Are you one of the 44.2 million Americans with a German ancestor? Whether your ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch who arrived in the 18th century, part of the tidal wave of Germans arriving in the 19th century, came in the 20th century, or never left at all, the virtual International German Genealogy Conference (IGGC) will have something for you!
The International German Genealogy Partnership held its first conference in Minneapolis in 2017 and the second in Sacramento in 2019, which I attended. The third conference will be held virtually July 14th -17th 2021, with the theme of “Researching Together Worldwide / Weltweit Gemeinsam Forschen.” What can you expect from the virtual conference? Live and On-Demand sessions from experts on German genealogy around the world will provide you with the help you need to make progress on your German ancestors.
My Experience at IGGC 2019
To give you an idea of how this conference could benefit you, here are some of my take-aways from the 2019 conference I attended in Sacramento.
The conference offered a fantastic array of presentations to choose from. The presentations offered different levels of expertise (beginner to advanced) and often had a regional focus (e.g. Baden). Presenters shared how to think about using DNA with an emphasis on Germans, highlighted German interest websites and archives, and explained the historical context for German ancestors’ lives.
With at least eighty presentations offered, the hard part was choosing!
Some of my favorites were the historical presentations. I especially enjoyed the one by Baerbel K. Johnson called “Life on the Farm: Understanding Your German Peasant Ancestors.” I learned that while we have one word in English for “farmer,” Johnson has found 150 German words for “farmer” (important to know if you are transcribing records)! She gave vital background information about the daily lives of peasant farmer ancestors, and records they may have left behind.
Two of the best-attended presentations were “Leaving a paper trail: German sources besides church documents and civil records,” by Andrea Bentschneider, and “Best German Genealogy Website: Genealogy.net,” by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. I had no idea how to approach finding records in Germany beyond church records. Each lecture expanded my horizons about searching German archives both online and off.
In addition to speakers, many interesting vendors and organizations were represented. One was the St. Louis County Library, which is a tremendous source for Missouri-based research. The library has many holdings outside of Missouri interest (e.g. after the Family History Library, it has the most OFBs, ortsfamilienbücher, or town genealogy books).
Another favorite was the genealogical society from the Osnabrück (Hannover) area of Germany, called the Arbeitskreis Familienforschung Osnabrück e.V. I met a very kind woman called Irmtraud Tiemann who helped me understand more about this German-based genealogical society. Since I had ancestors from that part of Germany (here is information on emigration from Osnabrück), I was especially appreciative. She encouraged me to email her with questions which I did. Irmtraude put me in touch with a most helpful fellow called Uwe, who was working on the as yet unpublished OFB for the village where I thought my ancestor was from. Even though the OFB is not available, he emailed me his transcriptions of church records for my ancestor and her immediate family. The records cleared up some confusing family relationships and gave the correct spelling of her last name. I was overjoyed!
Lastly, there was a booth for a fascinating project called “German Heritage in Letters.” It is an ongoing effort to collect as much German-American correspondence as possible to preserve the history and culture of this immigrant group in their own words. Even though I had no letters to contribute, I thought this was such an important and interesting project.
Just as in 2019, the 2021 conference will provide a forum for connecting with other attendees over regional or cultural ties. For example at the end of the presentation by Andrea Bentschneider in 2019, there was the option to gather together in small groups. I joined the Hesse group and met someone who helped with understanding how to search for church records there. This time the networking will take place online and be called “Connections.”
This year’s virtual IGGP conference will be held July 17th – 24th, 2021. You can view eight live presentations plus choose from many other pre-recorded presentations. You can purchase all-access or pay less for a bit less access. You can sign-up for their newsletter here and view the latest issue here. For more information and sign-up here.
Early-bird registration for a discount lasts until March 31. I hope to see you there!
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