The 2017 Austin Families Association conference was held September 14–16 at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel at Temple Square. When it comes to genealogical resources, there's just no place like Salt Lake City. Many of this year's attendees arrived several days early to spend time in the LDS Library, researching family lines and tracking down genealogical leads. Time was also spent walking around the beautiful Temple Square and enjoying dinner atop the Joseph Smith Building. A Welcome Reception was held Thursday evening, where the 40 attendees enjoyed drinks, hors d'oeuvres and each other's company. It's always enjoyable reconnecting with Austin family and friends!
The conference itself kicked off Friday morning in the Salt Lake Room with time for coffee, to meet and exchange data with other Austin researchers, and to consult with AFAOA genealogists. President Jane Bruckner welcomed attendees, giving special recognition to four past-presidents in attendance—Alice Martin (1999–2003), Art Sikes (2003–2007), Gay Martin (2007–2012), and Bonnie Bigolin (2012–2014), thanking them for their leadership and continuing service to our organization.
Our first speaker was Joni Kessler. Joni has worked at the Family History Library for over 30 years, and did a wonderful job familiarizing us with what the library has to offer, making sure we were Getting the Most Out of the Family History Library. She was followed by her colleague, Tim Bingaman. Tim's expertise and interest in both history and genealogy made him the ideal person to talk to us about Tracking Your Ancestors Through Immigration and Emigration. He brought to life the way wave after wave of immigration has led to the rich diversity that is our country today. We concluded the morning with our own Art Sikes introducing us to the Austin Homes of Suffield, Connecticut.
With all the attention being given these days to DNA research and testing, it was very helpful, following lunch, to have genealogist Raquel Lindaas lead us through Genetic DNA for the Clueless. For many of us, it helped to clarify the difference between autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, to understand the different tests, and to see where they fit into genealogical research. Afternoon talks continued, with Stan Lindaas speaking to us about the importance of taking those names, dates, and pictures and turning them into a rich story about your ancestors, in his talk, Your Ancestors Lived! Telling the Life Experiences of your Forbearers. Joy Davis then told us All About the 'Newest' FamilySearch, updating us on the newest developments in this widely-used program.
We resumed Saturday morning, learning some of those interesting stories about our Austin ancestors. Curtis Austin introduced us to his early Austins, who were converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Austins to Utah: The First Generations was the story of their 24,000 mile journey from Connecticut to Utah by way of a voyage around Cape Horn. John Clinard shared his efforts to prove the First Families of Tennessee status of a number of the ancestors of his wife, Lil Austin Clinard. Barbara Austin Giacomelli brought to life her ancestor, Margaret Jane Austin: Landowner of Wise County, VA. Art Sikes concluded the morning with Discussions on Autosomal DNA.
During our afternoon Annual Membership Meeting, we heard reports from various officers and committees. We amended our bylaws to refer to our annual gathering as a "conference" instead of a "convention", discussed upcoming changes to our software and web site, and formed a committee to pursue the formation of an Autosomal DNA Project.
Our 2017 conference concluded with a delicious Western Roundup BBQ buffet dinner. President Bruckner presented awards to Alice Martin (Membership/Newsletter), Elizabeth Neithamer (Conference Chair), and Joy Davis (Website Programmer) for their outstanding work for AFAOA this year. Following dinner, "A Little Night Music" was provided by Michael Austin (Curtis Austin's brother), his daughter Addie and son Tate, who shared their considerable musical talents, serenading us with a variety of music.
Next year's AFAOA conference will take place in either Fort Wayne, IN or Philadelphia, PA. Consider your options and make your voice heard. Vote for our 2018 location! We hope to see you in 2018!
2017 AFAOA Banquet Attendees
View more photos from this year's conference.