Last week, a friend and I attended the International Convention of Germans from Russia 2009 in Medicine Hat, Alberta. This is the annual conference of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR). I've blogged (and tweeted) about the conference and our trip already. but I did want to say more about some of the talks we heard.
This is a new area of research to me and I learned a LOT, no doubt about it. Having computer and library resources of the AHSGR right at hand was great, but hearing researchers speak about their projects and their families was amazing, as was the opportunity to speak with them and to discuss with other attendees the issues and ideas raised. A big conference like this always creates a 'buzz'. It gets you all enthusiastic - ready to run for the library or to a computer terminal for the night. Each session I attended was interesting - some were emotional, most were thought provoking.
The convention included several symposiums - focusing on folk-lore, genealogy, and on historical research and archives. There were a variety of other sessions, even food demonstrations. Just to give you an idea and to whet your interest for next year, here are my thoughts on three of the sessions.
Doris Eckhardt Evans presented "Bringing Archival Records to Life". For me, this was likely the most practical session as she went over very clearly the historiography of reseach about Germans from Russia, and then outlined what kinds of records are now available (and where they might be), showing examples from one particular village area - Frank. This included Internet sources, the AHSGR's own SOAR project, but also VolgaGermans.net, the Volga Germans website put together by members of the Rootsweb Volga German Mail List and the Center for Volga German Studies website from Concordia University in Oregon, USA.
Evans has been one of AHSGR's 'village co-ordinators' for over ten years. She has been on the Board, was Chair of the Research Committee and has been active in the SOAR project which aims to make the society's resources available on-line. She certainly does have a sense of humour too.
Paul Hofer, who is a teacher and a member of the Elkwater Hutterite Colony in Alberta spoke about "Roots of the Hutterites", an account of a trip to Austria in 2007 by himself, his wife, Susie Hofer, and several other Hutterites to explore their heritage and to meet with interested Austrians to "open up the dark chapter" of their mutual history, visiting, for instance, sites where early Hutterites, like Jakob Hutter himself, were imprisoned and executed.
They attended a ceremony in Innsbruk commemorating the year of Hutter's death [French link] and spoke to school groups and to adults. Later they saw a new Hutterite museum, near Vienna. [The link is to a Wikipedia article in English, with links to the German websites.] His was a very thoughtful and indeed, moving, talk.
One of the lighter sessions was the presentation of the winning entries for the Annual AHSGR Storytelling Competition.
The Adult Division winner was Anne Stang from Calgary, Alberta with her "Ode to Sauerkraut" - very funny! But it was her other entry, "New Year in Saskatchewan 1946" that I will long remember.
The Youth Division winner was Bailey Penner who read us her story about "My Great-great-great Grandma Justina Leppke".
The names of all the winners and some photographs are on the AHSGR 2009 Convention blog.
Each of the winning Youth entries dealt with family history. I was excited to hear that the 2nd place Youth Winner, Evelyn Elaine Gaunt, wrote that her grandmother was grooming her to be the family historian someday, and that she was already familiar with Ancestry.com. What a great way to get children interested early and to preserve family history.
The 2010 Convention of the Germans from Russia will be in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, which is the headquarters of the AHSGR. In 2011, it will be in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. If you're already doing research on Germans from Russia, both of these venues will offer extra opportunities.
This post was written especially for
the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy hosted by Jessica at Jessica's GeneJournal. Watch for this Edition of the Carnival there soon.