Sunday, March 23, 2014

Goin' to Kansas City! Kansas City Here We Come!

Actually, the "Genealogy Girls Gone Wild" weekend in Kansas City was two weeks ago and what a weekend it was! Back in 2010, I met fellow bloggers Diana Ritchie who writes the Random Relatives blog and Jenna Mills who writes the Desperately Seeking Surnames blog. We met as geneabloggers at the Family History Expo in Kansas City that year and became fast friends.

Diana and Jenna at the Midwest Genealogy Center
Independence, Missouri March 2014
A reunion has been in the works for quite a while. I actually got to see Diana in 2012 when she and a friend visited Lincoln in conjunction with John Colletta's appearance at the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society conference. I didn't make it to Omaha that year since I was looking after my Dad, who just had a stroke. But Diana, her friend Nancy and I got together for brunch, went by the home and business owned by Nancy's grandparents and then on to Wyuka Cemetery where Nancy's relatives are buried.

Jenna had all of the advance info on a conference that would be held at the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri on March 8. She assured us that the speaker was one of the genealogy rock stars we would want to see, so we began making plans to attend. Also included in what we referred to as March Madness was Susan Clark of the Nolichucky Roots blog. You might recognize her by her "right eye" profile photo on Facebook. Honoring her desire for relative anonymity, I'm not posting a photo of her here!

We were in touch via Facebook messaging daily, deciding what hotel to stay at, times of our arrival in the Kansas City area, extra curricular activities, and a research day at the Midwest Genealogy Center. Jenna was dubbed the cruise director of the Lido deck since she made arrangements for a Saturday night dinner with the conference's main speaker, Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, and Kathleen Brandt of A3 Genealogy. (yes, Jenna finally let us know who the speakers would be!).

On the Road Again

I made a leisurely drive to Kansas City, stopping in Nebraska City for lunch at Parker's Smokehouse. I can now say that I've eaten at all three of their locations! I arrived at the hotel late afternoon on Thursday, got unpacked and had snacks and beverages until Diana's arrival. While we all kept in touch with each other via Facebook messaging, I was ostracized by the others by having texting blocked on my wireless plan. Yes, I gave in to peer pressure and added unlimited texting to my plan once I got home!

Diana and I had a nice BBQ dinner out that evening. One HAS to have BBQ when visiting Kansas City.

Library Day

We met up with Jenna on Friday morning for our research day at the Midwest Genealogy Center, which is part of the Mid-Continent Public Library. Jenna had been telling us that we had to get a library card for remote access to the library's vast assortment of databases we could access from home. The card was $20 for six months and has already paid for itself. I haven't counted the number of databases, but I'm sure there are more than 100 available. Being the newspaper archive junkie that I am, I'm going wild in the archives of the Kansas City Star, New York Times and other old papers. There are also databases of history resources, maps, books. I'm a kid in the candy store!

Diana and Susan pretending to do research.
Photo copyright 2014 Jenna Mills, used with permission
We had to refrain Jenna from ripping off the map of Germany!
Jenna knows her way around the library already and knew we would want a tour. So we got a quick tour of the facility. What a library! An entire building dedicated just to genealogy. Okay, I admit it, I don't get out much, so this was the most impressive genealogy collection I've seen. (ACPL and the LDS library in Salt Lake are still on my "to do" list).

I didn't go with a research plan in mind - I just like to get acquainted with a place first. So I looked through some books with Nebraska connections and found a few items. One of my favorite discoveries was locating a photo of the drugstore in Lincoln, Nebraska that was operated by my great grandfather's brother in law. It was late in the day when I discovered several feet of shelf space dedicated to Blair County, Pennsylvania where my Pecht/Peight ancestors lived (for those who have been following the story, that was where my third great grandfather, the axe murderer, lived). That guaranteed another visit to the library later this year.

Susan Clark arrived and checked in with us and spent most of her research day looking at microfilm records. This was my first meeting with her and as with Diana and Jenna, I felt an immediate connection. Well, heck, we've been friends on Facebook for years, so it's not like we were strangers. Susan has one wicked sense of humor, which I like!

As you can see in the photo, we were wise enough to get a private research/conference room since we knew we would be chatting and didn't want to disturb other library users. The library is really user friendly. There are desks and work spaces throughout the facility, shopping carts so you can gather up the books you want to use. There's plenty of electrical outlets to keep your laptop or tablet charged. Microfilm readers and copy machines are set up to save images to USB flash drives. I will definitely come more prepared on my next visit!

Friday evening, the four of us had a nice dinner and talked quite a bit about DNA and genealogy.

Conference Day - Saturday

The "genie tech" conference brought us back to the library on Saturday morning. I hadn't met Lisa Louise Cooke before, so it was a kick for me when she spotted me in the registration line, waved and said "Hi, Susan!" Amazing what online social networking does! It's like we already know each other. Genealogy friends from Lincoln and Omaha were also in the audience and I touched base with them.

Lisa's topics included newspaper research, Google Earth, and using iPads/Tablets for genealogy. I had viewed her webinars on these topics before, but it was really nice to see and hear her in person. Lisa is a fantastic presenter and if you get a chance to attend one of her presentations, do it!

And Kathleen totally rocked it with her presentation on DNA. Wow. This was the first time that DNA was explained in a way that really made sense to me.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Lisa and her daughter; Kathleen and her friend from Jet magazine; and Beth Foulk of Genealogy Decoded. I'd met Beth last year when she spoke at the Nebraska state genealogy conference. Sadly, my hearing isn't the greatest in noisy restaurants, so I only got in on about half of the conversation, but even so, it was a great evening!

On Becoming 'Maxine'

My "real life" friends know how much I b----, I mean complain, about the uncomfortable chairs and seating at conferences. I've left entirely too many conferences early because I could just not tolerate the horrible chairs! Yes, I am turning into the cartoon Maxine! I came prepared for Kansas City and ordered a "butt cushion"! I was surprised, but it really worked! If you are a fellow rear and back pain sufferer at conferences, I definitely recommend this! I will put up with the teasing I take, but I'm not going to any more conferences without my cushion! LOL.

GG Gone Wild!?

Well, we genealogy girls had a fantastic time, even if we seem to be the "early to bed" types! I had a blast and it was a great reunion with my blogger buddies. We all said that Kansas City is a pretty quick drive for all of us and we vowed to do this a few times every year. Next time, I'm definitely going with a research plan in mind.