BY BRANDY FULTON
Roots were spread and trees grew taller at the Kitchener Public Library on Nov. 5, thanks to the fifth annual genealogy fair. Expert researchers and inquisitive beginners came together to find their ancestors. Anyone who entered the doors with as simple a question as “Where do I start?” were greeted warmly and guided in the right direction.
The event took place throughout the library, with speakers flowing in and out of the meeting rooms and vendors’ tables and local branches’ displays covering the main floor. The University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University had two tables that featured archives from each school as well as history on events and big names in the K-W area.
Find My Past’s Jen Baldwin, data acquisition manager for North America, was the keynote speaker. In her talk at the beginning of the event she discussed the importance of the next generation. Being a younger genealogist herself who felt discriminated against and unwanted, she wanted to find a place where every generation could connect and share. She continued in saying the smaller fairs are always a good place to start.
“There are some genealogy conferences out there that are getting too big to be productive.” said Baldwin.
At a conference some time ago she met up with a number of young genealogists. Through some discussion Baldwin helped create The NextGen. Starting out as a Facebook page, The NextGen had many people from branches all over Ontario connecting on what seemed like just another page. The group working with Baldwin were really trying for something more. They added get-togethers, Twitter chats and GooglePlus hangouts as a way of connecting and learning. A newsletter was formed to showcase some of the hidden talents and gifts in genealogists everywhere.
“As much as we have exposed them, we have tended not to appreciate them,” Baldwin said.
She imagines that there are many young genealogists who are not getting the credit they deserve. Baldwin said the amount that this generation is OK with being different helps in many situations. People who want to excel in this area, people who want genealogy without borders, is what is needed. When the word gets out for fairs and conferences via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, when posters are made and everyone is connected, that is what genealogy needs.
However, she clarified that it is not just a one-way system. Older generations are able to help those who have just started searching. Documents, books, pictures and any sort of record get handed down. No matter the age of the member in the Ontario Genealogical Society, they all agreed that this ongoing cycle is greatly needed.
For more information on your past, visit the Waterloo Branch’s website at waterloo.ogs.on.ca.