As it is for everyone on our poor, suffering planet, this time of pandemic is a struggle for French genealogists. Though the extreme lockdown, confinement, has been lightened and we can go out and about, there are many rules still. We must wear masks in public; we must maintain our distance; quite a few shops and restaurants remain shut (sadly, in some cases, forever). We all have a sense that we are living Une Grande Pause (and we do not mean a long coffee break) waiting, dreading, the Second Wave of coronavirus. After that is anyone's guess.
The French genealogy community here is justifiably proud of the success of the recent Salon Virtuel de Généalogie. Organized by the team from GeneAgenda (who had an unusually dynamic response on, we presume, seeing all of their listings disappear when the lockdown began) aided by genealogists Isabel Canry and Philippe Christol, the online event was very well attended, it seems. Alain Rouault now asks, on GeneAgenda's blog, if this may not be the future. Will the huge, expensive conferences and the small, regional meetings disappear and be replaced by their online versions?
He raises some interesting points, some of them uniquely French. On the whole, he says that virtual conferences will never fully replace conferences presented in real time and real space because, basically, tough they may be efficient, they are not sociable. Virtual conferences lack "social interaction, conviviality, exchanges, sharing, ambiance, the joy of discovery...". There is an implication that this socializing around a shared interest in genealogy, along with a certain level of exclusivity, even clubbiness, on the part of regional genealogy associations, is their primary interest. Their regional conferences "are essentially based on local participation, with the vendors being just visitors and [thus they] really are not interested in virtualizing their events to gain national exposure."
So, regional genealogy groups are quite parochial, yet they complain of dwindling memberships, which could be an indication that not all members shared the view that an interest in tracing one's family history was valid only if tied to and limited to an interest in local traditions and history. One can see the danger inherent in this view, of those families with the longest presence in a place being seen as somehow superior to those with a shorter presence and of such petty snobberies perhaps polluting the conviviality of the genealogy conferences, at least for some.
We are a species of contrasts; in this case, humanity's incessant migrations confront our unadmirable xenophobic or neophobic tendencies. If the explosion in the popularity of amateur genealogy brought about by the Internet has taught us anything, it has taught us that we all are descended from a migrant or two and we all come from families that have been on this planet for a significant period of time. (Should any of you, Dear Readers know of a recent arrival, please do introduce us!) It is this increasing open-mindedness amongst people researching their families that is at odds with the antiquated motive for researching one's ancestors as a way of pandering to grandiose delusions, whether to see one's self as of a French village's oldest family or as of a Mayflower passenger's descendant.
Even when lockdowns will be a thing of the past it is likely that virtual genealogy conferences are here to stay. Rouault suggests that the smaller, local conferences could find a balance between old and new and at least film their talks and put those online, which we think would be a very good idea and helpful to all. Many of those talks are gems, representing years of in-depth research, but it seems that the genealogy associations themselves do not realize their value. They seem to believe that the only thing they have to market is their extracts of parish and civil registrations; they do not seem to recognize the value of their members' expertise or how many people around the world would be interested in their talks and presentations.
In the way that Filae has milked these associations for those extracts, perhaps GeneAgenda, as well as continuing its calendar of events activity, could expand to create a platform for those very talks and that expertise? Why not use the website format of Legacy webinars, including the library and the small subscription fee, to create a place where the many conference talks and local genealogy association presentations all can be brought together? This would be, to our mind, a vast improvement on the miserable smattering of YouTube channels that prevails at the moment. It would be an interesting development on the national level. Were they to add subtitles to talks, that would have international interest.
Monsieur Rouault and the GeneAgenda team, please take note.
WE HAVE RECEIVED BY E-MAIL A CAUTIONARY COMMENT ABOUT THE SALON :
"I do hope there are more of these events in the future. However, IMO, they would have to work hard to improve the technical aspects of such an event. I got up at 3 am and was able to get into some of the lectures. But a lot of the lectures simply would not come up. Others (notably the one on notaries, and one other one) had a notice “filled to capacity” when I tried to get in. That, after it was advertised as “limitless" capacity. That was hugely disappointing. Also the audio quality of many of the speakers was below par.
Anyway, I was glad to see it offered, and for free. Unless I knew they had made HUGE advances technologically, I would not pay to attend. But if offered for free, I’d definitely attend again. And if they could figure out how to clean it up, I’d pay."
©2020 Anne Morddel