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National Genealogical Society’s exhibition hall plenty lively

SHARE National Genealogical Society’s exhibition hall plenty lively

SALT LAKE CITY — Between the booth manned by a prisoner and the T-shirts reading "I seek dead people," the National Genealogical Society's exhibition hall was plenty lively.The NGS's annual conference is in Salt Lake City for the first time since 1985. Most of the workshops and presentations are open only to registered conference attendees, but NGS has also invited the public into a spacious exhibition hall filled with computers, scanners and novel new ways to do family history work.Visitors can hear vendors discuss everything from DNA to ship manifests. They'll find everything from iPhone apps to a genealogy journal that's been published annually since 1847. Not to mention the man dressed in a black-and-white-stripe prison uniform introducing people to the "Criminal Research Press."Chances are, there's enough at the Salt Palace Convention Center to keep genealogy enthusiasts of all expertise levels moving from booth to booth. Some exhibits may even, as one vendor put it, get the disinterested interested.Jeff Wells was there inviting people to test his video game, where participants chase a villain back through their personal history before he can alter their family tree and render them nonexistent. Family Odyssey, which will debut in September, allows gamers to upload their own photos and stories. A Facebook application is scheduled for release in July."We basically think we've merged two different industries at the right time," said Wells, founder and owner of Family Odyssey.AppleTree.com is in town to introduce its single, global pedigree. The site, which is still in beta testing, will compile user-contributed information and allow visitors to see how they're related to others — even famous people. An entry for "William Bradley Pitt" was on display at the booth."It is the family tree of the world," said Rysa Ptiner, chief marketing officer.Tom Champoux was there representing an institution that has a few years on the up-and-comers — the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which dates back to 1845. The nonprofit organization is at the NGS conference each year, in addition to sponsoring an annual research tour to Salt Lake City.NEHGS has been publishing a scholarly journal based on genealogy, known as "The Register," since the year pioneers settled the Salt Lake Valley.Champoux said he was pleased to hear President Henry B. Eyring of the Mormon First Presidency reference the historic organization during the "Celebration of Family History" event the previous evening at the Conference Center."We didn't know he even knew us," Champoux said.Ancestry.com, which on Wednesday introduced a version of its "Tree Maker" software for Mac users, has multiple booths in the exhibition hall offering demonstrations and free document scanning. Many conference attendees are Ancestry.com subscribers, and drop by for research consultation, said Mike Ward, the company's public relations director.FamilySearch, a division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, set up a large exhibit that gives visitors a look inside its operations, said Paul Nauta, public affairs manager for FamilySearch.Visitors can test the new FamilySearch beta site, which recently put 300 million names online. They can see how entire rolls of microfilm are scanned in a matter of minutes into 80- to 100-gigabyte files, then broken down into individual digital files ready to be indexed. And they can get a demonstration of how some very large, old books are photographed in the field and added to the indexing queue. Researchers, however, don't have to wait for the records to be indexed. The images are immediately added to a pool of 60 million images on the "Record Search pilot" application on FamilySearch.org."The goal is to put this straight on the Internet while it's waiting to be indexed," Nauta said.Today is the final chance to visit the exhibition hall, which is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 1. The area is free, and conference registration is not required.

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