As reported by Scot Facer Proctor, Publisher, Meridian Magazine

Editors’ Note:  July 28-31, 2009 marks the dates of the 41st annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy in Provo, Utah.  With over 130 course offerings we felt it important to highlight for our readers some of the amazing classes and lectures offered and point you to the schedule and details of this amazing conference.

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You would think that in 41 years I would have had the chance to attend at least one of the Family History and Genealogy conferences at BYU, but I have not.  With all my heart I would love to-with one concern:  As I looked over the course offerings of 135 different classes, there is really not one of them that I wouldn’t want to attend.  If I weren’t doing Meridian I think I would take all my time doing genealogy and family history.  No kidding.  So, for all of you who do have the time or the ability or the window to be able to attend this conference-please, go for me-no, actually, go for you.

From the BYU website we learn the basic facts about this conference.  The 41st annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy will offer more than 100 classes, allowing participants to gain new skills and helpful information. Class topics include Beginning Family History, FamilySearch, Writing the Narrative Family History, Using Computers, Internet and Technology, Basic Research Methodologies, Using the BYU Harold B. Lee Library, Research in the United States and Canada, Colonial America, International Research, Methodology, British Research, and Tips for Professional Genealogists.

You are invited to attend the conference to learn new techniques and to build and strengthen your family ties through genealogy and family history. Many vendors will be demonstrating and displaying their latest computer programs and products designed to aid genealogical researchers.

I want to walk you through some of the wonderful things about this conference.

Keynote Speakers

A keynote speaker will address the conference on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Elder John H. Groberg will lead on Tuesday.  He is well known not only for his long years as a general authority of the Church but also for his own personal history story that was made into a Disney film The Other Side of Heaven, documenting his amazing and miraculous missionary experiences in the South Seas.

Wednesday will bring keynote John Phillip Colletta to the pulpit.  Dr. Colletta is one of America’s most popular genealogical lecturers. Entertaining, knowledgeable, and experienced, he is based in Washington, D.C., where he conducts workshops for the National Archives and teaches courses for the Smithsonian Institution and local universities. He also lectures nationally and is a faculty member of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University (Birmingham, Alabama) and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (Salt Lake City). He is the author of several books and numerous how-to articles. Dr. Colletta has appeared on local and national radio and television and is featured in episode four of Ancestors the ten-part KBYU-TV series. His PhD in medieval French literature is from The Catholic University of America.

Thursday’s keynote is David E. Rencher, Director of the Planning and Coordination Division of the Family History Department in Salt Lake City.  He is both an accredited genealogistCM and a certified genealogistSM. His topic is FamilySearch Tackles the Information Explosion. Learn what’s new with FamilySearch that may make your efforts in family history more enjoyable, more productive, more interesting, more fun and more satisfying. In short, MORE DATA FASTER!

Class Offerings

Two summers ago Maurine and our two youngest daughters and I spent the entire summer doing family history research.  This was the most magical summer we have ever had.  With that in mind I went through each and every class offering for this upcoming conference to see what classes I wish I would have taken before our summer of research.  I have included a few of the classes below, with titles, teachers and descriptions.  Trust me-Family History and Genealogy are about the most exciting work you can do.  There is a spirit-the Spirit of Elijah-that goes with this work that touches and turns hearts in amazing ways. 

One quick story before I show you some of the classes-once we were in a little village in England-Whalley-and a curious passer by asked us what we were doing there.  We told him we were filming some sequences for a book on the Mormon pioneers and also doing some of our own family history research since our people came from this village.  He said, “If you want to talk to me about your Church, you’re not welcome in my home, but if you want to talk about ancestors and genealogy you can come over for dinner.”  I’ve never forgotten that.  Family history and the search for our roots break down every wall, every barrier.  There is not a soul on the planet who, somewhere inside, does not want to know about his or her roots.

So follow along with me as I show you some of these classes (I will offer comments between descriptions in italics):

Start your Search in the Bottom Left-hand Dresser Drawer with Barry J. Ewell.  Some of the most valuable genealogy records are as close as family and friends. You’ll find records in scrapbooks, shoeboxes, safe-deposit boxes, under beds, pockets of old clothes, and any number of other places. We’ll discuss types of records you’ll find how to handle them, and how to use them in you genealogical research.

I have a lot of bottom left-hand dresser drawers in our home.

Top Websites for Doing Research at Home with Jennifer Hansen.  Record accessibility changes more every day as the dream of doing research from a home computer quickly becomes reality. This class will examine some of the best websites to enable you to research without ever leaving home.

Even though I am an expert on the Internet (I work on it all day every day with Meridian) I know that I could use a good primer for doing research from home.

Certified Genealogy Software that Makes New FamilySearch Family Tree Easier with Janet Hovorka.  Using FamilySearch Family Tree, do you need to keep your own copy of your research, and how would you keep it synced with the database? Compare the FamilySearch certified software programs: all the capabilities of the website, privacy of living people and research in progress, keeping notes and media organized, interfacing with other programs, and ease of use.

I want to learn all I can about NewFamilySearch so that I can really do my best to find every possible scrap of evidence concerning my family lines.

