The premier event for Jewish genealogists is the yearly conference run by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Each year, the conference is packed with speakers from around the world who speak on a variety of topics specific to Jewish genealogy. These dynamic presenters cover topics ranging from country-specific research to Jewish genetic genealogy to the history of the Jews in a particular part of the world. Jewish Genealogy Methodology is always covered from a variety of perspectives.
This year’s conference, IAJGS2018, scheduled from August 5-August 10, 2018, will be different and special in that it is the first IAJGS conference to be held in Eastern Europe. IAJGS is hosting the conference in conjunction with the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews as well as the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw. The Polish State Archives is also cooperating closely with the conference, which means that a large number of archivists will be participating in the conference.
In addition to the traditional lecture sections, there will be local cultural performances, mentoring opportunities (both to assist others and to get research direction from experts) and exhibits from a variety of vendors. There will also be different panel sessions featuring those with expertise in Eastern European archival research.
IAJGS conferences always feature various Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Birds of a Feather (BOFs), which primarily focused on research in a particular geographic area, sometimes down to the town level. The first day of the conference has a Share Fair, where SIGs and BOFs have tables with information about projects they run and some of the group leadership available to answer questions about places within the area covered by that group. SIGs and BOFs also have time during the conference in sessions where they can present what has been completed over the past year, upcoming projects, and ways in which others can help promote indexing and other projects each group runs.
Since many people will want to visit ancestral towns with the conference in Eastern Europe this year, the conference is partnering with a local tour company which will be planning group tours to several different Eastern European countries. Conference participants can also travel to their family’s towns independently before or after the conference. There will also be daily organized excursions within Warsaw to help conference attendees explore Jewish Warsaw and all of its research resources.
For those who cannot attend the conference in person, there will be a “Live!” Package in which a selection of the conference’s presentations is available to watch online both in real time as well as for a period of time after the conference, for a fee.
Besides having the opportunity to learn strategies and techniques for researching Jewish ancestors, this conference is a wonderful opportunity to network with others who are also doing Jewish genealogy research. Attendees range from those who are just starting to investigate their own families to those who do Jewish genealogy research professionally. Being able to talk to like-minded people is a huge bonus to this conference, and you’re likely to come out of conversations with new ideas to break through brick walls in your own family research.
Registrants also can submit a list of their family surnames and towns of origins; the resulting list is available for searching by other conference attendees. Looking through this “Online Family Finder” can help you identify others who may be researching the same families or the same towns as you.
If you can’t make it to Warsaw this year, it’s not too soon to plan for the summer of 2019, when IAJGS2019 will be held in Cleveland, Ohio.