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  • Writer's pictureJill Seaholm

SAG Workshop went virtual

The 2020 SAG Workshop was scheduled to be held in Salt Lake City the last week of October. Because of the Family History Library's indefinite closure and the unpredictability of travel due to COVID-19, I gauged the applicants' interest in participating in something together online. Most were happy to give it a try. This was to be the 30th annual SAG Workshop and it would have been heartbreaking to cancel it completely.

For three days instead of the usual six, using Zoom to recreate the in-person experience as closely as possible, I released one or two pre-recorded lectures by the staff each morning. Around 35 readers of our Swedish American Genealogist quarterly spent their days working on their own ancestry research in their own homes with video and audio turned off until they needed something. On hand to work with them were SAG Workshop staff members Ulf Berggren, Eva Dahlberg, Wilma Larson, Mike Swanson, and Elisabeth Thorsell, as well as special guest Kathy Meade from ArkivDigital (AD), and Geoffrey Fröberg Morris and Savannah Larson, Nordic research specialists from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Mentors were also on hand to assist people new to our group and Swedish research. Having the FHL staff with us added to our experience, as it was their collections and expertise we would have liked to use in person. To help make up for the resources we would not have access to in SLC, AD generously agreed to provide one-week subscriptions to the participants who did not already subscribe. Many thanks to ArkivDigital

Throughout the days I paired individuals with their assisting staff members and mentors using Zoom breakout rooms and it went very smoothly. It was a bit tricky to organize participants across the time zones in the U.S. and Canada, plus sometimes-groggy but always-enthusiastic staff members five-to-eight hours ahead of us in Sweden, but we pulled it off and those taking part seemed pleased to be a part of it. We made changes and improvements as we went along. Everyone seemed to enjoy being together again in this strange new way, and I was even able to place people in rooms just to chat with old friends. I had a lot of technical supporters behind the scenes before and during, for which I am exceedingly grateful, and the participants were patient, helpful, and enthusiastic. 

It's far too soon to know what the fall of 2021 will bring (Oct. 31-Nov.6), but if it needs to be online again, or some hybrid of in-person and online, I am ready. 

Because of its origins with the Swedish American Genealogist quarterly, the Workshop is open to SAG readers. SAG is a free benefit to members of the Swenson Center. See this page to become a member. Paid members are mailed Workshop reservation forms in the early spring upon request


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