Finding Newspapers Online with Barabara Renick.  Newspapers are often the only place information about your obscure ancestor appeared in print. However, historical newspapers are frequently the last place genealogists look because of the difficulty finding them. This lecture covers new online resources for finding what likely newspapers existed and where to find them now. This lecture covers seven types of online tools genealogists find helpful: geographic, language, time and calendar, history, educational, utilities, and locator tools.


Examples of Web sites for each type of tool are explored along with some of their hidden features and limitations.

I have done untold hours, days, weeks and months of research in old newspapers in my Church History research. I wish I could stop and tell you about ten stories of amazing things that I discovered in newspapers that I have not found in any other source.  And having more and more of them online is a boon for all of us.

The Google Genealogist with Devin Ashby.  What are the latest tools from Google and how can I use them in my research? Come learn about products like Picasa, Alerts, Sites, Books, Video, Maps, and much more that can help you save time and money as you utilize the internet to help you get the job done.

I can’t tell you how many things I have found in my own family history research by Google searches-but I am ready to learn more and more!

Internet ‘Virtual’ Family Reunions Help to Strengthen Family Ties Worldwide with Jean Naisbitt.  One tombstone read: “You are not dead and gone until you are forgotten.” Learn how to bind hearts together through free internet websites. Create a fun family gathering place to share news, pictures, family histories and genealogy. Best yet you are not limited to one location, but can be worldwide.

We were in one of my ancestral cities in England-Blackburn-and I wondered how many Proctors were in the phone book there.  I knew there were about 60 in the Salt Lake phone book-there were 259 in the Blackburn phone book!  And these are all my living cousins, none of whom I know!  I want to have a Virtual Family Reunion!

Understanding Latin in European Church Records with Ruth Lapioli Merriman.  Understanding Latin in European Church Records is a very basic approach to Catholic parish registers. The purpose is to learn to identify the genealogical information in each record, not to become a Latin scholar. Catholic records are similar all over Europe and elsewhere and this class will help you regardless of where your ancestors lived. Since Latin is a dead language we’ll have a little fun just to keep us all awake.

Let me assure you that after researching thousands of pages of my own family records from various records in Europe this is a needed class for me!

Internet Sites for Scandinavian Research with Geoffrey Froberg Morris.  The Scandinavian countries are creating amazing research databases and resources for internet use. With so many new tools for your research, the challenge is just keeping up. Come discover the latest online tools for your Scandinavian research. This presentation will focus primarily on Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

Maurine and I are both Danes and yet we have struggled with the confusing patronymics in our Danish lines.  I would love to spend a week in this class.

England Jurisdictions, 1851-Ancestors at Your fingertips with Judy Jones.  Forthcoming is an Internet product known at the present time as England Jurisdictions, 1851. The product is the culmination of 9 years of data-gathering and development by the British Research Unit of Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The product has migrated over time from a paper-based, notebook iteration of a county-centric, flat parish map with overlays depicting jurisdictions, to that of a powerful Internet based Geographic Information System (GIS). This mapping system simplifies research by consolidating data from many sources into a single repository that can be accessed through the mere click of a mouse in a parish boundary. This class will be an introduction to this new product.

Okay, now you’ve got me.  I want this class!  I am a natural sleuth and this appears to be another key that will open a lot of doors!

The Best and Most Beautiful Online Collections of U.S. Maps with Michael Ritchey.  Many research problems can be solved by maps. When you want U.S. maps of your ancestor’s area, you no longer need to visit major universities or order microfilm via interlibrary loan. Maps for the U.S. are all over the internet, but some online collections are far better than others. Prepare to be excited as you learn about some of the best U.S. map collections online.

Maurine and I are both “mapaholics”-we can’t live without them.  I’ve got detailed maps of our British home territories and I can learn mounds from them just by looking all around my ancestral homes.  Maybe we could convince Michael Ritchey to do a Meridian article that summarizes the class!

East European Internet Sites with Kahlile Mehr.  How Family History Library Films are Acquired from the Former Soviet Sphere Collection Management at the Family History Library, Record Locations, Field Negotiations, Filming Procedures, Shipping, Receipt, Cataloging, and Distribution through the Family History Library Catalog. Understand why some records are acquired an others not and improved ability find information in the Family History Library Catalog.

I have a whole family line from Prussia that I have not been able to go back very far on.  I think it is time to break through on this line!  Help me Obi Wan Kahlile Mehr-you’re my only hope!

The FamilySearch Research Wiki–What is it and How Can I Help? with Jim Greene.  Inevitably, even in the cleanest family trees, an end-of-line brick wall will appear. There will be many clues left by prior generations that will point to a likely place to look, and a general time frame. But how do you find out what sources of information exist? Which sources are the best for this time and place? Where do you go to find them? In the past these simple questions could have spelled the difference between going on with personal family history research, or giving up in despair. The FamilySearch Research Wiki is designed to facilitate attacks on the end-of-line brick walls. It forms a community where the most up-to-date information is always available.

Okay, this is totally cool. That is called taking all this amazing technology and putting it to some amazing use.

I could go on and on but I will not.  Please access all the course offerings for the conference here

You can look over the entire class schedule here

You can go to their main website here for access to registration, details, meal and lodging information and numbers here

You will be eternally blessed for attending this conference.  I haven’t been to the conference and I can already feel how incredible it will be.