnet board where people uploaded photos which had been colorized through their process and in turn, received a magnet. I am holding a picture of “poker night” at my papou Kostakos’ home in Brooklyn (sorry, it’s upside down!).
People who are not members of MyHeritage can colorize ten photos at no charge; members can colorize an unlimited number of photos.
Try it here: https://www.myheritage.com/incolor
There are many facets of family history research. Finding our ancestors is one, but so is capturing the memories of the ancestors that we do know, or whose stories have been passed down by our elders. This conference theme was “The Story of You,” and many sessions were held which described ways to save and record memories. One of my favorite sessions was “Five Simple Steps for Writing the Story of You” [or, a loved one]. Presenter Devon Noel Lee championed the use of photos as writing prompts. Her suggestion is to take a photo and write about it: who is in the photo? where did the event occur? why is it significant? After doing this for a series of photos, the basis of a personal history is established and it is easy to add details. I am inspired to do this, starting with the photos from my grandparents’ album such as the one I am holding above.
I attended many sessions this week, including several on DNA. One of my favorites was a class with an important but under-discussed topic, “The Circular Flow: Researching Return Migrants.” I learned about immigrants who came to the U.S., but then returned to their homelands and perhaps back to the U.S. again. I will be writing a post about this, as there is much to share.
Conferences are an excellent way to learn and connect. I appreciate FamilySearch for sponsoring RootsTech for 10 years. Please join me in Salt Lake City next February!