Wow! What a ride Congress 2018 has been. Meeting so many lovely genies, learning so many new things. I barely had time to draw breath during Congress 2018 and now that I’m home, I’m still processing all the things I experienced.
I would like to share a little of these Congress experiences as well as some of the highlights from the talks which stuck with me the most.
First of all, Lilian Magill – super-awesome genie lady! Lilian took me under her wing for Congress and introduced me to so many wonderful people.
My last Congress was a very lonely affair. I had only just started blogging and knew no-one. I just attended sessions, struck up one or two conversations and went home. It felt very isolating and lonely.
However, Lilian’s kindness and generosity ensured that I was not left friendless and forsaken. Thank you, Lilian!
There were lots of opportunities for social hobnobbing including pre-Congress dinner at Pancakes at the Rocks, the official Welcome Function followed by the unofficial get-together at the Harbourside food court next door, Congress Dinner, casual lunches and dinner get-togethers with new acquaintances, and so it went on.
I woke up every morning exhausted from the social whirl! But it was so terrific to meet new people and put faces to names of people I’ve chatted with in Facebook groups. And best of all was how friendly, welcoming and inclusive everybody was. From my point of view, Jill Ball’s wish to have this Congress be known as the Friendly Congress was well and truly achieved.
But what about Congress itself? Did I actually attend any sessions? You bet. But there were so many to choose from that a complaint I heard constantly from others was the struggle to choose which session to attend.
There were too many interesting sessions, so I chose to focus on sessions that would help me with areas of my research that I was currently either struggling with, or covered areas of interest that I constantly run across in my research.
I attended sessions covering topics on Irish, German and London research, non-conformists, writing stories, tarting up your blog, various technologies of interest (e.g. GEDmatch, Google Earth, visualisation technologies), and, of course, Judy G. Russell’s sessions on “Copyright and Copywrongs” and “The Language of the Law”.
Judy is a wonderful speaker who can make even the most impenetrable subjects comprehensible and fascinating. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak – grab it! You won’t be disappointed.
But it was Judy’s plenary talk that I found most thought provoking and had what I think was probably the most important message in the entire Congress.
Family memories, stories, facts can all be lost…in Just Three Generations.
That message hit me right in the head and the heart. It is so easy to get lost down research rabbit holes, chasing those Bright Shiny Objects – and meanwhile the research is just piling up. It is just as important to share that research and those stories – share as widely and as often as possible so the stories are not lost and gone forever.
While I acquired lots of invaluable knowledge about various topics, there were two other messages apart from Judy’s “Just Three Generations” that struck a chord with me:
Be brave on the page – say what hasn’t been said before.
Jan Worthington: Your Story
Tell their stories. Take them home.
Pauleen Cass: Parallel Lives – Irish Kin Down Under and Abroad
Be brave on the page – what an important reminder. So often we play it safe. Why not show more emotion and heart when writing down our family stories? Surely our ancestors deserve more from us than just dry facts, dates and places?
Complementing Jan’s message is Pauleen’s message which was tucked in at the end of her presentation. When I saw the words, it suddenly seemed so clear why we do what we do as family historians.
All three messages neatly encapsulate for me the whole idea of Bridging Past and Future – but with so much more. Here I will partly quote and partly paraphrase – with apologies to Judy, Jan and Pauleen – and say:
By serving as the family historian, we are truly bridging past and future by documenting and passing on our family stories – not only deliberately and accurately, but with heart, gratitude and passion. And we do this not only to discover more about ourselves but to acknowledge, understand and remember our ancestors so we can, finally, take them home.