Aside from the exhibition hall described in the previous post, the real purpose of the Congrès has been the presentation of a number of talks and lectures. We tried a simple method of division of the lectures by general categories of our own description: those with practical advice about how to do research; those that were purely history; those that were sales pitches; and those about professional development for genealogists.
There were 26 talks that fell into the practical research category, covering such topics as Protestant genealogy and the internet, DNA and genealogy, finding Italian ancestors, using military archives, Belgian State archives, and family associations and genealogy. In the history category, there were 29 talks or lectures. These topics included: the bicentenary of the birth of Louis Braille, medieval fairs of Champagne and 12th century history, Noble families of Brie and the Antilles, Lorraine e and Luxembourg from the 14th to the 17th centuries, daily life of our rural ancestors of the 17th century, and rural police. There was such an emphasis on history that many of those attending the conference were not genealogists but historians.
Of the sales pitches, mercifully, there were only four. Of the talks on professional development, there was one. The single stand of professional genealogists in the exhibition hall looked neglected and lonely, one must add. The conclusion might be drawn that professional genealogy is the terrain of the notaires and their clerks sorting out inheritance questions, while popular genealogy is the turf of the passionate amateur historian. The old term used in America comes to mind, that of the "family historian".
There was one last presentation which fell into none of our categories, yet was by far the most delightful, that of a school and its students presenting the results of their year-long programme of teaching genealogy. Used as a way to teach both history and a bit of ethnic pride, it was extremely popular with students and may be expanded in the curriculum and added to other schools. Seeing the interest and pride of the young people as they presented their beautifully drawn trees and talked of how they had gathered oral histories from their families was endearing and inspiring.
Finally there were four workshops. By far, the most popular was that on paleography. We have a particularly tricky acte de mariage that we took along, hoping for a bit of free help on two particular words. Perhaps a dozen enthusiastic genealogists studied it and could not determine what the words were. hen they learned that the document was from 18th century Louisiana (albeit written by a French curé) they all at the same moment relaxed and gave that uniquely French sound of dismissal, "pffft!" It was foreign, from the colonies; they were off the hook.
Ten points to anyone out there who can decipher these two words:
The Congress closed on Sunday at midday, a true success. The next one, in June, 2011, it is to be held in the north of France, in Roubaix. As quite a number of talks and attendees of this Congress were francophone Belgian, or Walloons, this location seems one aimed to please all. The theme of the 2011 Congress is to be «Nos ancêtres et le travail», "Our Ancestors and Their Work". We will be there, for the genealogy, the history, and the cheese.
©2009, Anne Morddel