It’s just two months until Congress 2015 in Canberra. Are you getting excited? I know I am! If you haven’t registered yet, it’s time to get a scurry on because it’s going to be a genealogical smorgasbord, as today’s interview makes clear.
Dr Colleen Fitzpatrick will be a speaker at Congress and I asked her some questions to learn a little more about her and what she’ll be sharing with us in Canberra. Her enthusiasm shines through this interview. I know I’m going to really enjoy her presentations and hopefully learn more about DNA for genealogy and family history at the same time. I’m sure you will too.
I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background? Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?
As a prominent forensic genealogist, I have researched in about 50 countries. This has allowed me to combine my background in the hard sciences (PhD in nuclear physics) with my love of forensics and genealogy. I was born in New Orleans, one of the most historic places in the US, and I was privileged to have known all four of my grandparents into my adulthood. So I grew up around living history. I never “became” a genealogist. I was “born” a genealogist.
How has genealogy/family history improved or changed your life?
Family history has provided me with a rudder to steer my life through its unpredictable ups and downs. Having moved countless times, and with several dramatic changes in career, I am still the oldest child of Emmett Fitzpatrick and Marilyn Rice, born in New Orleans, the granddaughter of Steve Fitzpatrick & Loretta Kelly, and Bernard F Rice & Margaret Bernard. I carry that ancestry with me no matter where I go.
What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry?
I love to challenge my skills with tough projects that require a combination of research and intuition. My favourites are adoption searches, especially the ones that seem impossible. It is deeply gratifying to me to see the deep personal fulfillment of an adoptee reunited with his birth family, or to bring closure to someone who has finally discovered what happened to a lost family member.
Have you attended Congress in previous years?
Oh yes. I was the keynote speaker in Adelaide in 2012 on the Identification of the Unknown Child on the Titanic. I am very grateful to Kerrie Grey for allowing me to return this year. The 2012 Congress was an all-time high for me.
What are your key topics for Congress?
Not Just the Facts Ma’am – Give Me the Big Picture
A Different Kind of DNA Talk
Genealogy and the Six Degrees of Separation – How to Find Anyone in the World
How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?
My talks will help people see at the “big picture” and take a more creative approach to solving their family mysteries. I will explain that it is sometimes not a matter of “where” to look for new information, but rather “how” to look at the information you already have.
What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?
Genealogy is a social activity. Yet much of that activity has become electronic through social networking sites and the large amount of data you can obtain online without interacting with other people. Having the chance to meet and talk to other genealogists in person revives me, making me excited to go further and learn more, in a venue that is just full of interesting topics to soak in.
Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?
Keep your eye on the big picture, get excited about everything you hear. Sit in on topics you know nothing about, talk to as many people as you can. Have fun!
Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?
Thanks Colleen for sharing your enthusiasm for genealogy and family history with us here and offering us further temptation to join you in one or all of your sessions.