Saturday, June 15, 2019

2019 International German Genealogy Conference Day One

This year is the 2nd International German Genealogy Conference.  The conference is being held in Sacramento, California with the local host being the Sacramento German Genealogy Society and supported by the International German Genealogy Partnership with volunteers from 4 continents and over 30 U. S. cities.  The theme of the conference is “Strike It Rich with Connections 2 Discoveries.

Last night there was a preconference activity for us to participate in.  We went to a Biergarten at the Tern Verein 

for a fun evening of German food, German music, dancers in costume dancing and German bier (beer), of course.  The Tern Verein has served as the center for German traditions in Sacramento for 164 years.  It is a place for locals with German ancestry to socialize, learn to speak German, celebrate, carry on German customs, etc.  A great time was had by all and now we were in the mood for the conference to begin!

The conference officially began this morning with the Plenary Session.  Conference Co-Chair Bill Cole led the session by pointing out specifics about where rooms were, what the WIFI password was, etc.  We learned that there were attendees there from many parts of the United States as well as Australia, Brazil, Germany, and Switzerland.  Bonnie talked about the over 125 volunteers that made this event possible.  While Bill began speaking again a woman entered in an 1840 period costume and interacted with Bill.  The woman turned out to be Co-Chair Ingeborg Carpenter who spoke briefly as a woman and wife from the time period of the Gold Rush days.  Bill went back to speaking and was interrupted throughout the next half an hour by others in period costumes from the time including John Sutter, several young Union soldiers from the Civil War and their sargent, a gold miner, and a female brothel owner Madame who all contributed to this time period in California’s history.  John Sutter reminded us that the Eureka is that we are all enriched by the culture of our families.  This was a very engaging, lighthearted way to begin the conference.

I attended 4 sessions today.  My first session was by Tesesa Steinkamp McMillin entitled Kickstart Your German Research.  I found Teresa to be a knowledgeable speaker who first gave us a brief history of German in order to understand what was happening during various time period in Europe and the names of the areas over time with the reminder that the German Empire was formed in 1871.  Teresa shared various maps to show border changes over the years.  Very important when trying to locate where ancestors may have come from during various time periods.  Next Teresa talked about major Migration waves which helped me understand what was happening at the times that may have been he ‘push’ for my ancestors to migrate to America.  She also gave me some clues and where to look for the records that will help tell my ancestors’ stories.

My second session was by Annette Burk Lyttle entitled How Advertising Brought Our German-Speaking Ancestors to the Midwest.  Annette has been able to locate a variety of posters and advertisements from America and other countries where groups such as the Railroad lines were trying to entice emigrants from other countries to head to the Midwestern part of the United States.  I found it interesting to see how even in the 1850s these groups were ‘stretching’ the truth with what they were saying to get the emigrants to come such as in Minnesota stating that “the winters in that section are cold but delightful”.  I will definitely look for advertisements in newspapers from the areas my ancestors lived to see what they may have been lead to believe about the area before they arrived.

I attended the Keynote Luncheon, sponsored by Ancestry,  where the speaker was Ingeborg Carpenter, herself an Immigrant from Germany.  The title of the Keynote was Forget What You’ve Heard!  The Real “Gold Rush”-A Woman’s View.  While still in costume as the wife of an early German settler, Ingeborg did an amazing job of telling the stories, with some humor inserted, of the long, difficult journeys to even get to California and what the reality of life was like during the Gold Rush days as would have been experienced by a woman of the time period.

My third session of the day was again by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin entitled Many Paths to Lorenz’s Home: A Town of Origin Case Study”.  This was of particular interest to me since I have an ancestor that immigrated in the early 1830s from Germany but I have no idea where in ‘Germany’ he was from.  Teresa gave a great account of the variety of records that could lead you to find the town of origin.  If you are not able to find the information from the ‘typical’ sources she reminded us to look at other family members, associates and neighbors (FAN) since many immigrants came in groups or followed others from their family or neighbors to America.

My last session of the day was given by Dr. Kenneth Heger entitled Immigration and Citizenship in the Early years of the Republic: Records of the American Consulate in Bremen, 1797-1850.  Now I would never have thought prior to this lecture to look for records from the American Consulate in Bremen.  I am not sure I would have even thought that America had a Consulate in Bremen during that time period.  It was very interesting to learn about the types of records that were kept at the Consulate and have been digitized.

After the formal sessions were done for the day there was a ‘Connections 2 Discoveries’ session.  Various topics were available where you could speak to someone who is an expert in a particular area informally and ask questions.  I attended one on the Civil War with Michael Strauss for suggestions on locating a possible Civil War soldiers service record. 

What an amazing day!  Everything at the Conference went smoothly thanks to all the extensive planning, the speakers I attended today were all great speakers with a lot of valuable information to share and I was able to talk though out the day with other genealogists.  What more could a genealogist ask for?  I look forward to what tomorrow’s speakers will have to offer.

If you have any corrections, additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.

Enjoy the journey,