Seventh day in Salt Lake City – it’s almost been a week already…
On Thursday I had been given an “FGS Ambassador” ribbon for my name tag by some of the team at the FGS Booth, and Friday morning a message from Laurie Desmarais informed me that I could sit in the Media and Ambassadors area in the Keynote Hall – quite the honour as we’re talking about a block of seats within 10-15 rows of the front right in front of centre stage, and a huge improvement from about 10 rows from the back where I’d sat the previous day. So I made my way in and ended up sitting with Dick Eastman, J Paul Hawthorne, Thomas MacEntee and others with a much improved view of the stage.
Today’s keynote speakers were D Joshua Taylor – President of FGS and Director of Family History at FindMyPast, and then former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager.
Josh talked about some of the things FindMyPast is doing, including digitising the records behind PERSI (PERiodical Source Index), and then taking us on a wee trip back in his past, including the tale of how as a young boy he would take the cheese grater and cheese in to his bedroom because he loved grated cheese, and then a connection to a distant relative – one William Heaps – who was transported to Australia for stealing cheese!!
Dennis Brimhall of FamilySearch introduced former First Lady Laura Bush, and quipped that if he messed up in front of the First Lady it will be recorded in the Presidential Library. (For some reason Friday’s Keynote was NOT streamed live as Thursday’s had been, and Saturday’s would be.)
Laura Bush took the stage next with an interesting address that talked about the years her family spent in the White House – both as a son and daughter-in-law of a President, and then 8 years later as President and First Lady – and the importance of family to their family. Her and President Bush are proud grandparents now, and she noted that Grandpa and Grandma seem to be going out of fashion now – she’s “Mimi Maxwell” and George wants the baby to call him “Sir”.
She talked about the events of September 11, 2001 and noted that they were taken to a location beneath the White House furnished “during the Truman years”. One other thing I scribbled down as she spoke was that she’s had to tell George “Turmoil in East Timor is no longer an excuse to not pick up your socks”. And at the first baseball game at Yankee Stadium after September 11, where President Bush threw out the first pitch, Derek Jeter told President Bush to “be a man – throw from the mound, but don’t bounce it or they’ll boo you”.
The second part of the session saw Jenna Bush Hager come to the stage and interview Laura Bush in a more informal manner that also had a few family tales thrown in.
After the Keynote session was over there was a mad crush to leave the hall and descend on the Vendor/Exhibitor Hall.
I spent a short while in the Exhibits Hall, and then went back into the main Keynote Hall to watch the finals of the “Innovator Showdown“. This was the culmination of a process where 51 software developers from around the world had submitted entries that were judged down to a Final Four. Those 4 entries were presented live on stage in front of the Judges and audience. The Judges got to question the representatives before retiring for what turned out to be longer than expected to announce their verdict. The audience also had a chance to participate in the voting – we got to vote by text message.
The 4 finalists (in the order they presented) were Welf Wustlich (from Germany) presenting “ArgusSearch“, Matthew Falconer presenting GenMarketplace, Lucidpress by Lucid Software, and Nick Baum presenting StoryWorth. By far the most intriguing one was Argus Search – a system of artificial intelligence that allows full text indexing and searching of handwritten documents – without the need to have first indexed them by hand. I really hoped, and thought they should win, but they didn’t win the Judges’ vote, in no small part because their demonstration for the Judges didn’t work at all 🙁 StoryWorth and Lucidpress are both methods of story recording, and GenMarketPlace is designed to match researchers looking for information and help with people willing to provide it for money.
In the end StoryWorth won, which I at least thought was quite ironic at a (high) tech conference, the winner of the Innovator Showdown uses eMail and telephone calls to record people’s family history! Argus Search was second, but I think as we go forward a few years, Argus Search is going to be much more widely used and appreciated than StoryWorth will.
By now it was lunchtime, so Lisa came over from the Family History Library where she’d been spending 9 hours a day since Monday and we wandered the Exhibit Hall a bit, and had lunch. One of the booths we checked out was the FGS Booth, looking for Society Showcase. We found that and found the Western Michigan Genealogical Society listing there in the racks of brochures provided by societies from across the country. We also marvelled at the balloon arrangement, and wonder if there was a “magic” balloon, which might have been the key to holding the whole thing together, and so if popped might have seen balloons go flying all over the place.
After lunch I spent some more time wandering the Exhibit Hall, didn’t buy the $1,469,95 copy stand, and then completed my Room Monitoring duties in Linda Coffin’s “Interviewing Grandma” session F-318. Then I went to Audrey Collins’ session “Lesser-Known Sources for Births, Marriages, and Deaths in the British Isles. Lots of good information and examples here of the various places you’d find various records that are not the main vital record groups commonly through of. Three pages of notes scrawled into my notebook after this one!
The day ended with “Cultural Night in the Expo Hall” – in a number of locations throughout the massive hall various groups of performers went about showcasing the sights, sounds and dancing from various world cultures”, so music, drumming, and dancing.
Then it was off to dinner at the Blue Iguana. Quite busy so we waited about 30 minutes for a table. We’d not long been seated when I noticed Kevin Grooms and Laura Prescott come in, so I waved them over to our table – we had company while we ate and they didn’t have to wait 30 minutes for a table.